Small Business Owner Tips: The Best Way to Interview Potential Hires

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Interview for Personality, Not Experience

“So, tell me about yourself:” The typical go-to interview question. Interviewers and interviewees alike know to expect this. And as it stands, that question serves as a way for the interviewee to showcase their experience to their potential employer in just a few sentences.

They will work themselves up over it for days, trying to formulate the perfect answer that will directly respond to the needs of the position they are applying for. And the interviewer will absentmindedly jot notes about how they responded. And whether that person is hired or not, it often comes back to the way they answered that one question.

Jon Taffer, of Spike’s Bar Rescue fame, told Inc. Magazine that even though we expect to ask and answer that question, it actually tells us nothing about who the person is.

Look at it this way: How often do you hear answers like, “I’m determined, I’m driven, and I’m a team player”? Probably 99% of the time. But what about, “I was the captain of my [insert sport here] team in high school; I enjoy fashion, cooking, sports, etc”? Hardly ever, right? While determination, drive, and being able to work on a team are great qualities to have, the interviewee knows the interviewer wants to hear those things. Are they really a team player? Are they really determined to meet your goals? You won’t find that answer in the question, “So, tell me about yourself.” But, Taffer knows how you will.

“Hiring the right people is just breaking down a system,” he said. “How many of us have hired people and then found somebody totally different on the floor the next day? We hire people by personality, not experience. I ask no experience questions in an interview.”

So, how does he find the right people?

“I sit down and I write 8 adjectives for every job description in my business. If it’s a retail business, I’m only going to hire someone who loves fashion or loves what we’re selling. So I write those 8 adjectives, then I stare at them, and I don’t interview. I ask, ‘Tell me about yourself in high school, what did you like to do?’”

We’re going to stop right there for a moment. There’s a big difference between, “What did you like to do in high school” and “Tell me about yourself.” It’s about finding out who the person is and whether their personality matches what you need to be successful.

Taffer continued, “If I can start to understand your personality, I might hire you. Here’s my rule: If you don’t have 6 of those 8 adjectives, even if the pope sent you, I will not hire you.”

Taffer is a tough guy and his standards are pretty high, but don’t think of them as unreasonable. Think hard about the person and what they’re telling you during the interview. Is this someone you see excelling at their job – not because of their overall experience, but because of the personality traits that embody your business and the position? That’s what Taffer looks for, what you should be looking for, and what Direct Capital is looking for.

Work with Direct Capital

At Direct Capital, we’re a little bit like Taffer except our 8 adjectives are actually 10 “Core Values” that we strive to stick to each and every day. They are:

  • Give
  • Make every customer experience remarkable
  • Be scrappy
  • Crush obstacles
  • Seek change
  • Invent solutions
  • Drive “Big Mo” (momentum) for success
  • Be point blank
  • Bring it. Passion all-day, every day.
  • Enjoy the ride

When you choose to interview – and work – at Direct Capital, we’re looking for you to embody each of these traits in some way. So, even though we do care about your experience, we want to know who you are.

Think you fit into our core values? If so, we want you on our team. Click here to learn which positions are open and get ready to not tell us about yourself!


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