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?”


“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.

Sometimes It Best To Say Nothing

Silent Interviewer

Throughout the hiring interview, you are always looking to get as much information as you possibly can.

Questions like: “Can you give me another example of that?” and “Can you tell me how that affected you?” and “Can you provide more details on what happened there?” are examples of how to get more complete answers to your questions.

But there is another approach that can coax additional information from the applicant.

Saying absolutely nothing.

A “well-placed” pause in the interview often will cause your applicant to give you that additional information.

What are you, the interviewer, doing during this silent pause?

Well, I wouldn’t suggest staring at the applicant. You could look down at his résumé and then look back at the applicant. Maybe even do that a couple of times. You could even include in your facial expression a certain expectancy.

If your applicant asks what’s happening, you might say, “Oh, I thought you weren’t finished and had more to say on that last question.”

There’s possibly a side benefit to this approach. Nothing being said in the interview for 20 or 30 seconds could produce a bit of anxiety for some. If half of a minute of silence can produce an anxious applicant, how will he perform when things get really stressful on the job?

Granted, there’s always a level of stress the applicant is dealing with as he makes his way through the hiring process, but all in all, we’re using this interview to find out as much as we can before we make our hiring decisions.

You’re New. What Would You Do First?

Frustrated Employee

New employees have an expectation of receiving some training for their new position. That makes sense.

After the training point is covered, let’s ask our prospective, new employee a few of these questions:

“Alice, it sounds like you understand what our company’s purpose is. So, if we were to hire you, what would you do first to help contribute to that purpose?”

“Fred, if you’re just getting started with us, what actions would you take with regards to the other employees in your area?”

“Bob, when you get started with a new company, what do you want to get accomplished right out of the gate?”

“Debbie, if we hired you, how soon would you want to make an impact here? And what form would that take?”

On the one hand, it’s not the end of the world if a new employee just wants to settle in, learn the ropes and gradually become a contributing part of the company.

On the other hand, if your applicant has some clear ideas on getting things accomplished right away, let’s hear what they are.

We do like the pro-active types!

How Would You Handle An Angry Co-Worker? An Angry Customer?

Angry employee

It’s something all of us run into at one time or another.

Angry co-workers.

Angry customers.

Some of us prefer to confront these individuals head on. That can work. It can also escalate things into a far worse situation than anyone bargained for.

Some of us prefer to just “look the other way.” No effort is made to cool off the angry co-worker or customer, the hope is someone else will handle it.

It’s probably a good subject to bring up with your applicant. It could go like this:

“Alan, if your co-worker all of a sudden got very angry and it was clear this anger was having a bad effect on other employees, what would you do?”

After Alan tells you what he might do, ask him if his approach would be any different with an angry customer. And if so, how so?

You could go one interesting step further here and actually drill an example or two.

“Alan, I’m going to play the role of an angry co-worker (or customer) and I would like to see how you’ll respond.”

You dig a little into your early acting days, summon up a bit of anger, and you have it with your applicant.

If you go this route, do your best to make it “real” anger.

You could try a few different situations.

With a customer, you could be angry about a product or service that was recently purchased.

You could be angry with the company overall because of something you read in the local papers.

You could even be angry with the applicant directly because you thought he did not treat you well.

As you can see, there’s a number of ways to approach this subject with your applicants. Whatever approach you use, you’re more than likely to gain an insight or two into your applicant.

What Would You Do Differently?


I like this question for the hiring interview.

You could get specific with:

“Adam, in your last position with your previous employer, what would you do differently?”

You could get very specific with:

“Adam, in your last position, tell me about an outcome that didn’t go very well.”

Adam does.

And then:

“Thinking about that now, what would you do differently?”

You could go broad with:

“Adam, you’ve been in the workforce for fourteen years. Looking back on those fourteen years, what would you do differently?”

In some cases, your applicant may be prepared for this kind of question, but I think in most cases, you’ll get an unrehearsed answer. And that should give you a good insight into your applicant.

Should You Use a Recruiter – Part Two


We’re fortunate to have Kathleen Steffey for this second discussion of why you may want to use a recruiter. Press the play button and enjoy!

Here are some links to reach Kathleen:

Her home page.

Her page of her key staff and their qualifications to help you fill important positions.


