CIO Symmetry

Dec 8 2011   7:17PM GMT

Good interview questions drive project management success

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

We all know that the secret to project management often can be boiled down to your team members. We’re currently in the process of collecting nominations for our IT Leadership Awards and often when I contact the nominated leaders to confirm their nomination information, they protest that they themselves were only leading a team. (I love those protestations, by the way, as it’s the sign of a great leader and it means that our IT Leadership Award nominations are spot on.)

Today, instrumental VP at Google Marissa Mayer is speaking at LeWeb in Paris. During the Q&A portion, she was asked what the secret is to be a great project manager. She thinks project management lives and dies through the interview with potential team members. Because Mayer’s candidates are already technically vetted before they ever get to the interview table, she is free to really get a feel for the potential team member through a series of surprising interview questions.

For instance, her favorite question is “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in the last six months?” Their answer will reveal what kinds of things they are exposed to and how those exposures influence them. Mayer also asks “What do you own that you love?” which is designed to reveal what the candidate is emotional about and helps Mayer grok how well the person will be able to emotionally connect to the products that they are designing and the Google customer experience.

That’s some pretty psychologically brilliant questioning. One could make some fairly sound judgments about a candidate who answered “my new iPhone 4S with the Siri personal assistant” versus “the Christmas ornament that my great grandmother left me in her will.” Which of those things is the right answer, according to Mayer? I suspect it might be the latter.

By the way, we’re still accepting nominations for the IT Leadership Awards. And no, we won’t think you’re being narcissistic if you nominate yourself. You can’t get ahead in the IT industry without celebrating your own successes, and this is a perfect time to do just that.

The comments invite you to share the coolest thing you’ve seen in the last six months. Who knows, it just might get you an interview with Google’s Marissa Mayer!

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