Demanding Manager?

It’s probably not a stretch to say we’ve all worked with a demanding manager at some point. Perhaps several. From a hiring perspective, it would be good to know how an applicant dealt with this kind of thing.

A starting point could be:

“Frank, describe the most demanding manager you’ve worked with and how you dealt with this.”

Some applicants may be a bit reserved in fully communicating on this. They may be hesitant to speak unkindly about previous managers. So you might need to add:

“Frank, please give me the full scoop here. I am aware that some people can be very demanding, and in some cases overly so. I’m mainly interested in how this affected you and how you dealt with this kind of situation.”

Your applicant answers and gives you some details. If you feel he’s holding back, urge her to give you a couple of specific instances of how the manager was demanding and what he did each time.

There are probably a few different ways to deal with very demanding managers:

• Avoid them.

• Placate them.

• Go a little crazy inside but try to do everything the manager demands, no matter what.

• Go over their head and lodge a complaint.

See if you can zero in on how your applicant dealt with a demanding manager. And if they felt their approach was wrong or got them in trouble, see if they would revise their approach going forward.

If I haven’t said it before — about 100 times — the more you know about someone BEFORE you hire them, the better your hiring decision will be. Knowing how an applicant dealt with very demanding managers should give you some good insights into your applicant. Even if your team hasn’t anyone like that.

If You Didn’t Have To Work At All…

This is an interesting question to ask an applicant:

“If you didn’t have to work at all, what would you do?”

You could break this down into two different scenarios. I’m sure you can come up with others, but here are two:

“Frank, you have money coming in every month for the rest of your life, enough to cover all of your bills and and some good extra spending money, and you don’t have to work, what would you do?”

“Frank, you have 10 million dollars in the bank and you don’t have to work, what would you do?”

You may have to stress to the applicant that they really do NOT have to work. No financial stress. What would they do?

You might get answers like:

“Write a book.”

“Do some humanitarian work.”

“Start a company.”

“Travel the world.”

“I’d likely get bored, so I’d get a job regardless of being financially secure.”

“Learn to paint, play the piano, take acting lessons.”

I’m not sure there are any right or wrong answers here, but I’d like to hear that the applicant wants to be productive in some way.

If they’ve got 10 million in the bank and they want to donate it all to charitable causes and then go back to work, that sounds interesting.

If they have a passion to start a company of their own and they can tell you what this company would do and how they’d get it off the ground, that’s also an interesting answer.

I haven’t anything against traveling around the world or reading every romance novel ever written. And if someone wants to be a famous actor and this is their chance, I guess that’s okay, too.

But if they want to be productive, and this is their chance to be productive in a way they get to choose, that sounds better to me.

How your applicant answers might give you a clue to how productive they may be with you.

Will They Ask For Advice?

When I was five years old, I reached up to touch the stove curious what was up there. I screamed in pain when my fingers were scorched, and I realized that was probably not worth repeating.

The physical universe has a way of teaching us a lesson here and there.

Our parents were also around to advise us along the way. Some of us heeded their advice; some of us not so much.

And when we got into the workplace, we did our best to learn on the job. We kept our eyes open and paid attention to what seemed to work.

But what if we got into situations we didn’t know how to deal with? Did we hope for the best and do whatever came to mind? Or did we ask for advice?

Advice is a curious thing. When should one ask? How often? Is it a sign of weakness to ask for advice? Do we not ask because we don’t want to bother our co-workers or supervisor?

In interviewing prospective employees, finding out how they operate with regards to advice could be revealing.

Here is how it could go:

“Frank, when is it a good time to ask for advice?”

Frank answers and then:

“Good to know, Frank. Let’s say your supervisor is getting a bit irritated about how often you’re asking for advice, but you really need to know how to handle a particular situation, what do you do?”

Frank may say he’ll stop asking if his supervisor is getting irritated. Or he may say he’ll risk his supervisor throwing the stapler at him, that getting the work task done right is more important to him.

If you’re hiring for a position that is very detail oriented and you need someone who knows these details cold, then you’ll probably want someone with no issues asking for advice. Ideally he’s well trained ahead of time, but you can also encourage a newly hired employee to ask away and not worry about asking too often.

