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The Art of Interviewing

Happy Wednesday everyone! This week I want to share some updates about things happening at Vinaigrette and with that, talk about a skill I am constantly working on getting better at — interviewing.

If you didn’t know, Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen is one of the brands operated by the Orange Consulting company. If you’re unfamiliar with us, check out our website and our Instagram to get a better idea of what we are about.

We have just recently announced that we will be opening our first location in Cincinnati, Ohio this spring! We are really excited about bringing Vinaigrette outside the Kentucky state line and entering a totally new market. There is so much to talk about when opening a new restaurant. Everything from floor plans and kitchen equipment to marketing and staffing.

I am currently working on hiring the general manager that will lead our team in entering the Cincinnati market. This is a crucial hire for us and, to be honest, I am feeling some pressure to make sure I select the right fit for our company. If you’re following along with our current book study through First, Break All The Rules you know how important the manager position is to the overall success of the team, not to mention many of you are managers who experience this every day.

This week I have spent some time refreshing my mind on interviewing and continuing to hone my skill in this area. There have been two books I have reviewed as I prepare for some in-person interviews this Friday. The first is Chapter 7 from First, Break All The Rules, which covers interviewing for talent. If you haven’t seen the video that came out with Jason and I this week check it out here. We talk about the idea of talent and what it means for someone to have a talent that fits the role you are hiring for. The second is Setting the Table, where in chapter 7 author Danny Meyer covers his team’s philosophy on interviewing and hiring. This book is always a great reminder to me about how technical skill and experience are important however the emotional aptitude someone demonstrates outweighs their technical skill and experience.

After revisiting those two chapters on interviewing and hiring I was watching a live-streamed leadership conference and the second topic they discussed was, you guessed it, interviewing. The speaker covered some of the basics of interviewing which I felt like I had a good grasp on yet the one thing he mentioned that I realized I do not do well is preparing for the interview.

Here are the main points on preparing for interviews:

  1. Know how much time you have for the interview
    • This will vary based on the position you are filling, most likely less time for a staff member, more for a manager. Knowing this helps you decide the next question.
  2. How many questions will I be able to ask?
    • It never occurred to me to have this thought through before the interview but it can for sure help. I have been in interviews before thinking to myself, “Was that enough questions? Or too many?” The stress of having that thought distracts me from actually listening to the candidate’s answers, and after that happens a couple times I haven’t gotten a good assessment of the candidate.
  3. What do I want to know?
    • These are your character questions. You want to know how this person reacts to adversity, what kind of integrity they have, or what their philosophy on leadership is? When coming up with these questions ask yourself, “How do I find out who they are?”.
  4. What do I need to know?
    • These questions are used to verify the candidate’s skills and qualifications for the job. If you’re hiring an accountant you want to know that they are detail orientated and organized which are skills every accountant needs. Ask yourself, “What must this candidate be able to do to succeed in this role?”.

Armed with these four questions, I have started to put together my plan for the upcoming manager interviews. The plan will consist of 8 to 10 questions I know I want to ask (leaving some room for follow-up questions) and, most importantly, why I am asking those questions. The goal for preparing in this way is that, once the interview begins, I will not be distracted by trying to figure out what is a good question to ask next. I will be able to simply focus on the candidate’s answers and assess if they are a good fit and feel for our company.

Leave a comment below with your go-to interview questions and what they help you assess about a candidate.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.


5 Responses

  1. Adam Walker says:


    Would you mind sharing the 8-10 interview question you are going to use?

    A couple of my favorite interview questions:

    1. What are some areas in your life where you are trying to grow?
    2. Convince us why we should hire you. Why should we bring you onboard?

    • Adam O'Donnell says:

      Hey Adam! Here is a quick breakdown of the questions I am working on. Keep in mind that all these have 2-4 follow up questions that can be asked based on how the candidate answers. Mostly, I want them to take the questions where they want because that will reveal more to me about them than if I really lead them with wordy questions. Hope these help! I love your question on “why should we hire you?”, that is gold.

      Icebreaker & go-to questions (keep in mind these are questions I personally just like to ask):
      -What really annoys you?
      -Why do you want to work for Vinaigrette?

      Character questions: What do I want to know?
      -Tell me about a past manager of yours. What is something they did well? What is something you think they could have done better?
      -What’s an area in life you would like to see yourself develop in?
      -What is something you have learned recently?
      -How do you stay motivated to perform at a high level? (follow up: how do you motivate your team always perform at a high level?)

      Skill/Competency questions: What do I need to know?
      -In your opinion, what makes an excellent customer experience?
      -Tell me about a time you had to adjust to a change at work that you didn’t agree with?
      -Explain to me how small details translate to financial success in a restaurant?
      -Tell me about the best employee you’ve ever had and what made them so great.
      -What does it mean to be a leader?
      -Tell me about a difficult conversation you’ve had to have with an employee.

  2. Brian says:

    I ask a question relating to each one of our core competencies, and plan on including more to identify talents.

    I think humility and team-orientation are important, so I ask:
    – Can you tell me about a time you needed to ask for help on a project?
    Then follow-up questions to determine how they work with a team, or if a manager, how they build a team.

    – Describe a time where you had to give an employee negative feedback. How did they handle it? What was the result?
    With the book “Radical Candor” in mind, our managers must be able to set clear expectations and hold teams accountable. We aren’t caring for our employees if we let them fail and keep making the same mistakes.

    • Adam O'Donnell says:

      Brain, I also like using the competencies to build questions that will show me their skillset, really great plan there. Your question about asking for help on a project is awesome too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, this is great stuff!

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