Stan Dubin

If They Can’t Follow Instructions, Get Them A Clipboard

Yes, I realize that’s a pretty strong statement: “If they can’t follow instructions” — but we do encounter people who are weak in this area.

The ability to follow instructions is a key ability to look for when hiring. This ability covers written and verbal instructions. And, for a shameless plug, our Aptitude Test will give you an excellent idea of this ability — one way or the other — prior to making your hiring decision.

But, what if their Aptitude test score is low and you like just about everything else about your applicant? Is a low Aptitude test score a deal breaker?

Perhaps a better question is, how many times have you pulled strands of hair out of your head because someone just couldn’t or wouldn’t follow instructions?

I have a simple recommendation for you: if you want to hire someone who is weak with following instructions, get them a clipboard.

Yes, a clipboard. When you have something you want this person to do and do exactly as you wish, write it down and put it on their clipboard.

If you ask Bob to close up the store at 8PM, change the thermostat to 70 degrees and open the store at 9AM to let Mrs. Jones in to pick up her watch, write these things down for Bob.

If you don’t, and Mrs. Jones is upset that the store opened at 10AM instead of 9, Bob can’t come back to you and say, “well, you said 10AM.” You can reply, “okay, Bob, get your clipboard.” He does and sure enough, it says 9AM on the clipboard.

I realize this is somewhat of a rough way to get things done, but if you like someone for a number of other qualities, this is one way to reduce the fallout from a weak ability to follow instructions.

After awhile, Bob may get familiar enough with his duties that this shortcoming will be less and less of an issue.

There are two other things you can and should do with new staff:

Give them written materials concerning their position and have them study these materials.

Drill them on these materials and their duties and ensure they gain some proficiency. The more drilling, the better.

We all know that the ability to follow instructions is a key ability. If it’s low in someone you want to keep on board, this tip should help.

Is It Possible to Hire Within?

Didn’t mean to sound cryptic there, but sometimes the position you want filled can be filled by someone who is already with you.

Instead of looking far and wide for an Office Manager, perhaps Alice, who handles the front desk, could do a bang up job.

This will likely mean additional training for Alice, but she is very familiar with your operation, knows the staff and likely has a good grasp on your customer base.

The value connected to the familiarity that Alice would bring to the Office Manager position cannot be understated.

Yes, you could find a skilled, well-trained Office Manager to come in and get rolling. And yes, that person brings a good skill set. But they do not bring familiarity.

The question becomes: how quickly (and how effectively) could you train Alice to get up to “Office Manager speed” versus how quickly (and how effectively) could you get the new Office Manager comfortable and familiar with your day-to-day.

This tip has a very simple purpose.

When you’re looking to hire for a fairly skilled position, is there somebody already there who, with some training, could be quite good for you? If so, finding that person’s replacement is likely going to be easier.

And with hiring, it sometimes just takes looking inward a bit instead of outward.

Now that wasn’t too cryptic either, right?

Does Any Candidate Have Exactly The Right Skills?

Well, that’s not really a fair question to ask.

You COULD run into people who are perfect in every way for your position.

And how often has that happened for you?

Taking a practical look at this, it’s likely you’re often involved in a juggling act with prospective employees:

    • You’ll have people in front of you with superb qualities coupled with mediocre qualities.
    • You’ll be running ads for weeks on end and interviewing until you’re blue in the face and you’ve got to get SOMEBODY in there.
    • You may get depressed that the right person just isn’t out there and conclude your local area has gone downhill when it
      comes to hiring quality staff.
    • You may want to email a picture of yourself to the American Oxford Dictionary so they can insert it next to the word “compromise” in their dictionary.

I’ve heard it all folks, and I do have a bit of advice here.

Hang in there. Actually, do more than hang in there. If you’ve got your mind made up that the right person isn’t out there or isn’t likely to come your way or if you’re veering in that direction, then


Yes, I know that sounds a bit patronizing. But I mean it. There is one thing all of us can do, and that’s change our mind.

Make a new decision (or rekindle an old decision):

Decide that a person with the right skills, the right personality and the right attitude is coming your way.

And decide that a few times, and when you feel a certain inertia or mental opposition kicking in when you make that decision, make the decision again. And again. Eventually the mental “stuff” will fade and eventually vanish.

I learned that last bit of information from the book, “The Creation of Human Ability” by L. Ron Hubbard.

Well, there you go. Hope you find this tip useful.

How Will They Perform in a Crisis?


The word crisis conjures up pictures of earthquakes or floods or an armed individual threatening one’s life.

And each of these are certainly possible while one is at work. But perhaps not likely and we hope not ever, but there are other types of crises that come to the workplace.