Discussing this kind of thing with applicants can turn up some interesting viewpoints. And depending on the position you want filled, what you learn can be very helpful in making a decision.

How Do You Plan Your Day?

Now that’s a simple, direct question to ask.

Some may answer they don’t really plan the day at all. They let things come to them. They’re easy-going. They take the approach that whatever’s important will present itself at the right time. They either went to Woodstock or wished they had. Okay, scratch that last remark.

It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker that someone doesn’t plan out their day, but from a work perspective, a decent grip on time management is almost always a plus.

So let’s move on to the applicant that does plan out their day. Do they separate the important from the not-so-important and then focus on getting the important things done?

Do they review the activities of the previous day?

And with that in mind, do they keep a running record of key things that need to be completed? Or do they leave yesterday’s incomplete activities in yesterday and just start with a fresh slate each day?

Do they plan their day in writing or do they just keep a mental record of things?

Some positions handle a great deal of varied activity; some handle the same few tasks throughout the day. The more activities the person needs to carry out directly or supervise, the more likely the qualities of a “good planner” would be beneficial.

This one question can branch off into a nice discussion for you. You can learn a fair amount from an applicant in how they plan out their day.

Take The Interview Out of the Office

It goes without saying that the purpose of the hiring interview is to find out if your applicant is the right person for your company and for the position you need filled.

Your standard interview is going to take place in the office and you’ll learn all kinds of things about your applicant in that setting. But let’s go a step further and take the interview out of the office and see what else we can find out.

Take the applicant for a walk around your business. Introduce her to some of your staff and ask her some of your interview questions along the way. See how she interacts with your staff. You might even ask a couple of your staff ahead of time to use this brief intro to “challenge” the applicant. Here are a couple of examples:

One of your staff could say, “you’re not seriously considering working here?!” The applicant will likely take that in jest but observing their reaction could be interesting. Or an employee could speak directly to you (the person taking the applicant for the walk-around), “you know, we’re fully staffed in this area. We really do not need any excess personnel.” Again, observing how your applicant reacts to this could be interesting.

You could also take your applicant out to a nearby restaurant and conduct the interview there. Something as small as how the applicant treats the waitress could be revealing.

How your applicant interacts with others outside of the routine interview environment could give you some insights you might not otherwise obtain. Try it out a few times and see how it works for you.

“It Doesn’t Sound Like You’re a Top Performer”

One way to find out how an applicant will perform under pressure is to enter a bit of pressure in the interview.

So, how would you do that?

You could discuss the position for awhile, get some good back and forth going, ask what qualities the applicant brings, how they might handle various situations and then say:

“Well, Frank, it doesn’t sound like you’re a top performer.”

And then just sit there patiently and say nothing. Just wait.

At some point, Frank is going to respond. Here are two possible responses:

“Well, I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. I guess I’ll leave now.”

“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I believe I am, and if you give me a chance, I’ll do everything I can to convince you. And frankly, I know I can convince you.”

There are, of course, several other possible responses. Each one is giving you an insight into your applicant.

The two ends of the spectrum are:

Frank believes he has the goods and is determined to convince you of that.

Frank just gives up and leaves.

And there will be other responses in between those two.

What if Frank gets upset or aggressive?

I’m thinking he’s not your guy.

Sometimes entering a little pressure in the interview will give you an insight on how your applicant will respond to future pressure in your workplace.

How Would Your Previous Employers Rate Your Performance?

This is an interesting question to ask applicants. Asking this may not get what the previous employers would actually say, but it gives an interesting perspective on the applicant in front of you.

It could go like this:

“Alice, in looking over your résumé, your three previous employers were Acme Industries, AAA Insurance and Lehigh Construction. Let’s talk briefly about Acme Industries. How would your supervisor rate your performance there?”

After Alice answers, get her to elaborate some. Ask her how would her supervisor rate her performance as a team player; how would she rate her competence; how well she got along with others; how well she aligned with the goals of the company.

