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.


How Would You Handle The Irate Customer?

This is a great interview question for the applicant who will be having direct contact with your customers.

But it’s also a very interesting question for those who will not be directly handling your customers.

Let’s say you’re hiring someone who will only be working at the computer; or managing inventory full time; or some other area of work that does not have any real contact with customers. What if this employee “bumps into” a customer who is just off-the-charts irate about something. There’s no one else around but them. It could go like this:

“Frank, the position we need filled will essentially be handling inventory all day long. This position will have no direct contact with our customers. But let’s say one day, while you’re taking care of a new shipment of widgets, a customer walks up to you and you can clearly see steam coming out of her. She’s very, very angry. What would you do?”

Frank’s answers will be interesting.

He may say, “well, I would immediately find the right person to handle her.”

Or, “well, I’d ask if there’s some way I could help. I would try to find out what’s going on, what’s making her so angry. With what I find out, I’d ask her to come with me, and I’d say, ‘Mary, let’s find the right person to sort this out for you.’”

Or Frank may go so far as, “well, I’d make it my task to find out what’s upsetting the customer and do everything I could to resolve the upset. I may not be able to fully resolve it from my position in the company, but I would make every effort to do so.”

If your applicant has never been in the position to handle customers, he may have considerable difficulty answering this question. He might hem and haw and say, “honestly, I don’t know what I would do.”

So, those are some possible responses from an applicant who is applying for a position that has no direct contact with customers.

Now to the person who will be working with customers all day long. People in sales, front desk personnel, a receptionist, etc. Let’s find out how they would handle the “irate customer.”

Angry customers happen. Very angry customers also can happen. If you handle one poorly, you don’t just lose their business, you potentially lose the business of their friends or family members they told of their experience. The very angry customer may leave a very bad review for your company. They may be so angry, they find every possible place to leave a review and vent their anger on multiple review sites.

Angry and unhandled customers also don’t go over well with the staff. Over time, this can have an adverse effect on staff morale.

Okay, so you know the potential downside here. Let’s find out how your applicant will handle this type of customer. What steps will they take to get from very angry to very satisfied? Or at least no longer angry and understanding what occurred.

You could ask some additional questions while on this topic with your applicant:

Would you apologize for wrongdoing on the part of the company? If so, how would that go?

If the irate customer continued to yell at you and made it seem like you personally were the culprit — when clearly you weren’t — to what degree would you take it personally?

Knowing what the applicant would do to handle an irate customer will give you some good insight into his future performance.

What Happens When They Are No Longer on Their Best Behavior?

A variety of things can occur in an interview.

The candidate may talk on and on and be unwilling to give any real semblance of control to the interviewer.

The candidate may get so flustered by a question that he just stops talking and there’s a long, awkward silence. And this may happen several times.

And we have the candidate who is critical of several of his previous employers. Often this occurs to excuse a lack of performance on the candidate’s part.

The candidate may show up late for the interview.

The candidate’s physical appearance at the interview may indicate a lack of professionalism.

The candidate doesn’t let you finish the interview, saying he’s got to be somewhere else.

Okay, one or two of those may be a stretch, but you get the idea.

I realize some individuals do not consider they should even be on their “best behavior” when interviewing for a job. I think there are some that feel they are entitled to the job. But I’m also thinking these individuals are in the minority.

So, for those who show up for a job and ARE on their best behavior, what should we think when one or more of the above happens?

The logic would be: if they are bringing their very best to the interview and then reveal one or more discernible shortcomings, do we take that logic and wonder just how much of that — and more — will show up when they are on the job?

Or do we show leniency and chalk it up as an interview hiccup (or two…or three)?

I’m all for compassion, but the company’s viability is going to take the senior position in my mind.

First, let’s deal with the candidate who feels entitled to the job. They may have considerable skills, but that sense of being owed the job brings other problems I do not think you want. One that comes to mind is the willingness to be a real team player. It’s likely very low. Other issues will manifest from the “entitled” candidate. Me? I am not hiring him.

