Start here

Revealing Interview Questions

TheMSLRecruiter Blog: Revealing Interview Questions

Interviewers ask questions to reveal those necessary details about a candidate that drive a hiring decision.This article provides seven questions that will reveal the hard-to-find information about a candidate’s soft skills, which is vital in hiring.These questions don’t stand alone, though.Each of them needs follow-up questions such as: “Why do you say that?”, “Help me understand what you mean?”, or “Tell me more about that?’.The reason these questions are powerful is that there is no “right” answer and really no way to prepare for them.In your next interview, ask one or all of these, and see what is revealed to you.

  1. If you were interviewing for my job, what would you be planning to implement right away?

    This question is more revealing than you probably think. When listening to the answer, you will find out if this person is a cultural fit for the company. You’ll learn if they will be able to buy-in to the direction of the company or team. Also, you might be surprised on how much information you gain that you can actually implement as you develop future strategies. This person might go from a candidate you’re considering hiring to an employee you begin grooming for a bigger role in the company.

  2. Based on all the managers you’ve had, what advice would you give me about management?

    Try this on your kids first, and ask about teachers instead of managers. The first thing they will tell you is what a teacher should not do…like assign homework. The same is true with a candidate, where their first thought is generally what not to do, and this will quickly reveal whether they would thrive in your company culture. Who knows, you might pick up a tip about management too. Most importantly, you’ll have revealed in a snapshot the type of manager the candidate does and doesn’t like. With that information, you can assess how well they would fit within the organization and your management style.

  3. What things do you accomplish in the morning before work?

    Okay, this question is not about personal hygiene, so we are not looking for what they do to get ready for work. This questions is about what a person does to get ready to be great at work. The reason I like this question is that it reveals what a person does to set up success. You might learn that the person reads the Bible every day. Maybe the person is a disciplined runner or works out every morning. Perhaps you’ll find out that the person reads industry news or current events. What if you find out they wake up 30 minutes before work? Regardless of the response, you’ve now been revealed their personal priorities.

  4. If you had an unexpected one-hour lay-over and all you had with you was your phone, how would you use your phone to occupy your time?

    What a person does with unexpected extra time is crucial to evaluating them as an employee, especially if they are given a great deal of autonomy. When you throw in the phone component, what you really need to learn about them is revealed. Are they going to answer emails, read an on-line book, call a customer, peruse social media, or play a game? Maybe they won’t use the phone at all. Perhaps they will put the phone in their pocket and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Regardless, this scenario truly reveals much about their personality style and work ethic.

  5. If today was a free day without any work or family responsibilities what would you do?

    This is similar to Question 4, but it removes the element of responsibility. Knowing what a person would do with a completely free day is revealing in many ways. Maybe they would spend it alone. Maybe they would read inside or do outdoor recreation. Maybe they’ll sleep or watch a movie. Perhaps the person would chose to be with their family even with responsibility taken away. This question will help you learn about what is truly important and what motivates them. This is not likely to help you make a hiring decision, but if you do chose to hire them, it will help you better manage them.

  6. When you resign from your current position, what is going to be the hardest for them to replace?

    This is a better question than asking about a person’s strengths because it infuses a real context. You’ll find out about what they do best. You’ll also get a glimpse of their emotional intelligence. The logical follow-up question to this is to ask, “How do you think your employer will react to you resigning?” This will reveal the relationship the person has with their manager, which will likely be the relationship you’ll have with the candidate down the road. Also, you will get further insight to why they are looking for a new position and whether they would consider a counter-offer. All of this is great information to have revealed before offer time.

  7. What is something interesting that you have recently learned?

    When I ask this question, I am looking for them to light up. I want to see what impassions them. The logical follow up question is to have them teach it to you. By doing so, you can see how well organized their thoughts are, how well they can covey potentially complex ideas, and how well they truly understood the new information. The ability to learn and teach others is invaluable in any market. Having revealed to you whether the candidate you’re interviewing can learn new things thoroughly is vital.

    I hope these questions are new and implementable ideas on how to ask more revealing questions about soft skills. I would enjoy learning any revealing questions that you have in your repertoire, as these are some of mine. Plus, I would appreciate your thoughts on if you think these would bring your hiring process any value.


    Michael Pietrack

    The Alpine Group

Reverse Rejection

TheMSLRecruiter Blog: Reverse Rejection

As an executive recruiter, I have a very interesting vantage point from which to observe an interview processes. I intimately see both sides and the emotions each experiences. I’ve noticed something that is consistent in candidate behavior, and I wanted to share it with those who are in a position to hire.

