Welcome To The Hiring Tips!

Hello and thank you for stopping by. I’m Stan Dubin, the Executive Director of The Employee Testing Center.

Our employee testing service has been helping companies make better hiring decisions for over ten years now. Whether you use our service or not, I decided a running collection of “Hiring Tips” would be helpful.

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These tips address the full scope of hiring: employee motivation, skills, pay, testing, and evaluation. There are tips on what to ask, what not to ask and how to avoid dangerous hiring mistakes. There are 20 plus tips on hiring and the law that our readers have found very helpful. Click here

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All in all, we want you hiring better staff.



We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

How Optimistic Are They?

Here’s a simple definition of optimistic:

“believing that good things will happen in the future”

While we’re at it, let’s look at a definition of pessimistic:

“expecting that bad things will happen in the future or that something will have a bad result.”

You may be thinking, “what’s the big deal? Some people are optimistic, some are pessimistic. It’s just the way people are wired. How can that be a factor in making a hiring decision?”

Well, here’s my view of these two very different human qualities:

If you give a task to an optimistic employee, an employee who believes good things will happen in the future, this employee is more likely to get that task done, get it done to a better result and take pleasure in getting it done.

The outcome of that very same task given to a pessimistic employee may be quite different. The pessimistic employee may find ways NOT to get the task done. He (or she) may create obstacles to getting that task done. He may even take some pleasure in the task NOT getting done.

Does that sound too outlandish?

Well, people tend to create the circumstances necessary to carry out what they believe will happen. They pull in the needed resources, they convince others to help as needed and they tend to have the resolve to overcome obstacles that get in the way.

If they generally believe things are not going to work out as expected, then they are more likely to accept reasons why resources aren’t available, they wonder why folks don’t rush in to help them and they lack the resolve to push through obstacles that may present themselves.

This is NOT some airy-fairy statement I’m making with this tip.

And I’m not saying a pessimistic person will not get things done. They very well may. But often they are getting things done over their own mental resistance to doing so.

The optimist will delight in the future being bright and doing things to bring that kind of future about.

So, how do we find out how optimistic an applicant is?

I think generally people will be honest about this character trait, so you could ask this simple question:

“On a scale of 1-10, how optimistic would you say you are about things? “10” would be extremely optimistic and “1” would be not optimistic at all.”

Whatever number your applicant gives you, then ask them to give you a couple of examples in their life as to how that level of optimism played out.

I realize you might bump into someone who is gleefully optimistic and they’re living in a fantasy world where nothing bad ever happens. But you’ll know when you encounter that person.

For the most part, a legitimately optimistic person will bring more productivity to your scene than a pessimist. And your staff (and you) will likely find them much easier to be around.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

How Well Do They Follow Instructions?

One of the three tests we administer is the Aptitude Test. This test measures the ability to follow instructions, both written and verbal.

Of the many we have tested, over half have failed. This failure rate is applicable to all industries and professions and is not specific to any demographic category.

Over half of those sitting down and taking a simple Aptitude test…fail.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of business owners and I do not need to do a special survey to know how important “following instructions” is. It’s vital.

And yet, it is a very weak area for many.

Why is that?

Well, I’ll offer a couple of reasons:

A great deal of time is spent in front of screens: TV screens, phone screens, computer screens, tablet screens. This may improve some skills for some, but for most, screens are a poor substitute for actual engagement with others and one’s environment.

The proliferation of drugs. Of all kinds. Medical and street drugs are easier to get and being taken with greater permissions. Drugs have side effects, one being a dulling effect on our ability to perceive present time. Present time is where instructions are carried out.

If you are not testing for the ability to follow instructions, we strongly urge you do so. Our main test is a personality test. Watch our three minute video on this test and when we call to go over the results, we’ll also go over the Aptitude Test with you.

In the next tip, I’ll give you a simple tool you can use with employees who are weak on following instructions.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Who Is Controlling the Interview?

Well, the obvious answer is “you are.” You’re conducting the interview and you’re the one in control.

You’ve got some questions you want to ask, you want to discuss a few points on the applicant’s résumé and you want to dig in a little bit here and a little bit there to get a good idea of the person sitting across from you.