But this tip is more about observing incompetencies or lack of professionalism in the interview and to what degree can you project that showing up later.

Hiring is a juggling act for sure. If you feel you’ve got many positive points in Candidate A but they demonstrated some weaknesses in the interview, you can hire them conditionally and see how it goes for a week or a month. Or three months.

But you probably should not completely ignore interview deficiencies. Returning to that point of logic: if they are bringing their best to the interview, and their best isn’t even up to what you’d like to see in your day-to-day workplace, then give that sufficient weight in the hiring decision.

The “Battle” For Hourly Workers — Part One

Finding, hiring and keeping hourly workers can be a challenge.

A few facts:

• Just under 60% of the U.S. workforce are hourly workers.

• Hourly workers in many areas change jobs frequently.

• The cost of this frequent job change can be considerable to the employer.

• More and more companies, like Uber and Lyft, are coming into the hourly worker market and creating more competition.

• At this time — August 2019 — there are more job openings than there are people applying for jobs. This creates even more competition.

What to do?

In this tip, Part One, we’ll discuss finding hourly workers. You may be doing some or even all of the following, but let’s take a fresh look at what you can do to find hourly workers:

• Get your company out there on the job boards. Here’s a good web site that lists the most used job boards.

You don’t have to be on all of them, but if you can keep a steady message going on a few of these, that will help.

• Ask your current employees to refer people they know. You could even offer an incentive for this. For example, for every referral that we hire that stays for X number of weeks (or months) the employee gets a $25 or $50 Amazon gift card. Or $100 to spend at a fancy restaurant which will likely be remembered for some time. An incentive that is affordable and IS an actual incentive could work well for you.

• Of course, place an ad or two (or more) in local newspapers and magazines.

• Put up job posters in your neighborhood. A variety of local stores support this kind of thing. Every so often go and visit these store owners and spend a little time  — each time — getting to know them. They will likely to keep your job offers up there longer than others.

• Check-in with your local community colleges. Are any of them having job fairs? If so, see what’s involved in having your company represented there?

• Are there career counselors at these community colleges or even local high schools that you could meet? Let them know you have jobs available. Put together a nice job info sheet that you can get printed off and that you could leave for them. If that’s too much for them, then leave at least your business card(s).

The basic idea here is to get your company’s name and its job needs out there where people may be looking for this and, while you’re at it, throw in a little creativeness and promote yourself where people may not be looking for a job offer.

The more points of communication that exist in your area promoting your company, the more likely you’ll have people reaching back to you, applying for that job you need filled.

How to Frame Interview Questions

First, let’s grab a fast definition of the word frame:

“To carefully plan the way you are going to ask a question, make a statement, etc.”

If you take a bit of time to frame your interview questions, you’ll get answers that are considerably more valuable to you.

You do not want the candidate trying to decipher what the question means or taking time to create what they believe is a desirable answer.

As an example:

“At your last job, what would you say was the most difficult project you worked on and how did your interaction with other employees impact the success of this project?”

Being a long-winded question, your candidate is likely trying to figure out what the question is and how to best answer it.

Use simple, short questions with instantly understandable words.

Using this same example, you can break it down this way:

“What was the most difficult project you worked on at your last job?”

and, when that is answered:

“What help did you get from other employees on this project?”

and, then:

“How often did you ask for help from other employees on this project?”

So, the long-winded question — not immediately understandable — is now broken into three simple parts, each part instantly understandable and more likely to produce unrehearsed answers.

The simpler, the more direct the questions, the more likely you’ll get to the facts. It’s also a point of speed. If you ask a simple, direct question, there’s less reason for any delay in answering it.

Look over your interview questions and work out “framing” them so they can be instantly understood and — ideally — quickly answered. This will help you get the information you’re looking for.

