Marc Cendella of The Ladders Sits Down with NYTimes Corner Office

Marc Cendella started The Ladders seven years ago.  The Ladders is a network of sites, each targeted to find $100k+ jobs in a certain industry.  Law Ladder is the legal niche site in the portfolio.

Here are my favorite parts of his interview:

Q. What else do you do at the company to set the tone you want?

A. When we do something good, we come together and we celebrate. In baseball, a guy hits a home run, goes around the bases, and all his teammates come out and they give him a high five, and that’s awesome. And then every time somebody hits a home run, they do that.

In business, people tend not to do that enough, so when we achieve a goal, we have to go celebrate. And there are two reasons why we need to do that. As human beings, we’re not emotionally and anthropologically different from who we were on the plains of Africa 100,000 years ago. We need to feel that hey, I’m in a community.

The second reason is that out of everything that I could be focused on in a year, the thing that gets rewarded with a party will be the thing that I really focus on. So I’ll tell everyone, if we hit this mark or we hit that mark, we’re having a party. Then it’s been concretely expressed to the employees that that must be the important thing. So it’s a way to double and triple underline the really important goal.

Q. What’s an effective question that you use in most interviews?

A. What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve been given in your career? That gets to the underlying point about what people think is important. The best career advice part gets to what they think is important; worst career advice kind of tells you whether the person is trying to snow you. I want to know if you’re trying to snow me under the stress of the interview and trying to tell me things that you know aren’t true — that you don’t make bad decisions, that you haven’t gotten any bad career advice, that type of stuff.

The point is that the interview is uncomfortable, but so are budget review meetings and so are a lot of meetings in day-to-day life. We’re not a bunch of perfect people who work together. We’re all people with flaws. I want to know if you’re somebody who feels comfortable enough to talk about dumb things that you’ve done or dumb advice that you’ve taken. Phrasing it in the form of, “Hey, what’s the worst advice you got?” at least gives you a half-step of distance from it. It tells you something about the character of the person.

Q. What’s the best question people should ask in an interview?

A. When they ask you, “Hey, do you have any more questions?” ask them, “How do I help you get a gold star in your review next year?” The person who’s interviewing you had to go through a lot of effort to get this opening, particularly in this economy. Be empathetic and realize that they are hoping that this position is going to make their life better. Ask them how you can be a part of that.

Job seekers and interviewers, what are your favorite interview questions?

Later in the interview, Marc Cendella mentions that he uses the Topgrading® method for interviewing and hiring employees at The Ladders. I’ve been watching a few of the videos from the online training. Does any law firm use this system?

* Sadly, the Ladders declined my application on Commission Junction.

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