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Interviewing A Potential Employee

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19 replies to this topic

#1 Scottie


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Posted 26 July 2003 - 10:19 PM

When you determine you do need to hire someone, do you have a set of questions that you ask? Or do you use a more casual style?

What I have found is that hiring a small business employee needs to be handled differently than hiring for a large company.

I start out with a very clear representation of what the company does, and what type of person I am looking for. I can't afford specialists, so I am looking for flexible, multi-talented people who are willing to do whatever needs doing. And I let them know upfront what the payscale is- at this point, I can't afford to negotiate. It is what it is!

I've found that saves me time- especially if I take care of that screening by phone. Otherwise, you spend a lot of time talking to a candidate and once they know all the details, they aren't interested anymore. That's fine by me- I want someone who clearly knows what they are getting into because I can't afford to train someone then have them leave!

Then I get into their qualifications and interests. If we have a match, we go from there!

#2 Ron Carnell

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Posted 27 July 2003 - 03:02 AM

In sales, it's always important to prequalify the potential customer. You want to avoid wasting time and resources on someone who can't afford what you're selling or is highly unlikely to buy. What you're suggesting, Scottie, is little different. Prequalification, however, is a blurry line. Too little prequal will waste your time, but too much will often result in lost opportunities.

I'm not just suggesting sales is a good analogy for hiring employees. I'm suggesting that hiring employees IS another form of sales. The trick, I think, is to know what it is you're selling.

Are you selling the job? The pay scale? Those are the kinds of things that can easily be screened over the phone, or even, by a secretary. Unfortunately, in my opinion, those are also things that can too easily become commodities. If we hire employees who are willing to "settle" for what we have to offer, we really should be asking WHY they are willing to settle. Is it because they can't get better? Or are we just a stepping stone in their career path? Small business is always going to take it on the chin when it comes to things like pay scale, benefits, security, and well defined job descriptions.

Fortunately, we have other things we can sell, and almost every single one of those things ultimately boil down to YOU, the small business owner. If you are excited about your business, the prospective employee will become excited, too. If you have faith in your future, the employee will sense it. If you can sincerely promise them a piece of that future, they will believe you. If you immediately treat them as your most precious resource (because they are), selling not just a job but a relationship, they will just as quickly recognize the worth of that attitude. We can't give them more money than IBM or Microsoft will, but we can give them greater creative freedom. We can't give them job security, but we can offer them far greater job growth. But for any of that to mean anything, they have to first believe in you. That isn't likely to happen over the phone.

You have to sell them on your vision of what they can be, and yea, that can be hard. Then you have to deliver, and that will always be harder yet. My best employees, over the years, were always the ones that could easily have made more money elsewhere. My best employees were the ones who were willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term goals.

There's a classic western movie, circa 1960, The Magnificent Seven. In the opening half-hour, Yul Brynner is recruiting fighters to help defend a small Mexican village, and I'm reminded of one particular scene in a bar. "How about that guy over there?" asks the sidekick, pointing at a particularly reprehensible and badly scarred cowboy. "Nope," says Brynner's character. "We want the guy that did that to him."

That's not a bad way to hire people, I think. :beer:

#3 Scottie


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Posted 27 July 2003 - 09:21 AM

LOL- that's a perfect analogy Ron.

You are absolutely right- when telling them about the job responsibilities, I do tell them where the company is headed and what I expect in the future to bring. It's not a negative thing at all.

I want the people who can share that vision and feel a little sense of ownership and pride in helping us to build to where we want to be. The prequalification process sorts out the ones who are just looking for "a job" and a more stable environment. LOL- we are not a stable environment. :beer:

For example, my current part-time office manager is also a freelance writer. Right now, I need her to help with paperwork and mailings and marketing materials. In the future, she'd like to do more content writing for my community portal site. She's very flexible and does an incredible job of following up on press releases and getting us coverage in the local news media.

Hopefully, as we grow, I'll be able to bring in someone else to do the daily paperwork and let her focus on PR and writing. But if she wasn't willing to do all of it for now, I'd have to have someone else to get it done.

Personally, my target for employees is stay-at-home moms. Smart, capable women who are focusing on their families but have some extra time when the kids are at school. Since my companies are mostly family-oriented, it makes sense to have people working with me that are my target demographic. Typically, they don't need the income to live on (not if they work for me, anyway!) so the payscale isn't as much of an issue. The hours are flexible, they can do some work from home, and are welcome to bring the kids in when they are out of school.

I actually have more qualified applicants than I can hire! Which is nice... just gotta keep building.

#4 stoli


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Posted 27 July 2003 - 09:58 AM

I have found it extremely challenging to hire dedicated part-time help.

Being a small business owner does not give me the luxury of having a professionally staffed human resource department at my beck and call to fill my needs!

What I do try to do when hiring say a part-time delivery driver is to try to word my ad in a way that would emphasize the benefits of that position to my target applicant.

I know my target applicant is a college student. What are students looking for in a job?

I stress that my position offers a flexible schedule and I can work around class schedules. Also, by stressing that the job is physically demanding, they are able to get a good "upper body workout!" Believe it or not, that approach has worked!