  • A crisis of economics. Perhaps the company is undergoing a very rough financial patch. A competitive company opened up across the street and many of your customers are ending up over there. The financial stress is palpable and employees are beginning to wonder how secure their job is.
  • A crisis in employee morale. Instead of cooperation ruling the day, employees are frequently arguing, frequently criticizing each other. This of course affects productivity and if it gets too rough, some of your best staff may decide to work elsewhere.
  • A crisis in public relations. Something occurred that brought bad press to the company. This is showing up with angry calls and angry visits to your front door. The event causing the bad press may not even have a legitimate source.

I’m sure you could come up with other examples of a crisis that might hit your company.

When these highly negative situations occur, the stress can be considerable. Management may take the brunt here, but you can be sure, employees will also be adversely affected.

How will your applicant hold up in these situations?

Let’s find out.

Ask your applicant:

“What is the most challenging, the most difficult situation you have encountered as an employee?”

After you hear what that is, ask how your applicant dealt with it.

Let’s see if the future can tell us anything:

“If a crisis occurred at work, how would you deal with it?”

We’ll likely find out two things with this question:

1) What your applicant considers is a crisis.

2) How they believe they would deal with it.

I realize talking about a crisis in the past or even in the future may not be the easiest thing for an applicant to discuss, but it may be worth considering this tip.

It may give you an insight into how prepared or courageous or considerate they are.

And of course, our motto is and always will be:

The more we know, the better.

Video Interviews for Remote Applicants


We have quite a few clients who interview applicants in other cities. The position is important enough that the client wants to expand the geographic area. The company may be based in Boston, Massachusetts with the applicant in Seattle, Washington.

Having the applicant fly in to be interviewed is a step that’s usually reserved for the end of the hiring process.

In the past, you would conduct as many phone interviews as possible; do a thorough verification of the person’s résumé; and get done any background checks deemed necessary.

With today’s technology, however, you can go one major step further. You can very easily conduct a video interview, regardless of your applicant’s location. As long as she has a fairly good connection to the Internet — and you as well — you have a variety of video tools available to you.

I particularly like The web site is easy to use and easy to understand. Within 1-2 minutes you and your applicant are in a video conference and it’s almost as if the person is across the table from you.

I recommend both of you using a computer — desktop or laptop equipped with a decent video camera — but either you or your applicant can also do this interview with an iPad or iPhone.

Feel free to ask any questions you feel will help you make that next decision: should this applicant fly — or drive — in to have a sit down interview with you?

The video interview will give you a great deal of data that you would not necessarily get from one or more phone interviews. Use it as often as you can when working with remote candidates.

Do They Like People?


Now that seems a bit of an odd question, right? Doesn’t everyone pretty much like other people?

And just before you got that question out of your mouth, you knew the answer: not everybody does. We all know people who just don’t like other people. They rarely (or never) find a nice thing to say about others; they criticize easily and often; they grumble; and they are not all that warm and fuzzy to be around, right?

Well, those folks are obvious. They stick out like a sore thumb. This tip endeavors to go a bit deeper. Let’s take a look at this when it’s not so obvious and when you don’t have all the time in the world to find out.

Enjoying other people, having affinity for other people, liking other people — this is a very positive quality to have in your workplace.

A genuinely likable person who genuinely likes others is likely to get more done in a variety of ways:

    • They will try to do more with less. They’ll be inclined to look at the company as if it were theirs and try to be efficient with the company’s resources.
    • They will take the time to help fellow employees. The effort to help a co-worker isn’t something they feel compelled to do, they just think it’s the right thing to do.
    • This person usually takes criticism well. Supervisors enjoy working with this person.

The list goes on.

How can you tell how much a person truly likes people? Well, if you are not using our employee testing service, watch this 3 minute video and take our free test. The test can tell you many things about people and in particular it can tell you how much affinity and empathy a person has for others. And because you’re taking the test, you can see how accurate and revealing this test really is.

But what about the interview itself? Is there something you could do in the interview to help you assess your applicant’s affinity for others?

I think there is.

Give the applicant the following statement:

“Describe for me what it means to like other people.”

If the person very easily answers this question and gives an answer that makes total sense to you, that’s a good sign.

If the person stumbles a bit or hesitates and has to think it over, well, not a great sign.

People who go through life liking other people understand what that quality is and can easily communicate about it.

In the humble opinion of the author of this hiring tip, the more you can locate future employees that easily and freely like others, the better.

How Do They Define Success?

With different ways of defining success, let’s look at a few of the obvious ones:

1) When you achieve what you want or intend.

2) When someone achieves a high position in their job, on a course, in a sport, in society etc.

3) When a person or business makes a lot of money.

Finding out how your applicant defines success is likely to give you some good insights into their personality and into their drive.

