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.

Enjoy!

How To Improve Your Candidate Pool

candidate pool

The candidate pool for a good number of employers consists of those who are responding to a current job offer.

And that’s fine. The right person may very well be there.

But let’s look at expanding that candidate pool.

Permit me to give a sports analogy. Some of the best teams in baseball have two things going for them:

• They have superb talent currently on the team.

• They have put a good deal of time and effort into developing future talent.

Baseball has a unique way of doing this. Each professional team, like the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers, have teams that play in what is called the “Minor Leagues.”

The Minor Leagues consists of three sections.

A

AA (pronounced “double A”)

AAA (pronounced “triple A”)

Each major league team has one team in each of those three minor leagues. And that’s where future talent is developed.

The successful teams will invest considerable time and effort into getting the “right players” into their minor league system.

You may be a baseball fan and are waiting for me to mention those few successful teams who do not put much stock in their minor league teams, but instead spend a ton of money grabbing up the best talent when it’s available.

But, this is not a baseball tip. It’s a hiring tip.

How do you create your candidate pool of future talent?

One immediate idea is to keep an eye on the online job boards for résumés that you like even if you are not hiring right now. A folder of future prospects from this source is a good thing to have.

Another idea is to cultivate your staff to reach out on any line they can — their friends, social media, chance meetings with possible prospects, etc., — and ask them to refer possible candidates to you. Get as much info as you can and include these prospects in another folder of future prospects.

Are you in touch with college placement recruiters? This could be a fruitful source for future hires. Whatever information you glean here could also go into its own folder.

How about the various professional associations? You might find some that make sense for you to join. Future talent may be located here that you may not find anywhere else. You could also encourage your staff to connect with these professional associations.

Spend a bit of time on LinkedIn and collect identities that may not be candidates for anything now, but may in the future as other job positions open up.

I mentioned having separate folders for these prospects. You can put them all into one folder, of course, but I like separating them out so you can immediately know which of your sources are paying off for you.

All in all, the idea here is to develop your candidate pool and keep good records of what you find. In addition to the above ideas, you’ll come up with ones of your own.

Could this be too time-consuming? Possibly. Then again, it may save you a bundle of time down the road because you have THAT person in your candidate pool when a new position comes open.

When An Employee Recommends Someone To Be Hired

Ellen, an employee of yours, has been with you for several years. She’s hard-working, loyal and you trust her judgment.

Your receptionist is leaving and you need to get her replaced.

Ellen comes to you one day and says, “Mr. Jones, my friend, Julie, I believe she would be perfect for the receptionist position.”

You of course say, “That’s great, Ellen. Why don’t you tell me a bit about her.”

Ellen does.

You find out if Julie knows that Ellen is recommending her, and you get Julie’s contact info.

Now what?

The receptionist is a very important position. This person handles incoming communications on the phone and greets those coming in person.

This is often the first contact point someone will have with your company.

Do you treat Julie in a different manner than you would any other candidate for the receptionist position?

Do you have her go through the entire hiring process, fill out all the forms, have her take all of the pre-employment tests and sit through the thorough one-on-one hiring interview?

Do you do the due diligence and verify Julie’s résumé?

Or can you short-cut a good deal of this process because you trust Ellen to refer you someone who will be a superb receptionist?

Perhaps you’re concerned that you might offend Ellen if you put Julie through the entire hiring process.

You could go either way on this, but I might as well give you my two cents.

I would put Julie through the entire hiring process. All of it.

And I would say this to Ellen, “Ellen, thank you very much for referring your friend Julie to us. I do want you to know that I’ll want her do all of the paper work, testing and interviews that we do with everyone else.”

The likelihood is very high that Ellen will respond, “Oh absolutely. That makes total sense.”

So that’s out in the open and off you go to see if Julie is the right person for your receptionist position.

You don’t want to hire Ellen and then have to let her go or she scoots off in a few weeks. So maybe you’re extra thorough in your hiring steps with her. Can’t hurt.

What Can Pre-Screening Candidates Tell You?

pre-screening

As you know, the reason to pre-screen candidates is to save you and your hiring staff the time it takes to do full on interviews. It can also save you the expense of doing background checks, though some of you will want to get those done very early on as part of the pre-screening process.

Ideally, in a pre-screening interview, you can determine if your candidate is a good fit for your company. A candidate who would fit in with your company culture.

And how many times have you heard those two terms: “fit” and “culture”?

Probably the simplest way of looking at this would be: does an applicant seem to share the values of those currently working there?

One company may not consider values that important and, as long as employees show up on time for work and do what they’re asked to do, all is well. Well, actually that’s a value in of itself, isn’t it.

