I was listening to a podcast earlier today about different business strategies and the subject of collaboration came up. After working with quite a few companies, the speaker concluded this was a weak link for many of them.
He felt that perhaps some of this was due to the original formation of the word itself.
“Collaborate” had as one of its earlier or perhaps earliest meanings: “to cooperate with the enemy.” I recall from various stories and movies about World War 2, a collaborator was someone who helped the Germans in various countries they had invaded.
Well, I’m not so sure this earlier definition would be a reason that people in today’s workplace might have a difficult time working with others.
But the ability to work with others IS an important quality to look for when hiring.
A business can grow nicely or be severely held back solely on the amount of cooperation that occurs amongst its individuals and groups.
Does the marketing department work well with the sales department and vice versa? Or do they give each other lip service and just go about doing things the way they want to. Or worse, are they at odds because each department “knows best”?
But let’s concentrate here on one person’s ability to collaborate: your applicant.
How well can she work with others?
Does she work well with others because management wants her to, or because she herself believes it’s the best way to get things done?
Let’s find out.
“Alice, tell me about a couple of projects you’ve done at previous companies that required a considerable amount of collaboration on your part.”
Or, “Frank, tell me about a time when you observed something was not going to get done on time or was not going to get done very well unless you personally cooperated with the others involved at a much higher level than you are used to.”
Of course, you’ll want to listen for what Alice and Frank did that showed they were actually working WITH other people.
But you want to be listening for something more. You want to see if Alice or Frank felt they were making things succeed because of their personal involvement OR if they really understood the value of working WITH other people as the compelling force at work.
And maybe even one more thing to keep your radar tuned for: did they enjoy the collaboration?
If your applicant feels collaboration is a valuable means of getting things done and if they genuinely enjoy doing so, well, I’d say you’ve got a keen insight into a potential employee.
Would you agree?
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