As time passes after an interview and there is no feedback given, candidates develop a defense mechanism that I call Reverse Rejection. When the interviewing momentum stalls, the candidates start thinking of all the reasons that they don’t want the job. In anticipation of being rejected, the candidate starts unconsciously rejecting the company. Here are a couple scenarios of when I have seen Reverse Rejection:

At the Beginning of the Process: When a recruited candidate gives a recruiter permission to share their resume, which they just invested a few hours in updating, they expect a quick turn-around. Except for extreme cases, most everyone gets to their emails in 24-48 hours. I usually see candidates getting antsy and wanting to know where things stand after 72 hours have passed. If they call the recruiter after three days and there is no feedback from the company, I see them starting to back off from the excitement they had initially. They ask themselves, “If they aren’t interested, why am I?”

Often times, a person’s only perception about a company is generated while interviewing. In many ways, a recruited candidate can gauge how organized a company or a manager is by how quickly they react to seeing their resume. Also, candidates get a sense of the speed of business at a company through their experience in the interview process. When there isn’t a quick turn-around, I see candidates starting to develop negative feelings about the company, and start talking themselves out of being interested.

At the End of the Process: Well-prepared and well-intentioned candidates go into final interviews with the highest of hopes. They’ve spent many personal hours making sure they represent themselves in an accurate and professional way. The interview goes smoothly, yet at the end of the interview they learn they’ll hear back in two weeks. The candidate hears “two weeks,” understands “two weeks,” but they are unprepared to emotionally handle waiting “two weeks.” Again, as we hit the 72 hour mark after the interview, candidates start getting hungry for some form of feedback. When the recruiter and candidate hear nothing but radio silence from the company, I notice candidates starting to compensate for their lack of power.

Of course, I’m a recruiter, not a psychotherapist. I can easily see, though, when companies don’t deliver timely feedback to candidates, they begin to feel powerless. When that sinking feeling of powerlessness sets in, I then see candidates compensate for this feeling by grasping for power. The only way they can balance the scales is to start rejecting the company before the company rejects them.

Why It Matters: There are three reasons why it matters. The first reason is great companies know that candidates are people – not applicants. Great companies realize that these people gave much of themselves throughout the process and deserve timely feedback. The second reason is that the best companies understand that some people’s only perception of their company was created by interviewing with them. That perception, whether it be positive or negative, is going to be shared. Regardless of whether the candidate gets the job or not, the premier companies make sure the experience is pleasant. Timely feedback is a major contributor to candidates having a positive take away feeling, even if they don’t get the job. The third reason is that the companies who have the best talent have it because they won it. The top companies aren’t trying to close candidates who have been mentally rejecting them for over a week. Time allows talent to wiggle off the hook by letting doubt and competitors to creep into the picture. A steadily moving interview process with timely feedback attracts the best talent. Not only does it attract the A-players, it wins the A-players.

I hope this information helps ensure that your interview process is attracting and landing top talent. Furthermore, I hope this article helps your company avoid the potential for Reverse Rejection. If you have any questions about this topic from a recruiter’s perspective, contact me any time.

Michael Pietrack
The Alpine Group

The Cost of Negotiating

TheMSLRecruiter Blog: The Cost of Negotiating

As an executive recruiter, I’ve been able to observe the many different ways candidates handle receiving job offers. As different as everyone’s reactions may be, I’ve recognized that deep down most candidates feel they should at least try to negotiate. I sense that most people want to avoid feeling like they left money on the table, and they feel that if they don’t try to get more money, they are foolish in some way. I wanted to share what I’ve learned about negotiations because I don’t want anyone to potentially lose more than they have the opportunity to gain. Yes, in regards to a job offer, there could be a very steep cost to negotiating.

Political Capital: The first idea I would like to share is something called political capital. By the time someone receives an offer, the new company loves them. In other words, their political capital is high, and there is a symbolic bank account with their name on it filled with this political capital. Every day someone takes to accept the offer, withdrawals of political capital are being made from that bank account. The same is true when we go back and ask for more money without easily verifiable reasons. Let’s say a candidate asks to increase the offer because…well, just because they feel like they need to negotiate…they are lighting their political capital on fire. They may gain a few thousand dollars, but it may cost them a fortune in political capital. What candidates don’t see is the company venting to me about their tinge of buyer’s remorse and their second-guessing if the candidate is the right person.

