I have received several responses sent to me following an earlier article I published: CORE ATTRIBUTES TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN HIRING. From the feedback, many employers noted that it was not easy to know a person’s true character and work ethics in a short meeting and that the interview room does not provide adequate opportunity to judge candidates effectively.

While I agree that candidates put out their best foot during interviews, I will still like to draw more attention to the points I raised in the article. When you decide what you want for a role and the executive that would fill that role, there are specific questions you should ask during the interviews to help you to quickly make the assessment you need.

I once read a short story about a CEO who was trying to hire a top staff. Two candidates had the perfect qualifications for the role and he was torn over who to hire. According to the story, he told the two men that they had both impressed him and shared his dilemma with them. He then invited them out for lunch. They went to a restaurant and sat down chatting. He was trying to observe any nuance displayed by the two men that would help his decision-making. The candidates’ competence and experience on the job were not in contention, what the CEO needed was an executive who was calm but dogged in risk-taking. He wanted the one who would not stick to the old and tried ways of doing things but would launch out and try new things while keeping a good eye out for possible danger. He wanted a man that was a leader, who would carry his team along, fan their loyalty up and make them feel valued.

The CEO observed how these two men ordered their meals; one stuck to the regular grains and was more interested in what he was saying to the CEO than in the food. The other candidate asked the waiter to suggest a ‘house special’ and although he was not familiar with the meal, he decided to try it out. From the way the two men conducted themselves during the meal, their courtesy or lack of it to the restaurant staff, the CEO immediately knew whom he would rather have in his team. Ordinarily, a table for three at a restaurant may not be considered an effective environment to facilitate such a decision but the CEO knew what he wanted.

There are some very common interview questions that have even been trivialised but these questions can provide huge insights into a candidate’s character and work ethics. This is what the hiring officer or CEO needs to look out for.

Years ago, I needed to hire an administrative manager and there were a number of applicants that seemed good. Five people were shortlisted and I had to talk with them. I asked all five to come into the conference room at the same time. I gave them two sheets of papers each and asked them to write what they’d observed in the company on one sheet and on the other, what they would like to change immediately. The right candidate was immediately obvious.

A common question like “Tell me about yourself,” can reveal a whole lot about a candidate’s work culture and personal traits. Is he/she confident, arrogant, timid, a team player or autocratic?

Another common question is “Why do you want to work with us?” The answer to this question will reveal several things. 1). The candidate’s present frustration and why he wants to change jobs. 2). What the candidate already knew about your organisation. 3). If the candidate performed due diligence by researching on your organisation. 4). What the candidate hopes to gain from the employment. These commonly asked questions reveal a lot about the candidate’s eye for details and career plans.

Consider this question: “Can you tell me about your current role and how it impacts your organisation? Or, do you feel valued at work and how would you rate your contributions to the success of your organisation?” Some candidates try to stay circumspect when faced with these questions. They say all they have achieved with a hint that they want more room to grow or they want a more responsive environment. Some others, however, go all out and trash their present employers, making their superior officers look like incompetent fools. That, for me, is a bright red flag. If your candidate takes out time to run down his current employer, your own day at the cleaners is just by the corner if you employ him/her.

If you want to be more certain of your candidate’s loyalty and work ethics, ask him “What do you think your current company can do to be more successful?” The candidate’s response will certainly tell you his loyalty level, his involvement in the building of the organisation he is with and whether you are getting a potential rabble rouser.

Remember, the key to getting desired responses is in asking pertinent questions and reading between the lines. Once competence has been ascertained, look out for honesty and passion in your candidates; every other thing can be worked out.

So long!

Fatherhood with Ibe


The driver understood the urgency and drove speedily to the sprawling three-floor edifice on Bourdilon Road, Ikoyi – Lagos that was the home of Olorogun James. It was still raining and as I drove up the covered driveway, I quickly appreciated the thoughtfulness of the design; the covered driveway came in handy.

I took brisk steps into the living room where Omisore and Iyabo, his mum were waiting. Iyabo was uncontrollable in her grief.

“I am so sorry….” I began to stammer but just then Seun, the younger wife joined us. She was wailing and rushed to give an account of James’ last moments.

“He just stood up and collapsed. It was like magic. I started yelling for help. The steward rushed in to help and later Mummy Iyabo also came. We did all we could to resuscitate him but when he still wasn’t responding, we called his doctor. He pronounced him dead.”

“Oh Lord!” I exclaimed. The whole thing still looked surreal to me. How could Olorogun be dead just like that?

“That’s Seun’s version,” Iyabo cut in. “She was the only one with him and she alone knows what transpired. When I got into his room, he was sprawled on the floor, looking lifeless.”

Seun protested hotly as I knew she would. An unfriendly exchange of words and glances followed and I knew that was a taste of things to come. I had no time to deal with their emotional outbursts. We had to take James’ body to the mortuary and sort out a few immediate problems.

The next few days were just as chaotic. Burial arrangements, quarrelling siblings and wives, a retinue of relatives taking sides with one wife or the other and more uproar because of an attempt by Omisore at the instruction of his mum, Iyabo to lock out Seun, Ese (the youngest wife) and their children from the main home.

I had to intervene many times and finally resolved with Iyabo and the wives that each one of them with their children should move to their own private homes, provided by Olorogun, so that peace would reign. We would summon everyone to the family house for meetings and thereafter each wife with her children would return to their various homes. It was a convenient arrangement.

“This would be the protocol until we unite to bury our friend and father. After that, his lawyer will tell us his instructions via the will.” I announced.

Iyabo raised her hand, seeking permission to speak, like a child in elementary school.

“Uncle Minister, I will respect your instruction because you and Olorogun were very close. But let’s not push this too far. I am the first wife and I gave birth to the two oldest sons of the family. I know my rights under Urhobo tradition.”

I felt a headache coming on.

“Iyabo, this is not the time for that. Your husband was a lawyer and business man. I am sure he must have written a will and that should indicate his expectations and preferences as far as his family and legacy is concerned.”

“Will? What will?” Iyabo demanded  menacingly. “No will shall take away my rights, Uncle!”

I stood frozen to the spot. This was not the Iyabo I was used to. Usually, she was a quiet motherly woman only given to occasional justifiable tantrums. But this new volatile temper was beginning too early.

“Iyabo,” I parted her shoulder. “Please take it easy and be the mother you have always been. Now you have to be a leader. In Olorogun’s absence, you step in and take charge and bring everyone together.” I counselled.

“I am here and ready to be the leader,” she replied, calmer now, ”provided everyone respects themselves and follows my lead. I did not expect that the man I started life with almost 40 years ago would die like this.…” She began to wail again.

“Uncle you know that under our tradition, women don’t lead. I step in and my mother and all will respect that.” Omisore surprised me by saying this. Was he challenging his mum?

“Okay, all of you. There will be enough leadership needed in the weeks ahead. Sheath your swords and let’s bury your great father in peace.”

For the next few weeks we met daily and set out plans for early burials. That burial took place a month ago. It was solemn and classy; Olorogun had made arrangement under a testament with his lawyer for a burial fund placed in an escrow account under his lawyer’s name to fund the expenses. It was like him. He was a very organized and calculated man. He had also instructed that his will be read a month following his burial. So tomorrow, Olorogun’s family, myself, one other friend and Tunde, James’ close cousin, would attend the ritual of the unveiling of his will.

As I wonder what the unveiling would hold in store for his family, the events of the last month and the antagonism among siblings that had lived in peace, makes me uneasy.

I pray for peace in that family….

(To be continued)