Make Sure to Ask This Question in Every Interview You Do

Feb 24, 2012

One of the people I saw speak earlier this month at the GKIC Women’s Conference was MaryEllen Tribby. Now I loved many things about her presentation – she is all about tried and true business strategies that so many people seem to forget about these days – and my favorite was what she shared about doing interviews.

Regardless of the type of business someone has, the one thing I hear more often than anything is “How can I find someone proactive?” As entrepreneurs we all want someone who will take initiative and get stuff done (vs. having to always chase them down and follow-up, ugh).

MaryEllen shared an AWESOME question that she asks at the end of each interview that she does… she asks them to do a small project for her as the next step in the interview process and – this is the key – she doesn’t give them a due date.

For example, if she is hiring for a writing position she will say “I would like you to write me a letter convincing me to go see this movie”…

Then she looks to see how long it takes the person to submit that letter – if it takes more than a day or so then it shows that they aren’t proactive. (And subsequently she doesn’t hire them.)

Brilliant yes? So simple and yet so effective… and could be applied to any type of hire. If you want to hire a graphic designer, ask them to do a graphic sample for you. If you want to hire a VA ask them to prepare a broadcast for you, etc…

You better believe I’m going to use this one from now on, you?

What are your favorite interview questions? Could be one you ask or one you’ve been asking – would love to hear your tips/thoughts.


  1. Sarah Lewis

    What a great idea! Thanks for re-sharing it.

    For one position (that had nothing to do with video, but did require problem-solving skills), I asked applicants to make a very short intro video and upload it to YouTube. 

    The results were surprisingly revealing: some applicants couldn’t be bothered, and others balked on technical/privacy/embarrassment reasons; others used tools that didn’t require a webcam (that they didn’t have) and used YouTube’s privacy settings appropriately. It definitely set apart the “can-do” folks from the excuse-makers.

    • Anonymous

      love that Sarah – putting in a “barrier to application” can really help weed people out in the beginning. what kind of response did you get? did you find a good applicant via the video?

      • Sarah Lewis

        I ended up finding several excellent applicants, and actually ran into trouble narrowing it down. In retrospect, I realize that one of the major issues was that I hadn’t gotten CRYSTAL CLEAR myself on what kind of help I needed. 

        I tend to do the “E-Myth” thing and think, “Oh, I just need to hire someone to do stuff for me!” without really having my business ready for the shift. 🙁 That’s one of the main reasons I’m kind of obsessed with SOPs at the moment… I want a lasting solution!


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