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.

If you’d like one Hiring Tip sent to you each week, click here.

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 and we’ll send you one helpful tip every week.

Most of the tips now also include a podcast version. If you’d prefer to listen on your smart phone, iPod, etc., subscribe via iTunes.

All in all, we want you hiring better staff.



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What Skills, Knowledge and Personality Traits Are Needed For Each Position?

In addition to the skills that are required for a particular position, what knowledge and personality traits are needed?

Let’s look at the skills that would be needed for an Office Manager:

• The ability to manage others.

• The ability to assign specific tasks within certain time requirements and the ability to follow up to ensure the tasks are executed.

• The ability to observe what’s happening in the work environment and to take action, delegate and ensure things get done quickly and efficiently.

There are other skills but let’s take a look at the knowledge that’s required:

• An Office Manager of course needs to know what a smoothly running office looks like.

• She should have a good knowledge of what each position beneath her does and how each individual contributes to the overall scene.

• She should know how to utilize each individual to get the most out of each and so that they “stay in their lanes.” In other words, a good Office Manager doesn’t have Mary do things that Tom should be doing. This may be necessary in time crunches, but overall, having people do THEIR jobs and not someone else’s is important for an Office Manager to know and respect.

What about the personality requirements for a position? For the Office Manager, ideally the person:

• Should be able to get along well with others. Not necessarily to be everyone’s friend, but certainly should have genuine affinity and empathy for the staff.

• Be able to communicate VERY well. This includes giving and receiving communication. Some Office Managers excel at “giving out communication” or issuing orders, but are poor in receiving or allowing communication FROM the staff. This is a major weakness. If the staff can easily communicate their observations, difficulties and suggestions to the Office Manager — and ideally if this is even welcomed — you have a far more effective Office Manager.

• Patience. An Office Manager often needs things done right away, especially if there are customers (or patients) making their way through the workspace. But an impatient Office Manager will actually make it more difficult for the staff to get things done in the long run. They’ll be more likely to just “get it done” then learn new and more efficient ways to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Who would you rather work for? Someone impatient and for the most part demanding that you get things done? Or someone who, yes, does need and want things done in a timely fashion, but is also willing to help you through your mistakes and shortcomings so that you get better at your job?

I just broke the surface for skills, knowledge and personality traits. There are of course others and they are going to vary for each position.

Put together a list of the skills, knowledge and personality traits needed for each key position in your company. Then compile questions that will help you determine if your applicants have these qualities. Take these questions with you to the interview.

This approach will help you get past the “fluff” and get a much needed objective look at your applicants.


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Practice, Practice, Practice

This tip applies more to someone who is just getting started doing interviews. But it could also be helpful to the seasoned interviewer.

The best musicians practice.

The best professional athletes practice.

Smart businessmen and women practice a presentation before they deliver it.

When it comes to musicians and athletes, they’ll likely spend thousands of hours over a lifetime practicing their craft.

The best kind of practice increases confidence and competence.

How would an interviewer practice?

I would sit down with her and have her ask me the first interview question. I would then give a simple and proper answer.

I would then have the interviewer ask the question again.

This time I would avoid answering the question. Perhaps I’d give a partial answer, but it really wouldn’t be a full and proper answer.

Now I want to see how the interviewer responds.

Does she get a bit thrown?

Can she skillfully get the applicant to answer the question?

Does she not even recognize that the question wasn’t properly answered?

I would stay on this question until the interviewer could easily and comfortably get a complete answer. If that means having the interviewer do this ten different times, that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine. The entire purpose of practicing a skill is to gain a comfort and competence applying that skill. Give the interviewer some really tough situations to handle, but don’t go overboard. Keep things realistic within an interview framework.

While doing this, I would make sure that I acknowledged the interviewer when she did something well. The purpose here is not to nit-pick the interviewer into competence. You want the interviewer to acquire an ease in interviewing that can be applied to any applicant. Acknowledging the interviewer when she does something well will help you get there.

Take the time to go through the entire interview process. Practice each question and each part of the interview over and over until the interviewer achieves a comfort and competence with each question which will lead to a comfort and competence with the entire interview.


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Can They Improve Things Around Them?

We’ve got employees who come to work to do their job and if things aren’t going quite right around them, they’re inclined to keep themselves focused on their own work and their own workspace.

And then we have the employee who can’t keep his nose out of everybody’s business.

“Oh, Frank, don’t you think you should tell the boss about that?”

“Mary, are you sure you want to use a dark green on that promotional piece? Wouldn’t olive be a better choice?”

