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10 CEOs tell us their one killer interview question for new hires.

For leadership positions, it’s the softer skills that matter. Quartz spoke with 10 CEOs and other senior execs about their interview techniques, and the one killer question they like to ask job candidates. Their approaches vary, but all are designed to test a person’s mindset and mentality.

 A first-rate résumé won’t help you now. Consider yourself warned.

10 CEOs tell us their one killer interview question for new hires

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Interesting to answer — "The wine list test" and “Would you rather be respected or feared?”

I always like to hear about the biggest failures a person has been associated with in their careers -- the bigger the crater the better! This is in addition to personal mistakes. And when it comes to mistakes, I am interested in the people who talk about errors of omission -- things they didn't do that they should have -- rather than those of commission.

I would have loved to hear how the people behind this decision explained it away to potential employers:

"Business Marketing

Taking it E.T.


 Claim:  M&Ms passed up the chance to be the candy used to lure the shy little alien from his hiding place in the 1982 blockbuster E.T., thereby letting one of the most successful instances of movie product placement fall into the hands of a competitor who benefited mightily from it. 



The people behind that decision probably did not think E.T. would be successful.

They were wrong. 

They likely thought about how much money they saved rather than how much they could make. 

I thought the point of the wine list question is to see how they treat the wait staff.

It’s a similar story for Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, an enterprise software company based in New York. “Anyone can fake it for 45 minutes,” he says.

Instead of a traditional interview for senior roles at his company, the CEO takes a candidate out to dinner with a handful of other senior execs. “I like to watch how they handle themselves in an unstructured environment,” he says.

A key test comes early in the meal: “I give them the wine list.” The person has to convince the group that they know a lot about wine, or pretend that they do, or just pick the most expensive bottle, or ask for help. How they choose and how successful they are in explaining themselves is one part of the test. Also: “You watch how they treat the waiter,” Phillips notes. “I love that.”

Another test comes at the end: “We always surprise them by asking, ‘Tell me a joke.'” This reveals whether someone has a sense of humor, of course, but also whether they can think on their feet in a strange and unfamiliar situation.

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