This is a simple question and one that can yield excellent information for you.
The answers you get are important, but the speed of the answer can also be revealing.
If you ask Sue, “In your previous jobs, how did you improve the workplace around you?” and it takes her awhile to answer, I see two possibilities:
1) She hasn’t really done this very often, if at all
2) She may have accomplished this so often, she just kind of considered it “routine.”
So, you may need to “groove in” the question some.
You: “Sue, in your previous jobs, how did you improve the workplace around you?”
Sue: “Well, let’s see. Hmm. I imagine I’ve done this before.”
You: “Well, your résumé says you handled collections in your last two jobs. What would be an example of improving the workplace from that position?”
Sue: “Oh, I see. Well, in both companies I was able to streamline the collections process with several insurance companies. And I also figured out a payment plan that patients were willing to use, and it resulted in getting them fully paid 2-3 months sooner than before.”
You: “That’s great, Sue. Any others like that?”
After she gives you what she can, you might say, “That’s great, Sue. Any instances of improving the workplace around you in terms of your fellow employees?”
Give Sue a bit of time to look that over and she may very well have some good data for you there.
Of course, if you’ve grooved the question in and Sue just doesn’t have an answer, then that’s what you’ve got.
The ability and willingness to improve life around one and specifically the workplace around one — this, in my humble opinion, is a great quality to look for.
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