Phil suggests asking the candidate what she is passionate about, to see how excited she gets. Phil's idea is that you want to hire someone who can actually get excited about something.
Steve agrees that "simply finding out if someone can 'get passionate' about a topic is telling." He adds the step of asking the candidate, "How would you see that kind of excitement carrying over into your work."
Here's a third way to use a candidate's passion to discover a bit more about what makes her tick.
Try asking her to:
"Tell me about the most memorable vacation you ever had."
Let her speak for at least two minutes about that wonderful vacation. Listen for clues as to what she values. Those clues will be there, because a vacation represents one of the few blocks of time that we truly focus on what we want to do, how and with whom. The most memorable vacation is likely to be the one that honored our values best.
How does it work? Here are a couple of examples.
If you asked me the question, I would tell you about a two week vacation in New Zealand with a couple of US based friends. We had been living in New Zealand for three or four years, and they came down to see the sights with us. As I described this vacation, you would hear frequent references to doing things with this couple. Over two minutes, I might mention doing things with them 7 or 8 times. You could reasonably conclude that I put high value on friendship and on sharing experiences with friends. It doesn't take much to translate that insight to the work situation - I'm likely to enjoy being part of a team, for example.
Another person might rhapsodize about spending a week at a retreat where she learned how to meditate. That might tell you something about her search for inner peace, or about her love of learning. That love of learning and self-improvement could be expected to show up at work.
A client once told me about a vacation he took when he was in his twenties. He traveled across the Middle East with little money, no knowledge of local languages, and no real plan. As he told the tale, his love of challenge, adventure and discovery came through clearly. At work, I suspect he would love to take on new challenges, but loathe routine and procedure.
Try it out on a friend. Ask her to tell you about her most memorable vacation. When she is finished, tell her what values you heard and ask her how accurate you were. Practice a few times in low risk situations and then try it at work. I think you'll be pleased with the understanding you gain.
Here is a partial list of value words that might make this a bit easier:
adventure, risk, danger, thrill, gamble, the unknown, curiosity, grace, beauty, elegance, magnificence, serving others, self improvement and growth, learning, teaching, building, exploring, imagining, observing, creating, to be with, sharing, challenging self, accomplishing, being entertained, playing games, family, community, compassion, winning.