“Are you saying that I should never ask to increase my offer?” No, that is not what I’m saying. Read on.

The Unacceptable Offer: Asking for an unjustifiable increase in the offer is when a candidate begins to bankrupt their political capital. Asking for an increase so that the offer is to a level of acceptability is appropriate, and both people are working toward the same goal. The bigger issue is this: Why did the company extend an unacceptable offer? Candidates should tell their recruiter long before the offer comes to them what will be acceptable or not. Let the recruiter professionally advise, not negotiate with, the company to what they should offer you. This begs the question, should the candidate be negotiating their job offer?

What is a Negotiation?: A negotiation takes place in one-time buying events, where you try to extract as many concessions from them, while also reducing concessions on your side. Does that sound like the right way to start off the relationship with your new employer? A job offer is not a buying situation comparable to buying a house. A job offer is closer to a marriage proposal. When I proposed to my wife, I hoped for a “Yes.” In fact, I hoped for a “Yes, of course!” I would have been shocked by a “Yes, but…” or a “Yes, if…”, and I would have been crushed by a “No.” When a company extends a job offer, they, too, are expecting a “Yes, of course!” The proposal is not time to negotiate the size of the ring.

Solution: As mentioned earlier, the solution is working closely with your recruiter with full transparency about all the moving parts that make up your employment package. Educate your recruiter so they can advise their client. Many low offers are due to the candidate not looking deeply into their employment package ahead of time. Let your recruiter burn up their political capital trying to raise the offer to an acceptable level, and keep the political capital that you’ve earned intact. If the company you want to work for offers you a job for an acceptable amount of money, say “Yes, of course!”

I hope this helps, and I hope I can help you receive your next offer!

Michael Pietrack
The Alpine Group

The Art of the Preface

TheMSLRecruiter Blog: The Art of the Preface

One luxury I have as an executive recruiter is that I get to interact with some world-class communicators. I have truly benefited by hearing how these exceptional people express their ideas. I’ve noticed that the best communicators have a disarming way of asking tough questions. They have an artful way of prefacing their questions so that you know exactly why they are asking. This translates well into the interview setting, and so I wanted to explain it further.

One of the toughest questions I have to ask anyone is what they are currently earning. Most of the time, I am inquiring within minutes of introducing myself. The next time you are at a dinner party and you meet someone new, within the first five minutes of meeting them ask what they W2’d last year. As you play that scene through in your mind you might be filled with anxiety. I know how you feel, because I have that feeling a few times a day.

To alleviate this anxiety, I have to do an excellent job of prefacing my question before asking it, and this is the way I like to do it, “John, I want to bring to you only the most relevant and career advancing opportunities. I would never want to bring an opportunity to you that was too junior financially and waste both of our time. So, with that said, can you give me some direction about how I should screen out positions for you in regard to money?”

If I ask the question this way, the usual response is, “Well, I certainly don’t want to make less money than I am now, and my base salary is…” Because the preface was utilized in such a way, I didn’t even have to directly ask him what his salary was. Now, let’s make this work in an interview.

Root Question: How will I be evaluated?

If you ask this question, what might be going on in the interviewer’s mind? Perhaps they are thinking that you are running from unreasonable metrics. Maybe they would be thinking that you’ve had trouble meeting expectations before. My suggestion is to preface your questions artfully to avoid any mystery about why you’re posing the question, especially with a hiring manager that tends to read into everything you say.

The Preface: I strive very hard in my current role to exceed expectations. It means a lot to me exceed the goals that are set for me, and so, what does one need to do to meet expectations in your organization—and then how have you seen people exceed expectations?

Of course, you might use different language, and that’s fine. The key take away is that there is no mystery about why this person is asking the question. In the end, this person will find out not only how they will be evaluated but how to be a superstar. Also, you have dissolved any chance of them speculating that you are asking for any negative reasons.

Root Question: What is the territory?

If you ask this question, what conclusions might the interviewer be prone to infer? Maybe they will assume that you have travel limitations. A candidate’s questions uncover their concerns or what is important to them. If travel and territory is of major importance, the interviewer is going to want to find out why OR they are going to invent a reason. Why not just share the reason with them?

The Preface: Over the years, I have had the great privilege of getting to work with the top thought leaders in the Southwest Region, and as you can imagine, those relationships are meaningful to me. I know this role is supporting the Southwest, which is exciting, but how does XYZ define the Southwest exactly?

Again, this is just an example. The key thing is that with the preface it is clear that the question is about impact and has nothing to do with travel. Plus, the preface strengthens your candidacy, whereas going without it may weaken it.