Her LinkedIn page.

Should You Use a Recruiter? (Part One)


This tip is in the form of a podcast interview, so feel free to press the play button above.

I am interviewing Kathleen Steffey. Kathy has been recruiting for 25 years and 18 years ago started her own recruiting business. Here are some links to find out more about her:

Her home page.

Her page of her key staff and their qualifications to help you fill important positions.


Her LinkedIn page.

How Did You Handle Disagreements?

Employee Disagreement

This could be broken down into three parts:

How did you handle disagreements with customers?

How did you handle disagreements with other employees?

How did you handle disagreements with your superiors or the boss?

There’s a handful of ways that someone deals with a disagreement.

One could just succumb, or give in, and let the other party have his or her way.

One could push hard to get one’s viewpoint across so that the other person accepts, at times begrudgingly.

One could avoid the whole thing and just move on to another subject.

Handling a disagreement is going to differ depending on whom it is with. We might go the distance with a fellow employee, but buckle fairly quickly if we’re talking to our boss.

Or maybe we feel so strongly about something, that we feel compelled to get the boss to change his or her mind.

A number of possibilities here, so get in there and ask away. Work on getting specific incidents of dealing with disagreement.

Is he or she pushy or simply determined to straighten things out? Is he or she so backed off that they’ll give in at the slightest sign of disagreement? Somewhere in between?

Regardless of what comes up, you’re going to find out some interesting things about your applicant.

Is The Customer Always Right?

I find this to be a fascinating question to ask an applicant.

But before we can do that, you would need to answer the question yourself:

Is the customer always right?

I know some companies believe in this so strongly they have plaques on the wall proclaiming it. Likely not for the customer to see, but visible to all employees.

The idea, of course, is to do everything possible to satisfy the customer so that a) she purchases and b) she’s happy she did so.

And, in theory, that’s a great business principle to live by.

But, in practice, you’ve likely come upon situations where the customer was “so wrong” that you weren’t willing to give away the store just to satisfy him.

I’m thinking the vast majority of you know that judgement enters in and that means employees will be required to apply a bit of judgement from time to time.

So, let’s simply ask the applicant:

“Mary, here’s the next question I’d like you to answer: ‘Is the customer always right?’”

Mary may ask for clarification, and if you want to give some, go ahead. But I’d suggest simply directing Mary back to the question itself and see how she answers it.

If she gives a glib answer, “Yes, I believe the customer is always right,” then you could follow that up with:

“Okay, Mary, that sounds fine. What if the customer believes she gave the cashier a one hundred dollar bill but she factually only provided a twenty-dollar bill? In that instance, is the customer right and you would need to pay her an additional $80 in change that she does not deserve?”

Mary will think about that for a while and give you her best answer.

There may not be a clearly right or wrong answer to the question: “Is the customer always right?” But you will learn if your applicant is thoughtful enough to consider other possibilities here. And this could be important moving forward, as you may not want Mary inclined to give away the store too often.

How Would You Resolve an Employee Dispute?

Upset Employees

You could say, it’s not up to Employee A to resolve a dispute between Employee B and Employee C.

You could say that.

But if the supervisor for Employees A, B and C isn’t around or isn’t into resolving disputes, are we going to just let disputes fester?

Well, sometimes we do.

But let’s check with our applicant and see if she is inclined to get in there and mix things up.

“Mary, let’s say two employees that work near you are having a dispute. It gets a bit loud. The supervisor isn’t around, and you’ve learned the supervisor doesn’t particularly care to get involved in employee disputes. What would you do?”

Mary answers that she wouldn’t try to get involved in such things.

Okay, that’s an honest answer. And maybe a good approach as Mary worries that she risks making the dispute worse if she involved herself.

Or Mary answers that she’d want to do what she could to resolve the dispute. If that’s what Mary would do, let’s find out how she would do that.

“That sounds very responsible, Mary. Could you let me know how you go about that?”

And Mary does.

This is one of those hiring tips where there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. But it will give you some insight into how your applicant views her position in the workplace.

Not wanting to rock the boat and taking the safe route.

Or being pro-active and keen on fixing things that appear to need fixing, even if fixing them isn’t specifically in her job description.

Again, either way, you’re going to learn something of value about your prospective employee.

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