How have you added value to your job over time?

Why Ask This Question?

Every employee is hired to achieve one of three benefits for a company: (1) increase revenues, (2) decrease expenses, or (3) save time. Although vertical progression through the ranks is admirable, long-term commitment to one position is equally necessary in running a successful business. Still, no job remains static over time, and phrasing your question in this way forces candidates to account for the changes necessary to maintain output or increase production.

Analyzing the Response

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. Candidates may struggle with this question because it s so broad. When that s the case, question how the company, division, or department has changed over time. When a company is rapidly expanding, for example, revenues typically have to be maintained for an extended period before full-time staff is added to accommodate the greater workload. Consequently, productivity per employee must increase to produce more product with the same number of people. Reciprocally, when companies are downsizing, employees lucky enough to survive a layoff are typically forced to maintain the work flow with fewer staff members to support their efforts. Once again, we have a case for increased productivity per employee.

In either case, framing candidates value-added achievements around a changing business environment will usually aid those individuals in redefining how work was redistributed to meet increased production demands or how work was reallocated because of new staffing configurations. By examining how the company had to change over time, candidates should find it easier to address their roles in the unit s new direction.

To delve further into this issue, you should ask candidates to address specific steps taken to reach their unit's production goals. In this case, follow up your question about added value like this:

How have you had to reinvent or redefine your job to meet your company's changing needs? What proactive steps did you have to take to increase the output of your position?

Why Ask This Question?

Phrasing the follow-up question this ways forces candidates to see themselves in terms of the company s bottom line. The ability to increase revenues or decrease costs is an absolute litmus test of an employee s track record of influencing an organization. Many people fall into the routine of going to work and performing a job. They consequently lose perspective about the bigger picture. Therefore, crafting a question that forces individuals to account for their ''macro impact in their immediate area of responsibility forces them to come to terms with their value as corporate assets or as ''human resources.

Analyzing the Response

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. Asking people how they've added value to their companies by reinventing their jobs over time is indeed a challenging query. There's usually an uncomfortable moment of silence when candidates ponder a question that seems to offer meaning to everything they do in the working world, but that they'd never thought of before. And so, after a few shuffles in the chair and awkward clearings of the throat, generalities come spewing forth regarding their commitment, dependability, and dedication. Those fluff adjectives do little, however, in terms of generating the concrete information you want.

''Nice try,'' you might say, smiling, ''but that's not what I mean.'' Give them a moment to regain their composure and continue with such questions as:

''How did your role as an accounting manager change over time?''

''Were you the architect of your changing responsibilities, or did your immediate supervisor direct your revised focus?''

''In terms of your company's changing needs, did your department take on a new mission? And if so, what was your role in redefining your department's new direction?''

''Would you say that the scope of your responsibility increased or decreased in terms of the size of the staff you oversaw or the budget under your control?''

And so goes the questioning pattern. It s a challenge indeed for candidates to articulate their overall capabilities to make a positive impact on an organization, as opposed to performing the day-to-day generic duties that earn them a paycheck. You'll no doubt experience some of them walking away from your interview scratching their heads about their roles in business. Of course, not all positions in all companies require high levels of self-esteem and global reasoning abilities. Still, when you need a superstar candidate for a demanding position, these questions should help you identify individuals who look proactively at their own performance and find ways to increase the work flow and efficiently streamline operations.

Bear in mind that there are two types of progression in people's career histories. Individuals either assume greater responsibilities and move vertically up the ladder with higher titles and pay, or they horizontally expand their jobs by assuming broader responsibilities. In the latter case, although candidates retain the same title, their broadened responsibilities add a depth of knowledge and experience to the company (and to their resumes). To amplify both types of career changes, ask:

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