“Going home early, Alex? Trouble with the wife?”

And then there’s Alice, who does concentrate on her own work, but also has an eye out to help those around her.

Perhaps a fellow employee is struggling with something and Alice asks if she can lend a hand.

Or Fred, the supervisor, is having a bad day and Alice works extra hard and puts a little overtime in to help take some of the pressure off of Fred.

Or a customer seems confused and, even though it’s not Alice’s job to work directly with customers, she comes over and sees what she can do to help out.

If you can fill your company with hard-working, competent staff who ALSO look to improve things around them, that would be good, right?

So how would you determine this in the interview?

Well, some simple, direct questions should work:

“Bill, in your previous positions, in addition to doing your own job, what did you do to improve things around you?”

“Jill, are you determined to just do your job and stay out of everybody else’s business, or are you also inclined to see how you could help fellow employees?” If Jill is inclined to be helpful outside of her immediate sphere, ask her how she would go about this.

As with many of these hiring tips, watch closely how the person is answering your questions. How easily the person answers is almost as important as the answer itself. When a person fumbles around for an answer, they are often giving you a clue they lack familiarity or experience with what you’re discussing.

Look for employees who are focused on doing a great job but also care enough to want to improve things around them. Without being a nuisance, of course. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but the ones who can do this skillfully can be real assets for you.


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You Are Hiring Them, Not Their Skills

You are of course looking for skilled individuals to fill skilled positions.

You want people who know what they’re supposed to do, who are attentive to the details of what is needed and wanted, who know how to problem solve situations as they come up, and who can and do produce a valuable product.

That product could be a professionally delivered dental procedure.

It could be a properly sold prospect.

An overdue bill collected.

These are things that get produced in a business that require skill.

If you could hire a highly skilled person and not spend (lose) time training them, that’s ideal, right?

And of course it is.

But you are always hiring a person, not a set of skills. I realize that may sound a bit flaky, but have you ever had an employee who was great at what he did, but was also rough on the other employees? Who perhaps caused upsets from time to time with customers? Who didn’t respect their supervisor (or the boss)?

And you often considered what life would be like WITHOUT this person there? Would things go smoother? Would productivity overall be improved or was this person’s contributions to the bottom line so vital that he just had to be there?

And did you enjoy the stress of trying to figure this out?

I think you know what I mean.

Ideally you have the best of both worlds. You have a highly skilled employee who not only gets along with everyone, they bring out the best of those around him.

When you’re in the hiring process and you sense the person with great skills ALSO may bring a negative influence to your team, take a pause. Can you hang in there and keep looking for that more ideal individual? If you can, you may save yourself a ton of heartache and difficulty down the road.

I realize this is not always an easy call to make. Sometimes the position just needs filling. I’m just looking to add a bit of perspective that may help you with these decisions.


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

Can They Adapt?

Here’a two definitions of the word adapt:

“To gradually change your behavior and attitudes in order to be successful in a new situation.”


“To change something to make it suitable for a different purpose.”

In the first definition the person is changing something about himself. In the second definition he is changing something in the environment.

Either way, being able to adapt to changing conditions in the workplace is a trait worth looking for.

You could ask a very basic question of the applicant:

What does it mean to be able to adapt in the workplace?

A follow-up question could be:

In your last few positions, give me a couple of examples of how you adapted to changes in the workplace.

And one more:

In your last few positions, give me a couple of examples of how you adapted the workplace to make it function better.

Of course, feel free to drill down some if the applicant gives only partial answers.

How your applicant can adapt and how he can adapt things around him are worthwhile subjects to address in the interview.


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

Reference Checks — Some Dos and Some Don’ts

I am not an attorney and this tip is not to be construed as legal advice. But a few pointers can be offered here.

The laws concerning reference checks vary from state to state.

Depending on when you are reading this, there are some states without any restrictions on what you can ask or disclose on reference checks. Well, there are the obvious subjects to avoid: race, religion, age and other subjects that are considered a protected class.

In a number of states, you can only ask or disclose information on job performance.

In some states, you can ask or disclose information on:

• Job performance
• Reasons for termination or separation
• Knowledge, qualifications, skills, or abilities

HR people generally know the rules and the laws involved with checking references. This tip is mainly for business owners who want to be involved with the hiring process.

One obvious recommendation for business owners is to find out what your state’s specific laws are on reference checks and act accordingly.

Another recommendation is to ask your applicant for their permission and to get the contact information of those they want you to speak to. If they are still employed at Company X and you call them for a reference check, you may get them fired.