Have You Tried Asking Your Staff for a Referral?

employee referral

You need a position filled. It’s a fairly important one. You’ve tried your usual methods of finding a candidate, but you haven’t been successful.

Have you tried asking your staff to help out? If your company is of a certain size where you have regular staff meetings, you could bring it up at the next staff meeting.

Or you could send a memo to your staff indicating what the position is and that you need a bit of help getting it filled.

One benefit of getting an “internal referral” from your staff is they (some of them at least) will have a good idea of what the position is, what’s required and what the challenges and rewards are for the position.

Moving forward, let’s say you get a referral from Alice and Alice speaks very highly of the candidate. This person may very well be a gem, but you still will want to do all of your due diligence steps.

Are there any downsides to this kind of recruiting? Well, if you do not hire Alice’s referral, she may feel slighted. In your due diligence, you may find something that Alice wasn’t aware of and of course, you’ll likely want to keep that confidential.

It wouldn’t hurt to include a statement in the request for a referral that goes like this:

“If you have someone you can refer, we’d love to interview them and see if they are the right person for the position. Please do not take it personally if we do not end up hiring your referral.” You can word that differently of course.

This hiring tip is pretty straightforward. You may have a great hire available to you right from within your company. Ask for their help from time to time and don’t be surprised if they come through for you.

A Bit of Hiring Advice from Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca

For those of you not familiar with Lee Iacocca, he was an automobile executive best known for the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, while at the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s, and then later for reviving the Chrysler Corporation as its Chief Executive Officer during the 1980s.

Chrysler was a failing, major automotive manufacturer and Mr. Iacocca indeed came in and brought it back to life.

Lee passed away recently and, though I did not know him personally, I was saddened he was no longer with us. He was a very bright executive and I recall how he approached the subject of hiring. In his own words:

“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

That’s a pretty succinct statement and yet there’s quite a bit in there, wouldn’t you say?

First of all, he hired people brighter than him.

Can you do that?

Would you want to do that?

For some of us, leadership means managing people less able than ourselves. We don’t want to feel challenged by subordinates.

And then we have leaders that are willing, even eager to manage brighter and more able individuals.

So, if you can hire people brighter than you, you’re in a good position to consider the second part of Mr. Iacocca’s quote: “and then I get out of the way.”

What does that mean?

Does that mean you give these exceptionally bright people full reign to do whatever they want in the company?

I’m thinking Mr. Iacocca did not go quite that far. He likely gave these individuals the space to be creative to get production done in new and more efficient ways, but he also kept an element of management and supervision in place.

But the spirit of the quote is certainly worth considering. Hire individuals brighter than you and then let them apply their talent and skill to help the company advance. Acknowledge their gifts, acknowledge their production even more.

Do You Have an Employee Referral Program?

employee referrals

Hourly workers represent the area of highest turnover in the business world. In a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, respondents reported that the average annual turnover for hourly workers is 49 percent, at an average cost of $4,969 per employee.

Whatever that cost may be for your business, it’s likely you’re experiencing a level of turnover that you’d like to reduce. One idea that could help you here is an employee referral program.

When you make a hire of an hourly worker, ask him or her for three names of individuals that may be possible hires for the company. It’s likely your new hire is going to give you three names of people similar to the individual you just hired.

And, consider going one step further. Offer an exchange of some kind for these three names. It could be a small cash amount or perhaps some other reward, say a gift certificate to Amazon or a local restaurant.

Your purpose here is twofold:

1) Build up a list of people you can reach and potentially hire that have some kind of a recommendation by an existing hire and

2) It gives your new hire the sense that they have helped the business they are now newly entering.

Everybody wins.

Your Best Day, Your Worst Day?

Chris O’Neill, the CEO at Evernote, offered this as a great interview tool:

“‘Tell me about your best and worst days at work.’ The answers are very revealing. ‘Best day’ answers demonstrate what makes that person tick, what motivates them. ‘Worst day’ answers tell whether a person is a team player—if their response focuses on what went wrong without taking any ownership, there is a good chance they won’t thrive in a collaborative environment.”

