Recently I had few interviews with graphic designers. This was definitely outside my comfort zone because my knowledge of the topic is… well, very limited. However, my task wasn’t to check their graphic skills. This was already done by my colleagues. My task was to get to know them better. To see whether they “fit here”. I was wondering how should I go about this interview, and finally I decided to use the moving motivators cards (from Management 3.0).

If you aren’t familiar with the concept then I will describe it shortly. There are 10 cards. Each of them represents a (potentially) motivating factor like power (ability to influence what happens around you), status (being recognized for who you are and what you do) or mastery (challenging tasks which are within you reach but you have to sweat a little to perform them). The task is to set them in order so that the things which motivate you the most are on your left, and those which are less motivating are on the right (there is more to it, but for the sake of this post this should suffice).

You would (normally) use these cards to learn about the motivation of your team mates, but I wondered what would happen if I used it during the interview. So I tried it.

moving motivators

Image from http://management30.com

The nice thing is, that there is no expected result. Each of us is driven by different factors and this is OK. So giving this task to a job candidate isn’t really a test: I treat it rather as a very effective discussion-igniter. The point is to hear some some explanation about values represented by cards.

Also, for most of the people (and I have played on different occasions – not only during interviews) this task is challenging. It occurs that most people struggle to decide which of the motivator should go where.

And while the candidate shuffles the moving motivators cards you ask questions. There are thousands you could ask, and they pop in your head as you observe the candidate. Why would you choose acceptance over relatedness? What does status means to you? Is it the title on your business card or maybe something very different? And, if given the choice between status and power which one would they rather have? So, you put the freedom as the most important factor, but power is on the other end. How do you think these two relates to each other? Could you give an example when the task you had clashed with your honor? I see you find it hard to choose the more important of these two – why is that? There are no two similar answers to these questions and each discussion goes along different paths.

Every time I used these cards I was very happy with the result: they tell me a lot about the person. Also, they let me verify what the candidate said about himself during some initial small-talk (I usually ask about his previous experience etc.).

Also, by what the candidates told me, this was a nice experience. I guess this is because I really tried to make it so. I began with the explanation of what are the moving motivators cards, and what we gonna do with them. Also, I made it clear there is no catch: that I’m not a shrink so I can’t read them through by observing how they do with the cards. By keeping atmosphere friendly I think I am able to make this task a kind of a game of self-discovery, and not a strict interview psycho test.

Of course, as with every tool, you can use it in a wrong way. I have heard stories about interviews which also used moving motivators cards but were horrible. The antipattern is to request the interviewee to order the card. And then to sit and observe him with the stern face. And the poor soul thinks this is some kind of a trap and he tries to find the right order (that would please you), and he wonders what would you think if he puts power or status as top priorities – would you hire such a person? Obviously, this leads nowhere..