So it makes sense that you are controlling the interview.

And giving the applicant the opportunity to ask you any questions that she’d like — that’s always a good idea and gives some of the control of the interview over to her.

But what if we were to go a step further? A big step further.

What if you said the following to your applicant:

“Alice, from your answers today, I’ve got some good information about you and that’s very helpful. At this time, I’d like to turn the control of the interview over to you. You have complete control of the interview for the next few minutes. Go ahead.”

What will Alice say? What will she do?

Even the most prepared applicant has likely not been asked to take full control of an interview. We’re asking Alice to think quickly on her feet. We may learn how she’ll deal with brand new situations at work where she has no prior experience or training.

We’re interested in how quickly Alice takes control of the interview, but we’re also interested in how intelligently and creatively she does so.

It’s certainly not the end of the world if Alice stumbles a bit here and there as this is a pretty unique request being made of her.

However, what if Alice goes right into gear and comfortably and competently controls the interview for the next few minutes?

I do believe you’ve learned something quite valuable about your applicant.

And that is always our purpose in the hiring interview.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Employment Gaps on the Résumé

The résumé you’re looking at says the following:

Acme Industries 2010 – 2014

Franklin Publishing 2014 – 2015

Looks reasonable, right?

Well, what if your applicant left Acme Industries in January of 2014 and then started with Franklin Publishing in December of 2014?

That’s a gap of just about a year.

It’s worth a question or two to determine what was happening during that length of time. Was the applicant job hunting for what he hoped was a better job? Was his industry downsizing quite a bit during that time period? Or was he just not aggressively searching for employment?

The key to this tip is to be a bit of a detective when it comes to looking over someone’s résumé. When you find gaps, even ones not so obvious, find out what was happening.

The reason could be innocuous or it could point up a character flaw. Either way, you should know the full story.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Your Successful Actions File

If you’ve been conducting hiring interviews for some time, you’ve likely made two important discoveries:

You’ve found out what works in the hiring interview and
 you’ve discovered what doesn’t work.

Certain questions and certain types of questions seem to get you that extra information you need about the applicant.

A particular location in the building is more conducive to the interview.

You learned that, from time to time, bringing other employees into the hiring interview has been successful.

You might’ve discovered going the extra distance with a second and third interview was successful.

On the flip side you’ve likely tried things that didn’t pan out.

Maybe one type of phone interview rarely produced results for you.

Advertising in a particular local paper, although you thought it would be a great source for you, brought too many non-optimum candidates your way.

One particular employee seemed a poor choice to use for supplementary interviews.

Whatever the case may be — on both sides of the ledger — you’re going to learn what works and what doesn’t work. And you’ll learn about degrees of workability.

My recommendation:

Write it down.

Keep a file of your hiring successful and unsuccessful actions.

This would be for all phases of the hiring cycle. I focused on the interview here, but maybe one particular company provided more in-depth background checks than other companies in that field.

Perhaps a certain type of employee testing was far more effective than other types. And of course feel free to check out our employee testing service.

Whatever you discover, write it down.

I use a program called Evernote. There’s a free version of it as well as a paid one. The free one is probably all you’ll need. It allows you take ALL kinds of notes and these notes would then sync across all of your “devices” — your computer, your phone, your tablet. You’ll have access to all of your notes and be able to take additional notes from every device.

If not Evernote, there are plenty of other note taking applications. Here’s two more: Microsoft One Note and Google Keep.

If not any of those, then write them down in a notebook. Get one of those composition books at an office supply store or a Walmart and have a few pages for successful actions and a few pages for unsuccessful actions.

I like Evernote as it lets me make folders and then keep files inside of the folders and you can even create folders within folders.

Without getting fancy, this tip is simply about recording somewhere the actions and steps that you take during the hiring process that work and those that do not work.

You’ll find yourself reviewing these from time to time, and of course adding to them.

What if you turn the role of hiring over to someone else? How nice will it be that this individual can look over, even study your notes on this vital activity.

One last reason to write these things down:

Doing so can clarify your thoughts and potentially give you new ways to do certain things already proven successful.

There you have it. You’re learning a great deal over time…write it down. Review and share your notes. Rinse and repeat. Oh, I’ve wanted to say that for awhile now!



