Your Successful Actions File

If you’ve been conducting hiring interviews for some time, you’ve likely made two important discoveries:

You’ve found out what works in the hiring interview and
 you’ve discovered what doesn’t work.

Certain questions and certain types of questions seem to get you that extra information you need about the applicant.

A particular location in the building is more conducive to the interview.

You learned that, from time to time, bringing other employees into the hiring interview has been successful.

You might’ve discovered going the extra distance with a second and third interview was successful.

On the flip side you’ve likely tried things that didn’t pan out.

Maybe one type of phone interview rarely produced results for you.

Advertising in a particular local paper, although you thought it would be a great source for you, brought too many non-optimum candidates your way.

One particular employee seemed a poor choice to use for supplementary interviews.

Whatever the case may be — on both sides of the ledger — you’re going to learn what works and what doesn’t work. And you’ll learn about degrees of workability.

My recommendation:

Write it down.

Keep a file of your hiring successful and unsuccessful actions.

This would be for all phases of the hiring cycle. I focused on the interview here, but maybe one particular company provided more in-depth background checks than other companies in that field.

Perhaps a certain type of employee testing was far more effective than other types. And of course feel free to check out our employee testing service.

Whatever you discover, write it down.

I use a program called Evernote. There’s a free version of it as well as a paid one. The free one is probably all you’ll need. It allows you take ALL kinds of notes and these notes would then sync across all of your “devices” — your computer, your phone, your tablet. You’ll have access to all of your notes and be able to take additional notes from every device.

If not Evernote, there are plenty of other note taking applications. Here’s two more: Microsoft One Note and Google Keep.

If not any of those, then write them down in a notebook. Get one of those composition books at an office supply store or a Walmart and have a few pages for successful actions and a few pages for unsuccessful actions.

I like Evernote as it lets me make folders and then keep files inside of the folders and you can even create folders within folders.

Without getting fancy, this tip is simply about recording somewhere the actions and steps that you take during the hiring process that work and those that do not work.

You’ll find yourself reviewing these from time to time, and of course adding to them.

What if you turn the role of hiring over to someone else? How nice will it be that this individual can look over, even study your notes on this vital activity.

One last reason to write these things down:

Doing so can clarify your thoughts and potentially give you new ways to do certain things already proven successful.

There you have it. You’re learning a great deal over time…write it down. Review and share your notes. Rinse and repeat. Oh, I’ve wanted to say that for awhile now!



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Questions: Open-Ended Versus Closed-Ended

I started the Hiring Tips newsletter about nine years ago, and probably the largest subject area addressed is the hiring interview. Different ways to approach the interview; different subjects to discuss; different methods to learn more about your applicant.

Another approach to consider is the type of question to ask.

Closed-Ended questions can get you a brisk, often candid answer, but not a great deal of information beyond that immediate answer.

For example:

1) Do you do work well under pressure?

2) Would you prefer to work with more or less supervision?

3) Do you want to work after hours?

The open-ended versions of these would be:

1) Tell me a couple of situations when you were under considerable pressure.

You could then dig in and get specifics as to how your applicant handled these situations.

2) What was it like to work with a supervisor who gave you total freedom to do your job?

2a) What was it like to work with a supervisor who crowded you with orders and very close supervision?

Again, get more details from your applicant.

3) What kind of after-hours work have you done?

3a) What kind of after-hours work would you like to do here?

As is obvious from this last group of questions, you’re going to get considerably more information about your applicant.

This is one of those tips that is almost unnecessary to write. I wrote it because sometimes we are adversely affected by the fast pace of our world and it can be helpful to step back, take a deep breath, and word our interview questions with a view of getting a closer look at the applicant.


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Fear Of Getting It Wrong

Some of us make our way through the hiring process with a fear of getting it wrong. We don’t want to make that bad hire that costs the firm time and money and adversely affects staff morale.

If the person making hiring decisions accumulates too many bad hires, this can bring too much caution and fear to future hiring decisions.

This fear of getting it wrong may be way in the back of the minds of some; it may be front and foremost with others.

Some say it’s healthy to have a certain amount of fear when making decisions. Some say it’s debilitating. And there’s probably an entire spectrum of viewpoints on this.

I am of the view that the less fear affecting your hiring decisions, the more likely you’ll produce great hires.

Sometimes we need to be bold and hire that person we may not know enough about, but we believe they’re going to be a great addition to the team. We really believe it.

Other times, we need to simply evaluate all of the information available to us and make a sound, analytical decision. And then believe in your decision.

