Tried-and-true interview techniques to pick the right person for the job

February 08, 2018

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Reginald Tucker

 

Finding the right employee for your business—whether you’re looking to bring on new salespeople, installers or even managers—can be a challenging, time-consuming task. First, there’s the creation and posting of the job listing. (Or perhaps you’ve decided to recruit via the networking route.) Then there’s the screening process, scheduling of interviews and, ultimately, the actual hiring and onboarding phase.

But experts in the field of hiring, recruiting and training believe the selection process needn’t be so arduous. Some say it can be an enlightening, eye-opening experience. Following are some trusted interview tips and techniques business owners, managers and consultants recommend in narrowing the search for the ideal employee.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions
In a recent CNBC feature titled, “Eight highly successful entrepreneurs reveal their best hiring secrets,” hiring managers and business owners—including

several start-up companies—emphasized the importance of avoiding run-of-the-mill questions during the interview process, such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” Instead, experts recommend managers pose more probative inquiries—or a series of associated questions—to illicit more genuine responses and discern the true nature of a particular candidate.

“I’ve found that I learn the most from a candidate when I ask them a bit of an uncomfortable question,” said Liz Wessel, WayUp co-founder and CEO, in the CNBC report. “I like to see how they react and whether they’re able to stay calm. I don’t do this because it’s fun; I do this because I want to see whether can they keep their composure and how they perform when they’re out of their comfort zone.”

John Kelley, CEO of CoachUp, is in agreement. His technique? Pushing candidates to answer the whys. For example, “Why did you choose that college or that course of study? Why that company or that role? Why did you decide to move on? I feel this gives me a deeper understanding of their motivations and goals, which helps me determine whether our company and culture are a good match,” he said.

The more specific the question, hiring managers say, the more meaningful responses you’ll get from a candidate.

In 2010, Jenny Blake, who oversaw Google’s career development and mentorship program prior to launching her own coaching firm, started a global program at Google to provide scalable, drop-in, 1:1 coaching to all Googlers, which involved teaching dozens of senior-level staff members transformative coaching and career development skills. Her new book, “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One,” offers a sampling of meaningful interview questions:

  1. “Tell me about a time when you solved a particularly interesting problem.” According to Blake, this question gets at problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
  2. “What are you most excited about learning?” Blake said this is a good alternative to the popular five-year question. “I don’t like the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’” she said. “Because things are changing too quickly, it is totally irrelevant.” Instead, she recommends employers get a sense of what potential employees are eager to work on and which skills they want to develop.
  3. “Recall a time when things didn’t go as planned—how did you handle it?” Regarding this question, Blake said, “I do think it’s good to try to frame something up around how someone handles uncertainty or even mistakes.” Missteps, she said, are inevitable; therefore, hiring people who bounce back is critical.

Properly structure and plan for each interview.
Statistics show that nearly 30% of candidates refuse a job offer because of how poorly the interview went. This is why it’s vital for employers to create—and consistently follow—the proper protocol for job interviews. Hiring and recruiting experts like David Romano, currently director of Romano Concepts—creator of six national restaurant models and multiple brands in the Dallas market—is a firm believer in this principle.

As the former owner of Benchmarkinc, which provided consulting services to retail businesses, including flooring dealers, Romano knows a thing or two about developing effective hiring processes. Once a regular columnist for FCNews prior to the recent sale of his consulting business, he continually stressed the importance of following a well-planned interview process.

Step one is to establish an interview agenda. “Build an outline for the entire interview, which should take no more than 45 minutes. Sketch out the framework with a set length of time for each section, covering information about the company, the job scope, position requirements, compensation. Include time to find out about the candidate through probing questions. Reserve a few minutes at the end for question and answer.”

Step two is to focus on the candidate. “Before asking the first interview question, review the job description, especially the hiring criteria, as well as everything the interviewee has submitted: résumé, cover letter, online profile, etc. This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in candidates.”

Romano advises against improvising during the interview process. While this might seem counterintuitive, it helps to keep the interview on track. “Prior to the actual interview, write down questions you intend to ask based on key areas of the candidate’s background,” he stated. “While it’s a good idea to have a core list of questions that you ask every candidate, it’s also helpful to jot down some targeted questions for clarification as you review the job description and résumé.”

Romano suggests managers ask more open-ended questions, as they require more thought and will help the person speak openly. Ask two or three hypothetical questions framed in the context of an actual job situation. More important, he said, it’s essential that hiring managers pay particular attention to the candidate’s answers. “Don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up, or eliminate questions already covered.”

Step three is closing the interview. After the candidate has had a chance to ask questions, end it by thanking him/her for his/her time and tell him/her when to expect to hear from you. “As soon as the candidate leaves, collect your thoughts, write down your impressions and summarize your notes. Get feedback from the other interviewers while the interview is still fresh.”

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