Month: April 2017

The Most Important Job Interview Question

A good project team starts with a meaningful and human centred job interview. I loved the human face this article puts on the job interview process from Harvard Business Review by Anthony K. Tjan. 

It reminded me about my marriage proposal, when the “Will you marry me?” question received the ” Will you?” response. A two word question meant to cement the mutual agreement and articulate the presence/or absence of a common vision. True for marriage. True for business. True for project teams.

I usually know at the end of an interview that I would not like to hear back from an employer when he/she:

1. is taken aback when I actually have questions as a follow up of his/her ‘Do you have questions” question. It closes the opportunity to find the match.

2. reads from a sheet of paper the questions to ask. If an interviewer cannot articulate one sentence, how he/she is able to assess the response? It is often a sign of simple lack of interest in the response.

Too often, I feel, employers forget that they want or need the candidate as much as the candidate needs them“, writes Tjan. And I subscribe. Not treating the job applicant as a valuable customer is a certain recipe for driving away the best. I’ve noticed it in a year of 15 international competitions and an equally high number of local recruitments. It showed me that the job interview is a two-way process. Flexing muscles as an prospective employer helps only if you hire a gym instructor and even then it can be seen as a competition rather than interest in the candidate’s talent and skills.

The job interview is the basis for building trust, a mutually fulfilling work relation and making a team work. “If you were given this opportunity, would you take it?” is THE interview question proposed by Tjan to test the foundation. I would follow it up with “Why?” and let the candidate talk.


“Managing Development. Understanding the Inter-Organisational Relationships” book

My interest in this book and hence its value for my work stems from the importance of relationships between organisations, as a driver of close work for common purpose in development management. In other words, we follow the assumption that better we work together, better are the results in projects and beyond. There is general donors and governments’ consensus on that. The practice of it is more nuanced though (will come back to that in another post).

The book essentially answers the question: how can relationships between organisations be managed so as to build the public action and outcomes desired from development interventions? Its content is organised around three “ideal types” or modes of structuring inter-organizational relationships:  competition, co-ordination and co-operation. The authors warn us that these types shall not be understood as stand-alone and rigid concepts. There are significant overlaps between them and each comes with strengths and weaknesses, each peculiar to development stages and contexts.

The book might seem more academic, yet the background research abounds with practical relevance. Therefore, I come back to this book when relationships between and with stakeholders become too complicated and we seem to distance ourselves from our starting point. It helps understanding organisations’ dynamics, which jointly with the science of human behaviour, is a valuable knowledge to succeed in development management.