Companies dedicated to the practice of continuous improvement invest a lot of time and resources into training their employees and creating a culture around positive change. One way to make this easier and to smooth the path to improvement is to hire people who already are predisposed to embrace the idea.
Bringing up continuous improvement during the initial interview and throughout the hiring process lets the applicant know how important it is to your organization, and helps you weed out people who will be resistant to feedback and change.
Here are some ideas of what to ask:
Is it OK for employees to point out problems or opportunities for improvement, or should they trust that management has a reason for the way things are?
This is a good way to gauge how willing the candidate will be to share ideas and engage in improvement. Do you get a sense that this person will willingly point out opportunities for improvement, or would they prefer to simply do what they are told?
What is the most creative idea you’ve had for making your job better? Was it implemented?
Give the candidate a chance to wow you with their creativity. Even if the idea was never acted upon, this is a good way to learn more about how he or she thinks. If the idea wasn’t ever implemented, learn more about why. It could be that the organization was not willing to accept employee ideas, or it could be that the candidate was unwilling or unable to communicate effectively.
Tell me about a time you received feedback from your manager that resulted in improvement in your work.
This question will be revealing on a number of levels. First, it will be interesting to know what kind of feedback they received. Was it related to an action or an attitude? Next, how they respond will give you insight into how they view feedback and criticism. Do they portray the manager as a villain, or a collaborator looking to achieve a mutual goal?
Have you had any training on continuous improvement or related methodologies?
You shouldn’t necessarily disqualify someone who hasn’t had training or automatically assume that someone who has will be the right fit, but this question will help you know where you would be starting with this person. If they are unfamiliar with the approach, they will have the opportunity to ask about it and you’ll be able to gauge the level of interest.
Talk about a time you worked as a team to solve a challenge at work.
Collaboration is an essential element of continuous improvement, so you want to be sure to learn more about the applicant’s approach to teamwork. Follow-up questions about how the team was led, how and why it was formed, and how the candidate felt about the results will also be revealing.
What were the strategic priorities of the organization you worked for last?
The answer doesn’t really matter, of course, what you want to know is whether the candidate was engaged enough to care. It certainly could be that the candidate doesn’t know because the organization’s leadership didn’t communicate effectively. If that is the case, explore how the employee felt about that and find out whether strategic goal alignment is something that they think is important.
There are really no “right” or “wrong” answers to any of these questions, but they are effective ways to start the conversation about improvement, and gain a better understanding of how the candidate will fit into your culture. Asking them, and appropriate follow-up questions, will give you a very good idea if you have someone who is willing to engage in continuous improvement or someone who would rather simply do the job the way its always been done.