These are a couple examples of how prefacing your questions can clear up confusion and avoid the chance of speculation, while strengthening your candidacy. I’ve been saying for a few years now that the better the questions, the better the candidate. The consistent feedback I get on the best interviewers is that they had the best questions. I’m confident that prefacing those questions will make you a stronger candidate instantly.

Michael Pietrack

Is Enough, Enough?

Is Enough, Enough?

As an executive recruiter, I make a living by filling positions, but I make a difference by helping my clients get better. That is the spirit of this article, because I have found that there is a single word that leads to more companies failing in the area of staffing. It is a simple word that is only two syllables long, but it can mire a company in mediocrity. The word is enough.

Allow me to explain:

We have enough candidates.
I worry when I see companies evaluating their candidate pool quantitatively. Let’s say I’m engaged to find and attract candidates for a company, and I find them three qualified and motivated candidates who fit everything they are seeking on the job description. After repeated phone calls, I get the absolute rock star candidate to call me back. This candidate is better than all the other people I’ve presented, but I end up hearing from my client company, “We have enough candidates.”

The second scenario is that I bring this rock star candidate to a company who already has a candidate pool from another recruiter, and they tell me, “Your candidate sounds excellent, but we already have enough candidates in consideration.” In each scenario, the company ends up hiring the lesser candidate. What is worse, their competitor ends up hiring the rock star candidate.

As a balancing statement, I would stress that a company needs to make a decision so that a vacancy doesn’t persist. My point is to encourage companies to keep evaluating resumes with care up until the point an offer is accepted. It takes very little time to look at a resume to make sure that the decision the company is making is the best possible decision. Someone at the company has enough time to look.

We don’t have enough candidates to make a hiring decision.
Sometimes I can only find one candidate that has everything a company is seeking. Sitting in their building is the dream candidate, but because he is the first or only candidate they’ve interviewed, they can’t hire him. So, they pursue other candidates to get to the quota they’ve set for themselves, but during that time, another company hires the candidate out from under them. Now the company has a couple lesser candidates to choose from, and their competitor has the best candidate available. They lose the candidate because they didn’t move fast enough.

Great companies have the ability to rate candidates, whereas lesser companies have to rank candidates. What that means is the best companies can recognize an A-Player without seeing anyone else. They have an internal benchmark for greatness. Companies who struggle in the area of hiring have to see a few candidates and choose the best they see at the time.

We have enough recruiters on our vendor list.
You would be shocked how infrequently recruiting firms are thoroughly vetted before contractually engaged by a company. Only once did I go through a screening process, where I had to rigorously explain how I was the best possible resource in comparison to competitors. Recruiting services are not a commodity. Not all recruiters possess the same skill sets and abilities to drive results. As an example, look at the sales team at your company—varying levels of success and skill sets, correct? What if you hired the first sales people that came to your company or the ones that would work for the cheapest salary? Do you think you would have the best sales force in the industry? Of course not, but this is exactly how staffing agencies get chosen by most companies. Many companies either choose the first agency that calls them or the cheapest option. My suggestion is to have your company interview recruiters as thoroughly as candidates.

I can think of other examples of how enough can plague a company, but the one that comes to mind is actually a lesson my father taught me. He used to say, “Good enough is never good enough.” I hope this information keeps you at the top, so that this one little word doesn’t begin to worm its way into your company. If you’d like to discuss any of the topics in this article, I’d be happy to make myself available.


Michael Pietrack
The Alpine Group

Between Jobs?

Between Jobs

As an executive-level recruiter, I see two different types of job searches. One is a job search when the person is gainfully and relatively happily employed. We typically call this a passive job search. Sometimes we categorize this person as actively listening.

The other job search is when someone is actively looking for a new position. An employed person can certainly be actively pursuing new opportunities, but I’d like present best practices for those who are either between jobs or those who fear they may be laid off soon. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend the following steps:

Step 1: The first thing you should do when lay-offs are rumored or eminent is to contact the top three executive recruiters in your particular field. Talk to them all by phone and coach them on how to keep you updated effectively. A mass email to 50 recruiters is not your ticket here. Be selective and targeted, and remember that less is more. Make sure to let them know what companies interest you and which companies already have your resume. Be clear about your compensation and anything else that is specific to your profile.