But the next company may be staffed with people who care deeply about the company’s success and consider they are part of a team, and perhaps in some cases, a part of a family.

Whatever those values are, the person doing the pre-screening should have a very good idea of them. And questions can be asked to help the “pre-screener” determine if the person they’re interviewing does in fact have those values.

Another important item that can be ascertained from a pre-screening interview: The salary expectations of the applicant. If they are way out of line with what the company can pay or is willing to pay, probably not a great idea to spend too much more time and resources interviewing the candidate. The one exception here would be the pre-screener gets a hint that maybe, just maybe, it is worth the company’s time to keep talking with this applicant. He may bring something special that might influence management to alter its salary guidelines.

So, a bit of judgement does enter here.

The main consideration of a pre-screening interview and the main skill set of the person doing this interview should focus on how you can fairly quickly get a good look into your applicant’s world. And, in so doing, determine if you should continue with this candidate or move on.

Mistakes on the Résumé — How Serious Is This?

Ideally the applicant comes in with a résumé that is honest, clearly laid out and free of errors.

Errors could range from spelling or grammar errors to outright false statements regarding previous employment.

Let’s look at the low end first.

If there’s two words that are misspelled and one clear instance of poor grammar, what is this telling you?

Well, more than likely, the applicant didn’t have someone proofread his résumé.

We also know that the applicant’s literacy level is going to be a factor. If s/he had three errors on something as important as a résumé, you’re likely to see more show up in their work.

This may also show up in their ability to follow instructions.

So, it’s not a good sign if there are several spelling and/or grammar errors in the résumé.

Is it a deal breaker?

This would depend on what position you want filled. If the positions require a fair amount of paper work and reporting, then you might think twice about hiring that individual. If there’s very little reporting or written work required, then you may not have a problem.

How about the “error” of slightly exaggerating their earlier work experience? Mary actually worked at Acme Enterprises for 2 years and 3 months, but she puts on the résumé that it was 2 years and 6 months. The applicant may consider this a “white lie.” A definition of white lie is:

“A deliberate, untrue statement which does no harm or is intended to produce a favorable result.”

Well, it’s certainly deliberate and it’s certainly intended to produce a favorable result. But saying it does no harm is a bit of a stretch.

If a person’s first contact with you includes partial honesty, what does that tell you may occur down the road if you decide to hire the individual?

I’ve brought up in earlier tips the subject of applicants fudging their résumés. And again, let’s get a definition here:

To fudge something is to do something in an ambiguous way in order to obscure the truth. Example: We’re showing a loss for the year. But we think the accountants can fudge the profit/loss statement to buy us some time.

Examples of fudging a résumé are:

• As above: An applicant exaggerating the length of time working somewhere.

• An applicant saying he has a particular skill but all that occurred was he took one class on the subject.

• An applicant listing Sam Smith as a reference on his work experience when Sam Smith is just a very good friend willing to say just about anything if called.

Again, you’ve got to set up what level of honesty do you want to see from each applicant.

Fudging, exaggerating or outright lying on one’s résumé — these are obviously more serious than spelling or grammar errors.

I realize I may be presenting a very high bar here, but what do you want your standards to be? Do you want someone who made the effort to ensure his résumé was free of errors — of any kind — and who presented a completely honest picture of themselves?

Or do you want something less than that?

What Would Keep You Here For Five Years?

Hiring and Longevity

When I talk with business owners, a major hiring concern that comes up is longevity. It is particularly focused on “younger people” who too often jump ship when a better offer shows up.

That better offer could be more pay, better hours, better perks.

How often this happens, I couldn’t say. But enough business owners have communicated this concern to me that I know it’s a problem out there.

And I’m not here to speak unkindly of the younger generation, but their skills in digital communications does make this an easier proposition for them.

We’ll use Cathy as an example.

Cathy still has her job posting up on Indeed and other hiring sites. She’s also made it known on her social media sites that she’s looking for a job despite having just started with a new company.

A great job offer comes.

I can see how this would be a dilemma for her.

She hasn’t made a contractual commitment of any length of time to her new company, and now she’s confronted with a job offer that could be considerably more valuable to her.

So, we can certainly understand that situation.

But we also can understand what Cathy’s new company is experiencing. They are spending X amount of time training her for the new position. They may be paying her during this initial training period. And they have hopes of Cathy fitting in and helping the company move forward.

Well, there’s no sure fire approach to handling this, but I do have one idea.

Before you hire Cathy, ask her:

“What would keep you here for five years?”

Of course you could modify that to “two years” or even “ten years.”

And let’s see what Cathy has to say.

She may simply say, “With all respect, there’s nothing really that would keep me here as I feel I should keep my options open.”