#5 dragonlady7


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Posted 28 July 2003 - 07:38 AM

I wish they'd been like that at this job when they interviewed me. The woman who interviewed me asked me all kinds of questions and got me all excited about the job being challenging and having a number of different responsibilities and all, and then at the end once I pretty much had the job, she kept saying "are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you can handle this?" Well, she hadn't told me what was going to be so hard (hmm... the boss is insane, for starters, and frequently screams abuse at employees) so of course I was bewildered and said "of course I can handle it." I thought it was going to be this exciting job full of different responsibilities and all that stuff she'd told me.
OK, I'm naieve, but this is my first job. So... I didn't know she was full of crap!
It helps get more dedicated employees if you're honest with them, sure, but if she'd been totally honest with me... well, I still would've taken it because it was my first interview in six months and I was running out of money even though I was freeloading off of everyone I could think of. This d**n economy...

#6 meta


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Posted 01 August 2003 - 12:01 PM

Being a small business owner does not give me the luxury of having a professionally staffed human resource department at my beck and call to fill my needs!

Oh, heavens. Ask anyone who works in a big company - you're better off without that.

#7 ResIpsa


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Posted 01 August 2003 - 12:12 PM

Oh, heavens.  Ask anyone who works in a big company - you're better off without that.

Be careful...you cant imagine how easy it is to ask the wrong question in an interview.

This might help: http://www.onlinewbc.../interview.html

p.s. I don't work in HR.

#8 jbelle


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Posted 01 August 2003 - 12:35 PM

I can't say I've hired a boatload of people, but I was recently involved in a slew of interviews and I learned a lot (from the interviewer perspective).

I say don't go with an informal approach to the interview. Have your interview structure and questions in place; you can run the interview in a casual manner, and deviate from your outline, but you need to have a structure--I believe a firm one.

The strucure I thought worked the best went as follows:
  • lead interviewer goes over interview outline (briefly mention each of the following steps)
  • lead interviewer describes company, department, and then basic requirements of working for the company (starting and ending times, dress, benefits, all those more "basic" elements to the job)
  • the specific requirements of the job at hand are outlined (duties, expectations, who the person will work with and report to)
  • questions are asked of interviewee (pre-written, but may be added on to during ingerview)
  • interviewee can ask questions
  • lead interviewee wraps up with what our timeline is, what to expect, when to expect it, etc.
I think you can have a comfortable & casual interview that is run formally and professionally, so don't take this to mean be stiff and cold. Just be prepared; you and the interviewee will get more out of it.

#9 omahonydonnelly


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 05:57 PM

In a past life I worked for a Big Company and was trained in "Targetted Selection". Sounds like cloning, but it really worked for me.

You start by creating a job description for the position, if you don't already have one. You then develop questions based on the duties and skills required for the position, asking for specifics to show how the person dealt with this in the past.

If you are hiring a receptionist: "Could you describe a time in your last job when you had a difficult client on the line, demanding to talk the the boss, when the boss was not available?"

If the person says, "oh yeah, I had to do that a lot." You then prompt, "OK, describe one instance for me."

This focuses on people who have experience doing exactly what you are looking for. If the person didn't experience that exactly, but they have all the other things you are looking for, then modify the question a little. "When you were in college, did you ever..." or "At home..." or "Working for a local community group..."

It helped me focus on the qualities and skills needed for the position, and also helped the interviewee understand what was required.

You then use that job description to set up an induction/training programme and a performance review programme.

How to find time for all that?!!!

#10 omahonydonnelly


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 06:01 PM

Sorry, another thing..

Sometimes it helps a nervous interviewee, or one that doesn't understand about being specific, if you offer an example. "Once when I was working in Purchasing, one salesman kept calling, insisting on going over my head to my boss..."

It helps make the interview a bit more conversational.

#11 Scottie


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 06:10 PM

Hi westcorkweek! :whip:

Welcome to the forum.

Great points- thanks. :P

#12 cline


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 06:16 PM

One early hiring mistake I made was with a candidate that was really good at figuring out what other people wanted to hear. She was a disaster after she was hired.

Of course you should let the candidate know up front the basic details of what the job entails -- but don't tell them what kind of person you want. Keep this hidden, and don't let them pry it out of you. Make them tell you what kind of person they are.

Stick with a standard series of questions so you can more fairly compare each candidate against the others. If you ask different questions of the various candidates you cannot make an objective assessment.

I personally like to give candidates one or two simple case study questions to see how they think. The cases should be general, loosely related to the work, have no one right answer (although they should be wrong answers), and vague enough to encourage the candidate to project their own ideas into the situation. It's amazing how such questions really bring out how the candidate thinks. And if you can stand to keep your mouth shut, it's amazing how this kind of question causes candidates who rely on telling you what you want to hear to just freak out. A sure sign of it is when a slick, chatty candidate suddenly doesn't know what to say, other than to ask you a stream of questions, which you politely decline to answer, and redirect them to answer the question you've given them.

#13 Scottie


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 06:20 PM

Welcome Cline! :whip:

Good to see you here.

Excellent point- you want to get the candidate talking more, you talking less. Amazing what you can learn...

#14 meta


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 08:32 PM

Cline, why "have one right answer"? It's hard to imagine that any really challenging work problem has only one right answer.


#15 Jill


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 09:43 PM

I believe he said: "have no one right answer."


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