“What Are Your Three Things?” — Interview Technique For Hiring Managers

Many years ago, I was working at a recruiting fair with a colleague. We spoke to a student every 30 minutes for nine hours. To say the least, it was exhausting.

During the event, my colleague and I prepared questions to ask each candidate as a litmus test for determining who would receive a second interview. Like many suggestions on LinkedIn, we focused on behavioral questions versus technical ones.

My colleague kept asking the same question at the end of each interview'¦

'œWhat are the three things I need to remember about you after you leave this interview?'

Lesson For Me: How To Remember Everyone I Have Interviewed?

Hiring manager listens to a job candidate during an interview

I was reasonably young when I learned this technique. We would sit in a conference room a week or so after the event, and we would narrow our suggestion to two or three candidates. Because time had passed, my recollection of the conversations grew 'œfuzzy.' My colleague was quite clear, and I needed to know why.

'œHow do you remember so many details from this many different conversations?'

His response? The three things.

The more unique these three responses are, the more my colleague remembered the conversation. He could recall nuances, which I forgot. He remembered details like their mannerisms, clothing, and responses to our questions. He had nearly perfect recall.

As he explained, he used the three questions as a pneumonic device to recall information'”or a trigger. He would re-read the three things and instantly return to the conversation. He said with practice, I could do the same.

History Of My Use Of The Three Things'¦

Hiring manager shakes hands with a job candidate after an interview

When I ask the question, I add one caveat. 'œTell me three things I want to remember about you after this interview, and make the third one truly unique to you.' Then I sit quietly and wait.

Some interviewees are quick on their feet and riffle through the answers. Others tend to overthink about what I want to hear, and I encourage them to simply give me an answer from the gut. Interviewees who give me canned answers or anticipate what I want to hear may not get the job. The candidates who give me something special always get my attention.

Most candidates want to tell me they are: hardworking, customer oriented, organized, willing to learn, able to lead, like trying new things, get along well with others, and many of the 'œtypical' coached responses to a question. Some people only give me these answers without the unique one. That is OK; however, I cannot guarantee their interview is memorable.

The ones who really dig deep and share something personal'¦ These people I remember and still have friendships with to this very day.

What Kind Of Answers Do I Get?

Hiring manager smiles at a job candidate

Here are a few candidates who have given me memorable responses (if my network knows who these people are, don''t spoil it for others):

  • Hired around 2003 '” I was in a terrible car accident my junior year of high school and spent six months in a hospital bed because of the plate in my forehead.
  • Hired around 2007 '” I have jumped from 1500 perfectly good airplanes (parachuting enthusiast).
  • Hired 2015 '” My grandmother is Native American, and my middle name is 'œSky' because of my heritage.
  • Hired 2016 '” I raise 'œsugar babies' and have dozens of them in my home. (Look them up if you don''t know'”I had to.)
  • Interviewed in 2011 '” I love really bad European EDM music, and I make my own music on weekends.
  • Hired 2016 '” I am working with my girlfriend on my own fingernail polish company. We sell on Amazon already and are looking for long-term distribution.
  • Interviewed 2021 '” My family owns and plays 1400+ board games.
  • Hired 2022 '” I grew up in a town with less than 300 people, and we literally have one stop light.
  • Hired 2020 and 2022 '” My friends call me 'œCaptain Redbeard!'
  • And mine '” I listen to speed & thrash metal music every day (and when I share this with a candidate, I often get the 'œyou!?' and a confused look in response).

As I write these responses, I can recall elements of our conversations; I can remember names, and I see the faces. Several of these people are still in my life and will be for many years to come. Others I will simply remember the time spent together in the conversation. Regardless, I will remember the truly unique people in my life.

So What?

Hiring manager reads a job candidate's resume during an interview

I am not going to tell you this question will work for everyone. Similar to the Dale Carnegie approach to learning someone''s name, I am simply recommending a device, a tool, a trick to remembering candidates. I also recommend you make the question your own and tweak it as I did.

Do I think this question helps me? Yes.

Do I ask this question to every single candidate? No.

The interviewees who I want to work with or hire always get the question. I am curious to watch how they approach the question, and more importantly, I want to learn something fascinating about the person across the table from me.

The most rewarding part, I have known some very cool and intriguing people in my life, and years later, I can clearly remember the most remarkable ones who share a little piece of themselves with someone they really do not know. That is the reward!