Or she may say, “well, if I had certainty on pay raises or other items of exchange, I’d consider committing to five years.”

That, in itself, is a pretty strong statement to get from someone in today’s work environment, but you could at least ask each applicant the question and see what you get.

You may get a flippant answer, like: “Well, honestly I need to keep my options open. Wouldn’t you in my position?” That kind of response is telling in and of itself.

You could also have a follow-up question ready:

“Once you get started with us, will you still be promoting yourself as available to other companies?”

That would be interesting to find out.

All in all, if you ask the question: “What Would Keep You Here For Five Years?” — and probe a bit with it, the worst that will happen is you’ll gain some additional insights into your applicant.

And that’s what it’s all about.

What Are Your Hiring Criteria For Each Position?

hiring interview

Do you have a clear statement of your hiring criteria for each position at your company?

For your office manager?

Salesperson? Indoor sales? Outdoor sales?

Tech Support?

Billing and collections?

Receptionist?

If you do not have this clear statement for every key position, it would be very helpful to put that together. Get that on your computer and in a folder you can easily find. Or, even better, print each one out and put it in its own folder.

If you’re interviewing Sally Jones for position X, you may find she’s not ideal for that position, but she would be great for position Y. However, position Y is filled right now. Go ahead and place Sally Jones’ résumé and her other hiring notes in the folder for position Y. If she’s ideal for more than one position, make a copy of her hiring credentials and include those in more than one folder.

Now, when you hire for position Y — even months or years down the road — outcomes that folder. With one phone call or email, you just may find Sally Jones available again. You just saved a lot of time.

But, let’s get back to this point of hiring criteria.

Does the position require someone who is genuinely friendly, empathetic and a skilled communicator?

Or do you need someone who is tough and supremely pro-active?

Does the position require all of those qualities?

People have personality traits. Different personal skills they are strong in, other ones not so strong.

Can they easily solve problems or are they frequently asking others for advice.

How well do they follow instructions?

How well will they get along with fellow employees?

Ideally, you’ll locate these strengths and weaknesses in the hiring interview. You should also be doing pre-employment testing. Our pre-employment tests will give you a wealth of information about each applicant.

You could say it’s a match game. Match your criteria for the position with the skills and the personal traits of your applicants. That last sentence wasn’t telling you anything new, but this tip is about making this a bit more of a science. By having handy a clear statement of the hiring criteria for each position — and using that statement — your hiring decisions will come faster, with more confidence and likely with a better outcome.

What If Your Co-Workers Aren’t Cutting It?

Unethical employees

I just realized these tips are being read in various countries outside of the U.S. so let me provide a definition for the phrase: “cutting it.”

Cutting it means to be effective or successful.

So, we want to find out how this applicant would deal with a situation where the employees around him are not being effective or successful. More simply stated: they are not producing.

It could be worse than that. They could be doing things detrimental to the company.

Whatever the case may be, give the applicant the scenario where his co-workers aren’t being effective or successful. You could make it more specific with:

“They are spending all kinds of time chatting with each other or texting friends or hanging out on social media.”

Or you could say:

“They are producing shoddy products. Products that are causing upsets with customers.”

One more possible way of getting specific:

“There appears to be an agreement amongst them that they don’t have to be effective at what they do. They come in when they want, they leave when they want. Apparently there isn’t any supervision or … or there is a supervisor but he shares in this low level of ethics.”

I’m sure you can come up with a variety of specifics here.

Then let’s ask our applicant what he/she would do about this? And let’s ask when they would do something about this.

There’s probably something in our DNA that frowns on someone who rats out their friends or co-workers.

Okay, fast definition of rat out:

To rat someone out means to tell somebody in authority about something wrong that somebody else has done.

And I imagine you’ve heard the noun version of that:

“I’m not a rat.”

Well, this is all well and good. But the company exists to be profitable and those getting a paycheck have essentially agreed to do their best to help the company succeed.

When your applicant is given this set of circumstances and then asked how he/she would deal with it, you’re going to get some good insights into his character.

And that’s what we’re going for here.

When Many Apply For the Same Position

multiple applicants

Depending on how the job market is going, you’ll find there are times when quite a few people apply for the same position.

This of course will vary from area to area, and it also will be influenced by how you are promoting a particular position. If you’re posting the job offer on just your web site, you’ll likely see considerably more applications if you promote the position on one (or more) of the job boards. ZipRecruiter, Monster, Indeed and other job boards could serve up dozens of applicants for just one position.

How should you filter these applications so that the one-on-one interviews are being done with the right people? These interviews could go an hour and longer, so we want to spend that time — the one-on-one interviews — with people who actually could end up getting hired.