But let’s break this down a bit. Here are some questions you could ask:

1) How do you define success for yourself in the business world?

2) How would you define success for yourself with our company, say in the next year?

3) How about in the next five years?

As you well know, your applicant might not be considering your company for five years. But it can’t hurt to ask.

Success for some is having a job and a pay check. Enough money to pay the bills.

Success for some is making an adequate income AND having a great work environment. Friends, companions, caring about others and others caring about us.

Some equate success with status. A high position in a company, an impressive sounding title.

It’s going to be different from applicant to applicant, but if you can get in there and get some honest answers here, you’ll learn a great deal about your prospective staff.

Can They “Sift” Through Data?

Sift Through Data

An enormous amount of data and information can overwhelm the work environment.

How does one deal with this information overload?

Well, the first and most important skill is understanding “degrees of importance.”

Clearly some things are more important than others. From a management perspective and from an employee perspective.

Filing the paperwork on the last sale is important but as important as the next customer standing there waiting to pay?

If a customer needs help but it’s clearly not in one’s job description to assist this customer, do we hope someone else will attend to the customer? Or do we stop, find out what’s needed and do what we can to help?

If a co-worker is complaining about a mutual supervisor, do we join in or do we insist the co-worker get with the supervisor to sort it out?


And degrees of importance.

The last example about encountering a complaining co-worker may not sound like a point of importances, but it is. How important is it to have a harmonious work environment? How important is it to resolve upsets or issues with the correct individual? Or is it not that important because workplace complaints are just a part of workplace life, so no big deal.


Degrees of importance.

So how do we determine this with the applicant?

One suggest would be to make a list of different situations your staff run into that require them to “sift through” data in order to make decisions.

You could present some of these hypothetical situations to the applicant and ask how they would deal with them OR you could ask the applicant how they handled these types of situations in the past.

You can start out with situations with obvious ideal outcomes and then present some that are not so obvious.

How your applicant “sifts” through data to make decisions is a good thing to know before making your hiring decision.

Don’t Write Them Off So Quickly

Don't Write Them Off

Sometimes people rub us the wrong way in an interview.

And that’s enough for some of us to move on to the next candidate.

An exaggeration on the résumé may be grounds for some of us to pass on that candidate.

I’m not here to challenge your intuition or judgement.

If you don’t feel comfortable with someone and you want to keep looking, that’s 100% your prerogative. If you feel someone has fudged their résumé and this is simply unacceptable to you, again, you should do what you think is right.

(the word fudge means: to change facts to deceive people)

But I would ask you to consider this: sometimes what rubs us the wrong way is on our end of things and that individual could end up being a real asset for us.

And, when it comes to embellishing or exaggerating on the résumé, you probably know this is done fairly often. This does not make it right. Your integrity is important and making decisions one way or the other based on how honest an applicant is — well, this is also important.

Human beings are interesting creatures. We try to do the right thing and we sometimes find ourselves justifying the times we know we didn’t do the right thing.

“Well, I’ll just say on my résumé that I worked at Acme Enterprises a couple of months longer than I actually did. Then I can say it’s 3 years instead of 2 years and change. I think that’s okay, because if I’m hired in this new job, I’m going to do a great job here.”

Again, I’m not advising you to lower your standards.

If you find discrepancies, ask about them.

If someone rubs you the wrong way, bring that up directly and discuss it with the individual.

And of course, there are degrees in all things.

An outright lie on the résumé is different than an embellishment.

If a person rubs you the wrong way because they came into the interview wearing a tee shirt, torn jeans and slurs their words, well, that’s not so good.

I’m using some extremes here, but I’m sure you get the point. Humans aren’t perfect — none of us are — and sometimes it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when making hiring decisions.

When The Tables Are Turned

When Tables Are Turned

The ideal hiring interview will include a time when the applicant can ask you questions.

I suggest giving a wide berth to the applicant here. Let him ask away.

Here are some questions you might get:

Pay questions: How much? Is there overtime pay? How soon before a raise? Can I do special projects to earn more?

Time questions: What’s the schedule? Am I required to put in extra time? Can I put in extra time? How about weekends?

Travel questions: Am I expected to travel? Where would I be going? How long would I be away from home?

Culture questions: How would you describe the company culture? Should I know anything in particular about fitting in here?

Other company questions: How long have you been in business? What are the company’s future plans? Is there some way I can find out about the financial health of the company?

And, of course, there are more.

The kind of questions you are asked will provide some interesting insights into your applicant.

And it’s probably a good idea that you consider the questions you could be asked and have a well thought out answer ready.

All in all, letting the applicant turn the tables is a helpful and revealing part of the hiring interview. For both parties.

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