We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Questions: Open-Ended Versus Closed-Ended

I started the Hiring Tips newsletter about nine years ago, and probably the largest subject area addressed is the hiring interview. Different ways to approach the interview; different subjects to discuss; different methods to learn more about your applicant.

Another approach to consider is the type of question to ask.

Closed-Ended questions can get you a brisk, often candid answer, but not a great deal of information beyond that immediate answer.

For example:

1) Do you do work well under pressure?

2) Would you prefer to work with more or less supervision?

3) Do you want to work after hours?

The open-ended versions of these would be:

1) Tell me a couple of situations when you were under considerable pressure.

You could then dig in and get specifics as to how your applicant handled these situations.

2) What was it like to work with a supervisor who gave you total freedom to do your job?

2a) What was it like to work with a supervisor who crowded you with orders and very close supervision?

Again, get more details from your applicant.

3) What kind of after-hours work have you done?

3a) What kind of after-hours work would you like to do here?

As is obvious from this last group of questions, you’re going to get considerably more information about your applicant.

This is one of those tips that is almost unnecessary to write. I wrote it because sometimes we are adversely affected by the fast pace of our world and it can be helpful to step back, take a deep breath, and word our interview questions with a view of getting a closer look at the applicant.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Fear Of Getting It Wrong

Some of us make our way through the hiring process with a fear of getting it wrong. We don’t want to make that bad hire that costs the firm time and money and adversely affects staff morale.

If the person making hiring decisions accumulates too many bad hires, this can bring too much caution and fear to future hiring decisions.

This fear of getting it wrong may be way in the back of the minds of some; it may be front and foremost with others.

Some say it’s healthy to have a certain amount of fear when making decisions. Some say it’s debilitating. And there’s probably an entire spectrum of viewpoints on this.

I am of the view that the less fear affecting your hiring decisions, the more likely you’ll produce great hires.

Sometimes we need to be bold and hire that person we may not know enough about, but we believe they’re going to be a great addition to the team. We really believe it.

Other times, we need to simply evaluate all of the information available to us and make a sound, analytical decision. And then believe in your decision.

If you find yourself fearful of getting it wrong, I do have a few suggestions:

1) Do more research on your candidate. If you haven’t already, check their publicly available social media sites. Find fellow employees from your candidate’s previous jobs and ask them what it was like working with them.

2) Ask more questions of your candidate. Dig in. Get a copy of my book “How to Hire the Right People” — it’s loaded with ways to learn new and important things about your applicants.

3) Bring other employees in to interview the candidate and solicit their opinions.

In other words, find out more about your applicant. That is likely to give you more certainty on whether to go ahead and say yes, or keep looking.

Don’t let fear seep into your hiring world. Learn more, ask more, find out more.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

Written Questions Before the Interview?

Giving an applicant a list of questions to answer prior to an in-person interview can be helpful.

You could ask specific questions about the position they are applying for and add the following to your request:

“Please be specific and limit your response to two to three paragraphs.”

You’ll get back a variety of answers of course, but two things you want to look for: did the applicant actually follow your directions and does the applicant’s answers line up with your needs for the position.

If you’re satisfied, then you can move this person on to the next step of your hiring process.

Here are a few examples.

For the position of billings and collections:

“When you contact someone to collect on a bill, what are the keys to how you approach that phone call?”

For a sales position, here are three possible questions:

“What is unique about your selling ability?”

“How do you approach a prospect who wants to think about it?”

“What is your definition of a close?”

For an Office Manager position:

“What are the three most important elements of running an office?”

You get the idea.

This could add a bit of time to the hiring process, but it also may ultimately save you time. If you can eliminate certain candidates from the in-person interview(s), that will free you up to concentrate on more qualified individuals.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

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.


We can help you hire better staff. Watch our three minute video.

One Hiring Tip Each Week!
"Just what I needed! Gives some real gems on
getting the right people in your business."
Get the Hiring Tips
Unsubscribe anytime.
One Hiring Tip Each Week!
"Just what I needed! Gives some real gems on
getting the right people in your business."
Get the Hiring Tips
Unsubscribe anytime.
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