The simplest approach of course is to get their résumé ahead of time, look it over and then take the next step. What would that next step be?

One idea would be to schedule a short phone interview. You’ll find, oddly enough, that a percentage won’t show at all for this interview or they’re “busy” doing something else and will call you twenty minutes later apologizing but hoping you will still do the phone interview.

If their first personal engagement with you is a no-show, this is not a good sign. Is it a deal-breaker? Possibly. Remember, this is the scenario where we have too many applicants to potentially interview and we’re looking for some kind of filter.

Okay, they show up on time for the phone interview. What could or should you ask them?

You could go very basic here and just ask simple questions that you gleaned from their résumé.

Or you could ask a few penetrating questions. For example:

“If we hired you for this position, how long would you be looking to stay with us?”

A different wording of this might be:

“We sometimes have a revolving door here with new hires leaving after a few weeks or so. Convince me I don’t need to worry about you.”

Here are a few more questions you could ask:

“From a work perspective, where do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten years?”

“On a scale of 1 to 10:

“How focused are you?

“How stable are you?

“How friendly are you with other employees?

If you look through some of the other Hiring Tips — and there are 290 of them at this point in time — you’ll find quite a few that you could use in this phone interview.

Again, the phone interview does not need to be very long. You want to be satisfied you can move this person on to the next step in your hiring funnel.

Just to be sure, I’m not here to dissuade you from asking questions regarding the applicant’s résumé. If there are résumé items you want to confirm or have amplified, you certainly could do this over the phone before the in-person interview.

All in all, you will need some kind of filter if you’ve got 10, 15, 20 or more applying for the same position. This hiring tip should give you a few ideas on how to do this.

How Well Does He Communicate?

Employees communicating

To a certain degree, you’re going to find out how well someone communicates during their hiring interview(s).

But let’s see if we can go a bit further with this.

Adam is applying for the position of Office Manager. After he’s answered all of your interview questions, let Adam know you’d like him to meet a few of the staff.

“Adam, I’d like to take you around to meet some of the staff. But I want this to go beyond a simple ‘hello and nice to meet you.’ I want you to start a conversation with each person. You can choose the subject, but each conversation should be at least several minutes long. Ready to go?”

You can let your staff know ahead of time that you’ll be doing this or you can choose not to let them know. That’s up to you.

Take Adam to at least 2-3 people and see how it goes. If you’d like to see this done with more than 2-3, by all means, go for it.

A person’s ability to communicate is a key factor in how productive they are. How well they communicate will also influence how productive those around him are.

Those who communicate well, who communicate easily and effectively, should have little difficulty doing this with your staff.

If your applicant fumbles and stumbles during this exercise, it’s not a great sign.

You’ll want to observe how this goes from start to finish. You’ll likely know a good deal more about your applicant when you’re done.

How Long Will He Be With You?

employee longevity

Today’s work environment is certainly different than a few decades ago. Back in “those days,” when someone started with a company, there was a strong likelihood of being with the company for many years. Helping the company grow, enjoying raises in salary, and overall being a coveted contributor.

Today, not so much.

How long someone stays with one company could be a few years, a few months, even a few weeks. The days of a new employee being with the company for 20, 30 years are, to a marked degree, behind us.

Now, I do know of quite a few companies with employees that have been with them for 20 and 30 years and more. But these were “new” employees 20-30 years ago.

Despite this turn of events, longevity IS a factor for many of us. We would like a new employee to hang in there. We’d like to invest in them — with training, salary increases, and other ways of acknowledging our people — and we’d like to see them invest in us: with their time and their skills.

So, how would we determine how long someone will be with us?

Is that even possible to determine?

Well, I don’t have a magic bullet for you here, but I would recommend a few things.

Of course, first and foremost, look over their résumé and how long have they been with each company?

And with each company, you could ask:

“Robert, with Acme Enterprises, why did you leave?”

“Okay, thanks. With Allen Industries, why did you leave?”

And so on.

Probably a good idea to take notes with each answer.

Now, you have an idea of why Robert left each company. Is there a pattern? Did it sound like the company was always the reason for his departure or did you get a sense of accountability from Robert?

You could also ask:

“Robert, thinking back on the four companies you have on your résumé, what would’ve kept you there longer?”

and…

“Robert, looking forward to possibly working with us, how long do you think you’ll be with us?”

When you get an answer, follow with:

“What would we need to do to accomplish some kind of longevity with you?”

Longevity is a subject that may be difficult to get a good read on in the hiring interview. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach it.

The above steps and some creative ones I’m sure you’ll think of will help you get an idea of what longevity means to your applicant.

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