What would you learn if you had a week of paid time to do it?

A while ago, I posted some of my thoughts on what I thought was a good job interview question (with quite a bit of constructive feedback). I wanted to share another question that I use which helps in a different way. It’s another open one that goes like this:

If you got a full week of paid time-off to learn some new technical subject or improve an existing one, what would it be (and why)?

In in other words, what have you been dying to try out, but didn’t have time to do it at work (and still get paid for it).

I like this question because:

  • It’s time-boxed.  You only have a week, so it focuses on achievable goals in the eyes of the candidate.
  • There is no “spare-time” requirement and can be done during work hours.
  • It gives some interesting – and sometimes surprising – insight on the candidate.

For example, were they interested in a new tool or language? That’s a great subject to discuss to understand what interests them.

How about improving some existing skill? Deep dive into it to see what they think they are missing and why.

How about to write up some prototype or POC of an idea they had? Ask them why they haven’t done it in their spare time

Some candidates literally are surprised by the fact that they haven’t really thought about it at all!

In the end, it leads to some great conversation and is surprisingly refreshing for a job interview setting. It can also be a great way for a candidate to stand out from the others in your memory. There is a sinister side to it though…

Candidates sometimes (inadvertedly) admit to not knowing some skills you think are important. Oops. Not good for them, but better to know early right?

In all, this question has been very helpful for me.  Hopefully it will be for you too.

What would you learn if you had a chance?

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