His Interview Questions Aim to Get to Heart of Job Candidates

Car dealership chain’s senior adviser William Powell is affectionately known as “the Godfather” at the LaFontaine Automotive Group.

Steve Finlay, Contributing Editor

September 16, 2019

2 Min Read
job interview
“Either people will BS you and make up stuff, or else they actually will tell you an anecdote about a personal situation,” Powell says.Getty Images

Everyone knows the stock job interview questions, and even some (but not all) of the predictable answers. Such as:

  • “What’s your greatest strength?” “I’m a hard worker.”

  • “What’s your biggest flaw?” "I work too hard.”

  • “Where do you want to be in five years?” “In your position.” (An applicant actually said that, and got the job after the self-confident interviewer said, “I like you.”

Bill Powell.jpg

Bill Powell

William Powell asks untraditional, simple but penetrating interview questions. They aim to get to the heart of the matter – and the heart of the job candidate. (William "Bill" Powell, left)

Powell held various dealer-relations management positions during a 32-year run at General Motors. He now serves as senior adviser to the LaFontaine Automotive Group, Michigan’s second-largest dealership chain.

At LaFontaine since 2011, he’s affectionately known there as “the Godfather.” The family-owned dealership group credits him with helping its fast growth in recent years.

The organization runs 17 stores and six body shops. It has 1,300 employees. Powell is involved in the interviewing of most applicants seeking customer-facing positions.

He tells Wards of a set of deceptively deep interview questions he has posed throughout his business career.

“I ask, ‘What is the most difficult thing you ever encountered in your life, and what did you do about it?’”

He also asks, “What is the most positive thing that’s ever happened in your life, and what’s the most negative?”

You’ve got to believe he gets varied and unusual responses.

“Either people will BS you and make up stuff, or else they actually will tell you an anecdote about a personal situation,” Powell says. “Sometimes it’s very personal involving something they’ve overcome.”

His questioning doesn’t occur under the hot lights of an interrogation room. Powell is business-like, deliberative and soft-spoken.

He says: “It’s their choice to answer whatever they want, but those questions get to the core of someone. You can transcend why someone is here and determine whether they will fit into the organization, based on what they say.”

About the Author(s)

Steve Finlay

Contributing Editor, WardsAuto

Steven Finlay is a former longtime editor for WardsAuto. He writes about a range of topics including automotive dealers and issues that impact their business.

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