I do like this approach.

Some may say their “best day” was when work was easy and time flew by. Others may say their “best day” was when the work was difficult and challenging, but they were determined to get through it and produce a positive outcome.

Oddly enough, you may get the above responses for “worst day” as well.

“Well, my worst day was when work was so easy, I didn’t have to apply myself beyond showing up and just doing my job.”


“My worst day was when the work was so difficult, I couldn’t find a solution to a pressing issue.”

Whatever the responses are, I agree with Chris over at Evernote. You’re more than likely to gain a good insight into your applicant.

You Are Doing Background Checks, Right?

In an article on theft in the workplace:

“Billions of dollars are lost and stolen annually from businesses, because of employee theft. Employee dishonesty and theft costs U.S. business over $50 billion dollars annually. National estimates show that 75% of all employees steal from their employers at least once throughout their careers. The same statistics show that at least half of these 75% steal multiple times from their employer.”

Regarding violence in the workplace:

“Many American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence. Among those with higher-risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.”

Each year nearly 1 million individuals become victims of violent crime while working or on duty.

Much of this can be prevented in your workplace by doing a background check. I realize that’s something most of you already know, but the question is: are you doing them?

They are not that expensive and can tell you vitally important things about your candidates. They can help you prevent potential theft or violence in your place of business.

There are of course no guarantees that a “clean” background check means a prospective employee will not become involved in future acts of violence or theft. But the chance of someone causing damage to your company is certainly increased if you do not employ background checks.

So, this is a pretty straightforward tip. Use background checks. Find a place that has a solid reputation for providing up-to-date and comprehensive data.

Should I end off with that familiar phrase? Well, why not.

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

Would a Different Job Suit You Better?

Your Office Manager is moving on in a few weeks and this is a key position to fill. You do a bit of advertising and a good number of people apply for the job.

You do some initial screening with a phone interview, maybe even a second phone interview. But now it’s time to interview candidates in person.

Does the candidate know exactly what YOUR Office Manager does? This is a good place to start, as candidate Mary may have a very different idea than candidate Alex.

It wouldn’t hurt to ask first.

If you get a response that comes really close to what you need, that’s pretty good. But your answers will likely be quite varied.

And then you tell them exactly what your Office Manager will be responsible for on a daily basis. You may want to have this written down ahead of time and you could hand that to each candidate to read. You could even read it verbatim to each candidate. No one is judging.

So you’re closing in on a point of understanding of what YOUR Office Manager does and what his/her responsibilities are.

You could then lean back in your chair — your chair does have this flexibility, right? — and ask:

“Alex, now that we’re in sync on what the Office Manager position is and what its duties are, is there a different job that would suit you better?”

Alex may not be prepared for this question. And that’s okay. We’re eager to find out one way or the other.

Alex may say, “Well, I’m more suited to be a salesperson so I guess I could use my sales skills to get the staff to happily carry out their duties. But I am keen on getting a good-paying job asap and I believe I can be your Office Manager.”

Mary may say, “No, I am 100% perfectly suited to be your Office Manager.”

You could thank Alex for being candid and if it’s not a long haul to train up your Office Manager, he could be your guy.

With Mary, you could simply ask, “Why do you feel that way?”

Tom may tell you he’s quite multi-talented, that he’s perfectly suited to be your Office Manager but he could also excel for you in Billings and Collection.

Linda may offer a plea to give her a shot, that she promises you won’t be disappointed.

How much previous experience each individual has as an Office Manager would definitely be a factor, but in this day and age, you may not get former Office Managers coming in to apply.

So, let’s find out if they feel they’re better suited to something else. If nothing else, you may like the candid answers you get. And you may gain a nice nugget of insight that will help you make your decision.

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