INBOX INSIGHTS, June 22, 2022: Asking Better Interview Questions, Recession or No Recession

INBOX INSIGHTS: Asking Better Interview Questions, Recession or No Recession (6/22) :: View in browser

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Asking Better Interview Questions

Last week I talked about pro tips for a hiring manager that is out of their depth. This week I want to focus on the rest of the interview.

Asking one good question isn’t going to cut it. You need to get to know your candidates and often, you have limited time to do so. You’re making a big decision based on a small sample of information. Candidates are trying to show you only the best of themselves. You might think you’re trying to figure out if the candidate is a culture fit by asking a quirky question. Or understand their critical thinking process by asking them how to fit a football field in a paper towel tube, but you’re wasting your time with these.

I asked our Slack Community what were some of the worst interview questions they’d heard and here is what they told me:

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I said “Celebrating the 5th year anniversary of you asking this question”.
  • “What is your biggest weakness?” questions, or the more abstract ones like “If you had an elephant, what would you do with it?”
  • “What is your biggest weakness?” questions, or the more abstract ones like “If you had an elephant, what would you do with it?”
  • “how many tennis balls can you fit in a school bus?”
  • Why are manholes round? How much do you charge to wash every window in Seattle? How do you move Mount Fuji?
  • “How many gas stations in America? How big is a baseball diamond?”
  • “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?”
  • “My first start-up asked me to explain what the company values meant to me using famous 90s hip hop songs.”

And of course – from Chris:

  • “How do you deal with stress?” By punching people.
  • “How do you handle strong personalities?” Also by punching people.
  • “What’s your biggest weakness?” Honestly? My right hook.
  • “How would you describe your work ethic?” I work and try to be as ethical as my employer will permit me. How ethical is your company?
  • “Tell me about your previous positions.” That’s what the resume is for, dummy.
  • “Tell me about yourself.” Well, I’m 5’3”, I like long walks down dark alleys, and I own more knives than you probably own shirts.

So – why are these questions a waste of time? Because you’re not getting to the heart of what you need to know. Yes, you need to know about the candidate’s experience. Yes, you want to determine if they might be a good culture fit. Yes, you want to know if they can problem solve. But bad questions like these tend to elicit bad answers. And then you’re stuck making decisions based on bad data. Which is bad.

If you want to figure out if someone would be a good culture fit, directly ask what their ideal working culture entails. Ask them what red flags they look for. Ask them what the culture was like at previous jobs and what they liked best and least. This will give you a better sense of whether they will be able to adapt to your culture.

If you want to see how someone solves problems, ask them about a real problem related to your business and the job function. “Our community engagement has gone down the past few months. How would you approach this problem to bring the numbers back up?” Show the candidate real data and ask them to come up with an action plan.

You can ask unconventional questions, but make sure they provide value to you. Bad questions lead to bad answers and bad decisions.

The questions you ask should help you decide who to hire. There will be time once you’ve made your hire to ask about someone’s favorite balloon animal.

Want to share your worst interview questions? Tell me in our Free Slack Group Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Data Diaries - Interesting Data We Found

In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s shed some light on the question all over the news right now. Are the world’s various economies headed for a recession? Certainly, some economies like Ukraine’s are already deep in a recession for obvious reasons – being invaded will cause that.

The short answer: no, we’re not in a recession right now. But we might be headed that way. Let’s dig in.

One of the challenges of defining a recession is what constitutes an actual recession. In the USA, the National Bureau of Economic Research looks at 8 core measures to retroactively declare a period of time recessionary:

The determination of the months of peaks and troughs is based on a range of monthly measures of aggregate real economic activity published by the federal statistical agencies. These include real personal income less transfers (PILT), nonfarm payroll employment, real personal consumption expenditures, wholesale-retail sales adjusted for price changes, employment as measured by the household survey, and industrial production.” (source)

These data points are available from the US Federal Reserve Bank. So, using these indicators, are we in a recession or headed for one? Let’s take a look at those indicators, rescaled so that they’re 1-100 values.

NBER Data points

The short answer is that of the indicators the NBER uses to declare a recession, only real disposable personal income is down significantly so, from a technical perspective, we are not in a recession and as of right now we don’t appear to be headed for one.

Suppose we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, taking a much larger basket of economic measures. Let’s take 30 or so major economic indicators and rescale them as well:

Major indicators

Umm, it’s probably safe to say this visualization isn’t going to win any awards. But even in the tangled spaghetti, we can easily see the pandemic. Let’s take this apart and look at each indicator separately.

Major indicators as an animated GIF

That’s much easier on the eyes. As the chart moves, you’ll note that most of the major indicators aren’t showing any huge warning signs. Hiring is leveling off, inflation is very high and climbing (which is a planet0wide issue), and other indicators don’t show any massive shocks to the system, especially when we look at 2020 in the mix. However, really big macro indicators like GDP are also leveling off, and GDP tends to level off for a quarter or two before a recession sets in.

Will inflation lead to a recession? Possibly. Very high costs slow things down; consumers and businesses alike curtail spending more as prices get higher – that’s economics 101. But right now the major economic indicators are showing mostly just inflation, and not the downstream effects of high inflation.

Inflation combined with tighter monetary policy probably will lead to a recession. How soon? Probably a couple of quarters, depending on how tight planetary monetary policy gets and how many other wild things happen on the world scene.

So what? What should you do with this information? As we talked about on the podcast this week, analytics is inherently rear-facing, like looking out the rear-view mirror of a car. If you’re concerned about where you might be going, looking at the data more frequently might lend some insights. While a lot of macroeconomic indicators are low frequency, published monthly, quarterly, or annually, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on the dataset as a whole, looking for early signs of a downturn.

Pay special attention to indicators in your vertical, like the hiring data we looked at last week. That will tell you much about your customers and your suppliers. Spotting a trend early in those data series will give you advanced notice about ripple effects and let you take action sooner.

As Katie mentioned in this week’s podcast episode, have a plan. Have three plans, really. Have a plan if things improve, if things stay the same, and if things get worse. Your plan should include concrete actions to take, like increasing or decreasing spend, banking or spending cash, purchasing or deferring purchases based on market conditions. That way, as you watch these indicators over time, if more start heading in the wrong direction, you can swap plans quickly and adapt – possibly before your competitors do.

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