If you find yourself fearful of getting it wrong, I do have a few suggestions:

1) Do more research on your candidate. If you haven’t already, check their publicly available social media sites. Find fellow employees from your candidate’s previous jobs and ask them what it was like working with them.

2) Ask more questions of your candidate. Dig in. Get a copy of my book “How to Hire the Right People” — it’s loaded with ways to learn new and important things about your applicants.

3) Bring other employees in to interview the candidate and solicit their opinions.

In other words, find out more about your applicant. That is likely to give you more certainty on whether to go ahead and say yes, or keep looking.

Don’t let fear seep into your hiring world. Learn more, ask more, find out more.


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Written Questions Before the Interview?

Giving an applicant a list of questions to answer prior to an in-person interview can be helpful.

You could ask specific questions about the position they are applying for and add the following to your request:

“Please be specific and limit your response to two to three paragraphs.”

You’ll get back a variety of answers of course, but two things you want to look for: did the applicant actually follow your directions and does the applicant’s answers line up with your needs for the position.

If you’re satisfied, then you can move this person on to the next step of your hiring process.

Here are a few examples.

For the position of billings and collections:

“When you contact someone to collect on a bill, what are the keys to how you approach that phone call?”

For a sales position, here are three possible questions:

“What is unique about your selling ability?”

“How do you approach a prospect who wants to think about it?”

“What is your definition of a close?”

For an Office Manager position:

“What are the three most important elements of running an office?”

You get the idea.

This could add a bit of time to the hiring process, but it also may ultimately save you time. If you can eliminate certain candidates from the in-person interview(s), that will free you up to concentrate on more qualified individuals.


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If They Can’t Follow Instructions, Get Them A Clipboard

Yes, I realize that’s a pretty strong statement: “If they can’t follow instructions” — but we do encounter people who are weak in this area.

The ability to follow instructions is a key ability to look for when hiring. This ability covers written and verbal instructions. And, for a shameless plug, our Aptitude Test will give you an excellent idea of this ability — one way or the other — prior to making your hiring decision.

But, what if their Aptitude test score is low and you like just about everything else about your applicant? Is a low Aptitude test score a deal breaker?

Perhaps a better question is, how many times have you pulled strands of hair out of your head because someone just couldn’t or wouldn’t follow instructions?

I have a simple recommendation for you: if you want to hire someone who is weak with following instructions, get them a clipboard.

Yes, a clipboard. When you have something you want this person to do and do exactly as you wish, write it down and put it on their clipboard.

If you ask Bob to close up the store at 8PM, change the thermostat to 70 degrees and open the store at 9AM to let Mrs. Jones in to pick up her watch, write these things down for Bob.

If you don’t, and Mrs. Jones is upset that the store opened at 10AM instead of 9, Bob can’t come back to you and say, “well, you said 10AM.” You can reply, “okay, Bob, get your clipboard.” He does and sure enough, it says 9AM on the clipboard.

I realize this is somewhat of a rough way to get things done, but if you like someone for a number of other qualities, this is one way to reduce the fallout from a weak ability to follow instructions.

After awhile, Bob may get familiar enough with his duties that this shortcoming will be less and less of an issue.

There are two other things you can and should do with new staff:

Give them written materials concerning their position and have them study these materials.

Drill them on these materials and their duties and ensure they gain some proficiency. The more drilling, the better.

We all know that the ability to follow instructions is a key ability. If it’s low in someone you want to keep on board, this tip should help.


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Is It Possible to Hire Within?

Didn’t mean to sound cryptic there, but sometimes the position you want filled can be filled by someone who is already with you.

Instead of looking far and wide for an Office Manager, perhaps Alice, who handles the front desk, could do a bang up job.

This will likely mean additional training for Alice, but she is very familiar with your operation, knows the staff and likely has a good grasp on your customer base.

The value connected to the familiarity that Alice would bring to the Office Manager position cannot be understated.

Yes, you could find a skilled, well-trained Office Manager to come in and get rolling. And yes, that person brings a good skill set. But they do not bring familiarity.

The question becomes: how quickly (and how effectively) could you train Alice to get up to “Office Manager speed” versus how quickly (and how effectively) could you get the new Office Manager comfortable and familiar with your day-to-day.

This tip has a very simple purpose.

When you’re looking to hire for a fairly skilled position, is there somebody already there who, with some training, could be quite good for you? If so, finding that person’s replacement is likely going to be easier.

