7-Minute Interview Determines Skill, Will and Fit

Marla Malcolm Beck

Marla Malcolm Beck

A Chicago-area human resources manager asked a former student of mine to allow at least five hours for her battery of interviews next week. So, I thought of that pending ordeal as I read about a refreshingly opposite approach in today’s Corner Office column in the New York Times.

Describing herself as “queen of the seven-minute interview,” CEO Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury, a beauty products and spa services retailer, says she only needs seven to 10 minutes to interview prospective new hires. She zeroes in on skill, will and fit.

“In about two minutes, I can ascertain skill, just based on what they’ve done,” Beck says. So she asks, “What’s the biggest impact you had at your past organization?” She asserts, “It’s important that someone takes ownership of a project that they did, and you can tell based on how they talk about it whether they did it or whether it was just something that was going on at the organization.”

Marla says will is all about “hunger,” so she asks, “What do you want to do in five or 10 years?” That tells you a lot about their aspirations and creativity. “If you’re hungry to get somewhere, that means you want to learn. And if you want to learn, you can do any job.

“In terms of fit, I’m looking for people who have some sort of experience with a smaller company. At big companies, your job is really one little piece of the pie. I need someone who can make things happen and is comfortable with ambiguity.”

Asked what advice she would give college students about to graduate, she says, “Be an expert at something.” To set yourself apart in an organization, Beck suggests bringing an expertise or skill set that no one else is doing. She also encourages young people to gain a comfort level with technology, which is in high demand in most companies.

Importantly, Beck urges students to simply find a job they’d enjoy doing. “I would also tell students that nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you’re interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.”

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