I've got some standard questions that I don't think are all that unusual. Hopefully, all of the folks who come in here [for job interviews] are successful, they got where they are because they were able to do things more effectively than someone else. What exactly are the strengths, the skill sets, the traits they rely on to edge out that competition. I can take a look at their resume, but they need to give me some insight, an inventory of how they see their skill sets.
I'll ask them about their disappointments and most of all what are the lessons they learned. We all have disappointments, but hearing about the lessons they learned tells me a lot about the individual. Were they able to take the inner look and what did they do to respond. What are they going to do differently next time. Folks a lot of times have a very difficult time with that question. The ones who are able to dig deeper are the ones who score higher points with me -- what are you willing to share? Those are the individuals who show a level of trust in giving the answer and also have the confidence that they can articulate accurately how they are better for the experience.
Another question I ask is how do your subordinates describe you. Sometimes they will give just the top of the cream [for an answer], but I'm looking for something with a little more depth. Also sometimes, with a question like that folks have to think back and then come up with a rapid response. It causes them to process quickly, so how quick are they on the draw when they get a question like that.
Of course, I ask open-ended questions and listen and watch the body language. Some people are better at interviews than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean that what you see in the interview is how they're going to perform. You have to really quarterback the interview.
I also look for individuals who are life-long learners, who show evidence of trying to take the extra measure to gain an insight, gain expertise, make a job switch that maybe was a bit of a detour or side step but broadened them out. I think it's very important for that to continue right on through all the decades of one's career. Just because you get to a certain level doesn't mean that stops. What do you do to stay abreast, did you go to any seminars last year. Questions like that.
As far as red flags, sometimes you just can tell. Some of this is gut reaction. But what I watch out for are those folks where things just seem too cut and dried. I need people who are willing to realize that problems that come up are not going to be all cookie-cutter types, so you need someone who has a broader view.
The other thing I look for is how much the individual uses the pronoun I -- do they take success through the group's success, so it's not all about them. Someone who is able to admit that they had a really good team, who is really broad enough to bring in others, I think that's good.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?
This is a privately held, family-owned business. We celebrated our 80th anniversary of operations last year. We're into the fourth generation of the O'Connor family. That alone is very, very different. There's a culture here, there's a respect here that they show to employees that you don't find in many larger corporations just because of their size. Here, we've got a fair number of longer-term employees on both the executive and hourly and non-exempt levels. We have individuals down on the machine floor who are third-generation employees. That gives our company a cohesion. We have a fairly large union workforce here, but we've never had a strike. You can count on the fingers of one hand where there's been any kind of grievance -- maybe twice. That's really rare.
The fact that we are privately held also allows us and allows me to take a longer-term view. I'm not just thinking about the next quarter and what does the outside world expect. We're not just running this company for the short-term bottom line that the marketplace is expecting. That longer-term view is particularly helpful when it comes to what investments we're going to make and what is the payback.
Another thing is because of our size, we don't have a lot of layers of management, so we are quite agile. What sets us apart is that we can make a decision very, very quickly. There have been times when we've made some fairly significant decisions within a few business days, as opposed to having to work up the line. That bureaucracy is not there. We meet face to face. It's very open management that is practiced here. The CEO is very, very accessible. That helps.
I also have responsibilities as president of Mohawk. When I go out on business trips, I'm really going out of the office as president, so I get a much different response out there. Someone sees the CFO coming to visit and wonders how far they are behind on the bills. But as president, I'm paying someone a compliment when I go for a visit. I couldn't do that as effectively as CFO.
I come back from those trips with a lot more insights and get a lot more openness, a lot better feel for the business. The president is also on the operational side, so that's a very helpful edge I have. Add to that the international sales -- I spent two weeks in China, Hong Kong and Shanghai for an opportunity to see firsthand the growth prospects, but also very importantly I was sending a message to our Chinese customers that their business is real important, that Mohawk viewed this marketplace as one where we saw growth. All of those things give me a real leg up.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
I take long walks if I can at the end of the day, especially if we have daylight like we are at this time of year. I'm an avid hiker in my spare time. On vacation, I take weeklong treks, particularly in England. I've walked along Hadrian's Wall, which took me from the North Sea across to the Irish Sea in seven days.
If it's too late or if things just don't work out for a walk, another way for me to unwind is that I love to read. I love historical nonfiction books. I recently finished "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand and "The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough. I feel cheated at the end of the day if I don't have my 20 minutes to an hour sitting there in my chair and just diving into a book that I've got going.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
Teaching. Between when I left Union Camp and when I joined Mohawk, I taught as a substitute teacher at our high school in Morristown, New Jersey. I had tremendous fun doing that. I told the principal that I would teach anything other than music, art or gym. So for a couple of months I taught creative writing, earth science, history, English. I even taught a class in English as a second language.
That's what I would like to do -- teach.