And with hiring, it sometimes just takes looking inward a bit instead of outward.

Now that wasn’t too cryptic either, right?


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Does Any Candidate Have Exactly The Right Skills?

Well, that’s not really a fair question to ask.

You COULD run into people who are perfect in every way for your position.

And how often has that happened for you?

Taking a practical look at this, it’s likely you’re often involved in a juggling act with prospective employees:

    • You’ll have people in front of you with superb qualities coupled with mediocre qualities.
    • You’ll be running ads for weeks on end and interviewing until you’re blue in the face and you’ve got to get SOMEBODY in there.
    • You may get depressed that the right person just isn’t out there and conclude your local area has gone downhill when it
      comes to hiring quality staff.
    • You may want to email a picture of yourself to the American Oxford Dictionary so they can insert it next to the word “compromise” in their dictionary.

I’ve heard it all folks, and I do have a bit of advice here.

Hang in there. Actually, do more than hang in there. If you’ve got your mind made up that the right person isn’t out there or isn’t likely to come your way or if you’re veering in that direction, then


Yes, I know that sounds a bit patronizing. But I mean it. There is one thing all of us can do, and that’s change our mind.

Make a new decision (or rekindle an old decision):

Decide that a person with the right skills, the right personality and the right attitude is coming your way.

And decide that a few times, and when you feel a certain inertia or mental opposition kicking in when you make that decision, make the decision again. And again. Eventually the mental “stuff” will fade and eventually vanish.

I learned that last bit of information from the book, “The Creation of Human Ability” by L. Ron Hubbard.

Well, there you go. Hope you find this tip useful.


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

How Will They Perform in a Crisis?


The word crisis conjures up pictures of earthquakes or floods or an armed individual threatening one’s life.

And each of these are certainly possible while one is at work. But perhaps not likely and we hope not ever, but there are other types of crises that come to the workplace.

  • A crisis of economics. Perhaps the company is undergoing a very rough financial patch. A competitive company opened up across the street and many of your customers are ending up over there. The financial stress is palpable and employees are beginning to wonder how secure their job is.
  • A crisis in employee morale. Instead of cooperation ruling the day, employees are frequently arguing, frequently criticizing each other. This of course affects productivity and if it gets too rough, some of your best staff may decide to work elsewhere.
  • A crisis in public relations. Something occurred that brought bad press to the company. This is showing up with angry calls and angry visits to your front door. The event causing the bad press may not even have a legitimate source.

I’m sure you could come up with other examples of a crisis that might hit your company.

When these highly negative situations occur, the stress can be considerable. Management may take the brunt here, but you can be sure, employees will also be adversely affected.

How will your applicant hold up in these situations?

Let’s find out.

Ask your applicant:

“What is the most challenging, the most difficult situation you have encountered as an employee?”

After you hear what that is, ask how your applicant dealt with it.

Let’s see if the future can tell us anything:

“If a crisis occurred at work, how would you deal with it?”

We’ll likely find out two things with this question:

1) What your applicant considers is a crisis.

2) How they believe they would deal with it.

I realize talking about a crisis in the past or even in the future may not be the easiest thing for an applicant to discuss, but it may be worth considering this tip.

It may give you an insight into how prepared or courageous or considerate they are.

And of course, our motto is and always will be:

The more we know, the better.


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

Video Interviews for Remote Applicants


We have quite a few clients who interview applicants in other cities. The position is important enough that the client wants to expand the geographic area. The company may be based in Boston, Massachusetts with the applicant in Seattle, Washington.

Having the applicant fly in to be interviewed is a step that’s usually reserved for the end of the hiring process.

In the past, you would conduct as many phone interviews as possible; do a thorough verification of the person’s résumé; and get done any background checks deemed necessary.

With today’s technology, however, you can go one major step further. You can very easily conduct a video interview, regardless of your applicant’s location. As long as she has a fairly good connection to the Internet — and you as well — you have a variety of video tools available to you.

I particularly like The web site is easy to use and easy to understand. Within 1-2 minutes you and your applicant are in a video conference and it’s almost as if the person is across the table from you.

I recommend both of you using a computer — desktop or laptop equipped with a decent video camera — but either you or your applicant can also do this interview with an iPad or iPhone.

Feel free to ask any questions you feel will help you make that next decision: should this applicant fly — or drive — in to have a sit down interview with you?

The video interview will give you a great deal of data that you would not necessarily get from one or more phone interviews. Use it as often as you can when working with remote candidates.


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

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getting the right people in your business."
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