In terms of this individual's energy level, how would you grade his capacity for hustle?

Why Ask This Question?

A capacity for hustle relates to the abundant reserves of energy that an individual has to draw on. Increased speed in daily activities doesn't necessarily equate to higher-quality output or more effective decision making. Indeed, the most effective decision makers may be the most reluctant to commit to a final resolution. Still, this query may raise two issues that are critical to you in the selection process. First, you are looking for compatibility issues when bringing someone new aboard: compatible decision-making styles, communication approaches, mentoring philosophies, and speed in processing information. Second, you might find out via this reference-checking query that an individual suffers somewhat from analysis paralysis, meaning that he has a tendency to get bogged down in minute details rather than look at the big picture.

Is either issue a deal breaker? Of course not. If you happen to move very quickly and you find out that this vice president who will report to you is much slower to come to a decision, you might appreciate the fact that he will most likely temper your inclination to move too rapidly or to make overly optimistic assumptions about the market or your staff's ability to reach a predetermined goal. Similarly, if you could be accused of bordering on the more cautious side, then a sidekick who is quicker to the draw might add an extra level of ''oomph'' to your own management style.

The bottom line remains the same: These background investigations you're carrying out serve as objective evidence that should convince you that a particular candidate's needs will not exceed available corporate resources (like your time and patience!).

Analyzing the Response

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. We've helped interviewees respond to this question by delineating three speeds from which to choose: (a) a moderate, controllable, and predictable environment; (b) a faster-paced atmosphere driven by occasional deadline pressures; or (c) a hyperspace, crisis mode, as you'd expect to find on the floor of a stock exchange. These very same choices may be shared with the individual who's providing you with reference feedback about a senior management candidate. After all, they certainly help to paint a vivid picture of what ''hustle'' means to you, and that clarity of definition might come in handy in assisting the other party to interpret your question.

Remember as well that capacity for hustle speaks to going above and beyond the call of duty on last-minute notice. Such actions represent nothing less than an individual s pride in work and commitment to a job well done. Consequently, a response along the lines of ''She's not going to move too fast for you—that's just the way she is'' might call into question the candidate s enthusiasm for her chosen career path or her resilience in coping with adversity. In such a case, the response you receive could very well reveal that an applicant is unmotivated, tired, bored, or otherwise burned out.

How does this individual approach taking action without getting prior approval?

Why Ask This Question?

Who was it who said, ''Never ask for permission, just ask for forgiveness ? Well, whoever it was, it s a good thing he or she never worked for your company, right? Actually, taking unilateral action is called for practically on a daily basis. No senior manager could have risen through the ranks without the ability to call the shots independently on occasion, and without a track record for calling the right shots the majority of the time. Still, there are rebels. These folks pride themselves on doing things their own way. They are entrepreneurs in every sense of the word—they may work for you and be on your payroll, but they run that company as if it were their own. And that fierce defiance sometimes looks for opportunities to express itself.

Whether you want that brand of self-reliance and autonomy depends on what you need to achieve by bringing the new hire aboard. This one particular aspect, however, could have terrible ramifications if a new hire is marching out of step with the rest of your management team. Feelings of anger, jealousy, and favoritism will inevitably develop among peers, and lines of demarcation will be drawn that force your team to form camps of allies. Your culture will have been violated, and you will be immediately forced either to censure this new rebel or to give the person a lot of backing and support—much to the chagrin of your existing staff, who have been playing by the rules the whole time. Such issues guarantee one swift result: lower employee morale.

Analyzing the Response

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. As with many of our interviewing and reference-checking questions, it is often best to employ behavioral interviewing techniques in gauging responses. In this instance, you should explain your concerns first and then invite the past superior to comment on the candidate s ability to meet your needs. For example, you might say to Nina Rose, Acme Corporation's chief financial officer:

''Nina, I need a vice president of finance who obviously has the ability to make effective decisions independently, but I can't have a rebel who looks for opportunities to take action without getting my prior approval. I've suffered from that rebel syndrome before, and it just goes against my style of running a business. Would you give me an example of a time when Sam Paul could've gotten prior approval from you and didn't? Was it inappropriate, and should he have known better?''

By clearly articulating your needs and asking for a concrete historical issue to demonstrate the candidate s inclination to shoot from the hip and bypass the proper channels of communication, you'll not only gauge whether the candidate would inappropriately jump the gun, but how flagrant the incident really was. Again, because of the critical impact this one issue could have on your organization s performance, it is worth the time employing a behavioral questioning format to more clearly understand the ramifications of the candidate's past actions.

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