Job performance is by far the most allowed subject for discussion from state to state, so here are some possible questions:

How would you rate (applicant’s) job performance at your company?

How would you rate (applicant’s) (insert quality here: ability to work with other employees, communication skills, ability to solve problems, etc.)?

In terms of job performance, what do you feel (applicant) could most improve upon?

What would you say (applicant’s) top contribution was for your company?

Again, I want to say this tip is not offered as legal advice. If you’re a business owner and you want to do reference checks AND you have an HR department, get with them to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law. If you don’t have an HR department, or your HR people have any uncertainties on this subject, then get some legal advice.

When you know exactly what you can (and can’t) do with regards to references and your particular location, then roll up your sleeves and get some really good questions asked and answered.

Remember our motto:

The more you know about someone BEFORE you hire them, the better your hiring decision will be.

[This tip was inspired by a post by FitsSmallBusiness.com]


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

Are You Reading Your Company’s Reviews?

Your prospective employees are able to find out a fair amount about your company before they apply for a job with you.

Some of this information is basic information about your company, its location, number of employees, hours of operation and things like that.

But many sites are available now that contain reviews of your company. Reviews left by current or former employees.

Are you reading these reviews?

If not, then one or two bad reviews could cause qualified applicants to look elsewhere for employment.

Most of the sites allow company representatives to respond to reviews and I strongly urge you do this.

If you were looking for a job, went to a job site, saw two very negative reviews about a company you were considering, what would you think?

Now, if both of these negative reviews included a well worded response from the company, a response that made good sense to you, would you not feel more inclined to give the company a shot?

Two of the usual places, especially for smaller businesses are Yelp and Google Reviews. Here are two links to help you respond to reviews:


Google My Business

But there are many other web sites where employees can leave reviews. I’ll list nine different sites here, each with a link so you can read over any reviews left for your company and respond to these reviews:


Great Place to Work






Angie’s list

And there are others out there. It may seem a bit daunting, but it is absolutely worth your time to look over the reviews that are being written about your company. If not so positive, respond in a very professional, even-handed way.

If your company is well run and you treat your employees well, you should see a preponderance of positive reviews. But even the best run companies will incur negative reviews from time to time. Respond and let the business world know your side of things.


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

Do You Cherish Your High Performers?

You may be asking, “how is this a hiring tip?”

Well, it most certainly is.

Some business owners appreciate their top performers.

Some appreciate them and do a variety of things to acknowledge them.

Some are aware of them as top performers, but have an expectation that they should be operating at a high level and do very little to acknowledge them.

Various levels of acknowledgement of top performers are out there — from no acknowledgement at all to a very high level of acknowledgement.

Where are you on this?

The reason I ask, and the reason this is a hiring tip is very simple:

If you lose a top performer, you are now back out on the streets looking for someone to replace that person.

And here are some scenarios that may now play out:

A) It may take considerable time finding someone.

B) You may find someone but it takes considerable time to bring that person up to the predecessor’s level of production.

C) You may find someone but — regardless of training, coaxing and incentives — that person does not reach the predecessor’s level of production.

D) You may not find someone to replace that level of productivity.

So, the hiring tip is:

Cherish your high producers.

The cost in trying to replace them can be very high in terms of time and money.

There is a business concept you’re likely familiar with: “lost income.” Lost income is the income you lost because you didn’t have something or someone in place to carry out X, Y or Z at your business. It’s not always easy to recognize lost income, but it’s a legitimate factor in running a business. A top performer NOT producing — well, that produces lost income.

A future tip will give some ideas on how to “cherish your high performers.” Stay tuned for that.


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

How Clearly Can You Define the Position?

When you have a position to be filled, how do you advertise that?

Do you say:

– Receptionist Needed

Or do you give more detail, as in:

– Receptionist Needed.

– Two years previous experience as a receptionist required.

Or even more detail:

– Receptionist Needed.

– Two years previous experience as a receptionist required.

– Good communication skills a must.

Well, obviously the last one will give potential applicants a clearer picture of what you need.

My recommendation is to go even further:

– Receptionist Needed.

– Two years previous experience as a receptionist required.

We’re looking for someone with:

– Good communication skills.

– A high willingness to help others.

– Genuine affinity and appreciation for people.

– Enjoys fast paced activity.

Come with great references.

The more specific you are, the better. Yes, I realize you may be screening out a number of potential applicants when you get this specific, but you may also find the applicants that come forward are just what you need.

You may have to juggle this some to make sure you’re not being so specific that no one applies, but I think you know what I mean. Let’s clearly state what you’re looking for and decide that person will show up on your doorstep.


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.

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