Step 2: Now you can’t just sit around and wait for one of these recruiters to call you. You are going to hit the job boards, and I don’t blame you. You also don’t want to apply to every job you see because you’re going to end up competing against the recruiters you just called. A recruiter can’t present you to a company that already has your resume. So, before you push the send button and distribute your resume, remember that you might be blocking yourself from working with a recruiter with that company. When you see a posting that fits your background and you feel inclined to apply, call around and see what recruiters represent that company. If no one seems to be working with that company, then apply.

Step 3:The third thing you can do is utilize the advanced search function within So, click “Advanced,” then in the “Company” field type in your company. Below company select “Past.” Essentially, you are searching for everyone that USED to work for you company to see where they are now working. Then you network with them and see who might be hiring. This is a great way to network quickly with people who know your specific set of skills. I would caution you to be very conservative about giving out your resume though. This exercise is about lead generation. If it is a real opening, then you can send your resume directly to the manager when they request it.

I hope these three steps help you get your job search launched. The most important point is that no recruiter wants to be competing against someone they are trying to help. So, follow these steps, and you’ll be in a new position very soon.

Michael Pietrack

The Pietrack Press

Offer Anxiety

As an executive recruiter, I recognize that some candidates will tell me what they think I want to hear.  For the most part, I give people the benefit of the doubt that they are being truthful, although there is one statement that candidates say that I no longer allow myself believe, “Money is not that important.”


I used to love hearing “money isn’t that important” because I thought it meant that the candidate was truly evaluating the job without dollar signs in their eyes.  Ironically, too many times when we were at the offering table I’d find myself on the phone with a seemingly different candidate than who first uttered those words.  Over the years I’ve learned that money is always important.


Now, I don’t think anyone is being untruthful; it is just that people get uneasy when a big decision is being presented to them, especially when money is concerned.  Considering a job offer is foreign territory for most people, and they want to make sure they don’t leave money on the table.  So, I wanted to answer some routine questions I get around offer time with the hopes that it will ease the pressure of this big decision on unfamiliar footing:


1.  Money aside do I want the job?  This is the most important question to ask yourself throughout the interview process, but it is especially important right after the final interview.  The answer you’re trying to avoid is, “Well, if the offer were really great, yeah, I’d probably accept it.”  I would hesitate to recommend taking a job because of money.  My recommendation is going after the job you really want as long as the compensation is fair and reasonable according to market standards.

2.  How do I negotiate the best offer?  First, I want to say that offers are generated with careful consideration and extended with the expectation that no negotiation will take place.  The best time to influence your offering is before the offer is even formulated, not after.  What most candidates don’t understand is that your recruiter makes a professional recommendation about what to offer.  The challenge for the recruiter is that most candidates aren’t candid and want to see what kind of an offer the company will generate hoping that is will exceed their expectations.  My advice is to set a reasonable expectation and share it so that you’ll get an offer that you’ll accept.

3.  Should I accept their first offer?  A major misconception out there is that it is a best practice to never accept a company’s first offer.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Yes, the company might be able to get you a couple more thousand dollars on your base salary, but what you’re spending in political capital makes it an expensive endeavor.  The easiest way to show a lack of gratitude is to ask for an offer to be increased when there is not a legitimate reason for doing so.

4.  If the offer is unacceptable but I really want the job, how do I politely ask for the offer to be increased?  If the offer is not acceptable but you really want the job, then that is a separate topic than just asking for an increase without well-founded reasons. The simple way to get them to an agreeable set of terms is to tell them exactly what you would accept.  Don’t allow them to generate another offer without them clearly knowing what you would accept. 

Here’s a script, “Mr. Manager, I am very grateful that I am the person you want to hire, and I am excited to be on the team.  I can’t wait to get started on PROJECT-A and PROJECT-B.  The only hesitation I have at this point is that the financial part of the offer was below what I was expecting, and at this level it isn’t acceptable.  I wanted to say clearly what I would accept so that we can get started on these projects.  I would, without hesitation, accept an offer of __________.  The reason I think that is appropriate is___________.  Do you think that is possible for XYZ to do?”

I hope this insight is helpful to you as you work your way through the interview process.  I recommend that you trust your recruiter and confide in them about what would be an acceptable and unacceptable offer.  The key to a successful recruiter is to not allow unacceptable offers to be extended.  So, be candid about your expectations so that your recruiter can broker the deal.  Also, keep in mind what you said in the beginning about how money isn’t the most important thing.  If you want the job and like the people, be fair and reasonable as you consider their offering.  This will assure that you start this new journey on the right step.

 Michael Pietrack


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.