THE BLOG
09/17/2015 10:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hiring Hack: Our One Interview Question to Hire the Best

2015-09-03-1441316638-2432583-NanxiLiu.jpgNanxi Liu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Enplug, a Los Angeles technology company that builds the industry-leading software that powers digital displays in malls, restaurants, retail stores and more.

All entrepreneurs have given soliloquies about how finding great talent is our priority. Yet, we rarely take the time to craft the best recruiting process.At Enplug, a tech company that builds digital display software for businesses, we've been able to instantly improve our candidates by asking better interview questions.

The veracity of answers from traditional questions like "What are your biggest strengths?" or "Do you like tech?" are hard to confirm in a short interview session. We've opted to ask questions that are more likely to reveal truths.

Our #1 question is: If you had unlimited capital and human resources, what would you build?

We immediately discuss the answer to this question when reviewing each candidate. Did the candidate think big? What does the candidate care about? Are they creative?

The less promising answers that we've heard include:
  • A care package service to send to friends
  • A food magazine
  • An app to track productivity
And the answers that impressed us:
  • A machine that turns any water into clean water
  • A handheld device that instantly measures personal health (red blood count, cholesterol, disease, etc.)
  • Batteries that last forever and don't need to be recharged
A major part of our team's culture is our obsession with developing impactful and useful technology. A standard in our product development is to constantly improve existing features, which often means imagining new designs to test. We need candidates who don't hesitate to share audacious ideas. For candidates who gave a weak first answer to the "unlimited" question, we ask them to think about something grander to build. If their second answer is excellent, we still add points, because they were able to adjust quickly based on our feedback.

Some of our other favorite offbeat questions are:

  • Name a company in our industry that you believe is building a useful product. We ask this question instead of "Do you like tech?" Enplug has built the leading open software for digital displays in businesses, a hardcore tech product. So naturally, we are partial to interviewees who answer "Braintree," instead of "Nike." We encourage candidates to take a few seconds to name a company to avoid defaulting to Apple or Google. I want the candidate to give me an answer that my grandfather in China couldn't give as well.
  • What tech leader do you admire? This is a difficult question to answer on the spot, so when candidates do give firm responses, we reward bonus points. There's no right or wrong answer. We value how they answer. For example, "I like Bill Gates, because he's built a great company and has a great cause now" is not as strong as "I like John Legere (T-Mobile's CEO), because he's unapologetically rebellious and outspoken. He has openly criticized other mobile carriers on social media."
  • What are a few of your proudest accomplishments? Please brag! We want to be surprised. For the majority of our sales candidates, we've seen resumes that's listed "consistently beat quotas" or "top sales rep." However, it's the candidates who then tell us that they started an art gallery and run it on the weekend that catch our attention.
We think it takes more guts for a seasoned executive to answer that they'd build a solar-powered jetpack than any new app. Leveraging this question as a tie-breaker between leading candidates has worked out for us. May your next new teammate be only one quirky question away.