You can see where I’m going here. What are the different areas or qualities that are important to you? Once you ask the general question of how would your supervisor at Company X rate your performance, break it down into the different qualities and competencies that you are looking for.

Then move on to AAA Insurance and Lehigh Construction.

This is a bit of a two-fold approach: 1) you’re looking for your applicant’s perspective on how they were viewed by their supervisor and 2) you’re likely to get a fairly honest answer. The applicant doesn’t know if you’ll be contacting their previous supervisor or not, so they’ll want to stay as close to the actual scene as they can.

Now you may get an answer like: “Well, my supervisor at Acme Industries hated me. He gave me assignments he knew I couldn’t complete in the time given. He made me stay overtime and I rarely got paid for the overtime. He criticized how I dressed. It was a horrible scene.”

But, more than likely, you’ll get some really good insights into your applicant. It may take some time, covering three previous employers and several specific performance areas, but it could very well be worth your time.

Don’t Get Too Attached

I recall a client who needed to hire a new front desk person. This was a key hire as the front desk person handled all of the incoming calls and walk-ins. This person could make or break my client’s business, so it was a very important hire.

Now, this tip may sound like a commercial for my company’s testing service — and that wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? — but I am also looking to make a point about the hiring process.

We provide three tests: a disarmingly accurate personality test; an IQ test, measuring problem-solving skills; and an Aptitude test, measuring one’s ability to follow written and verbal instructions.

The first person tested was not a big hit with the client.

The second person, however, was a huge hit. My client calls and can’t contain himself: “I love this guy.”

However, the Aptitude test score was very low.

So I told my client what I tell all of them: “I’m not here to tell who you should or shouldn’t hire. But the very low Aptitude test score does indicate this person will have difficulty following instructions. It’s your decision, but it’s important you know what the test scores reveal.” I said quite a bit more, but that was the gist of it.

I asked what he wanted to do. He got real quiet and finally said, “I don’t know. I’ll get back to ya.”

A few days goes by and another set of test scores come in.

My client calls and his first words are: “I love this guy!” I look over the test scores and they’re in good shape. We discuss the scores for a bit and he’s going to hire this person and is very happy to do so.

I asked my client if he had not been using our tests, would he have hired the person before this. Without hesitation, he said, “Yes!”

But he added this:

“Actually, Stan, it’s more than that. The guy from a couple of days ago, well, I ran into his previous employer and all he would talk about was the guy’s difficulties with following instructions!”

So, he was quite attached to the second person he interviewed and tested, but ended up hiring someone else because a key bit of information became available to him.

The point of this tip is simply this: you may find yourself in love with a particular applicant. And of course that person may very well be THE correct hire for you. But it can’t hurt to do a bit more interviewing, a bit more searching for that right person.

Yes, it’s more time expended, but you a) may find you’ve now located an even better hire and b) you may find someone (or several someones) you can note as possible future hires. You do have a notebook or a place to record those people, right?

Anyway, there you have it. You can head to Vegas and get that immediate wedding without any kind of wait period, or you can hang in there a bit and make sure you’ve got the right person.

Take Me Through Your Résumé

Here’s an interesting approach to an interview.

You and the applicant both have a copy of the résumé. Ask her to walk you through it.

The applicant might not grasp immediately what you’re asking of her, so you might say this:

“Alice, you’ve got a number of items here on your résumé. I’d like you to expound on the important ones. We obviously don’t need to cover the basic points: contact information, that type of thing, but, as an example, for each previous company you’ve listed, tell me what you did there, what you liked and didn’t like about working there, things like that.”

And when Alice does that with each company listed, move on to her qualifications and skills:

“You’ve got three different skills mentioned here, Alice. Tell me what you can about each skill. How did you accomplish them? How did you utilize each one in previous positions? How would you utilize them here?”

When finished with skills, look over the résumé and see what else is there you can have Alice discuss in some depth. Are there interests or passions that you’d like to know more about?

This tip is a nice guideline to help you learn a good deal more about your applicant. Which of course reminds me of our basic premise:

The More You Know About Someone BEFORE You Hire Them,
The Better Your Hiring Decision Will Be

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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