What Do Applicants Ask You?

A good interview will allow the applicant to turn the tables and ask any questions they have.

Most of the time, these are fairly generic questions:

How long has the position been open?

What are the key skills required for this position?

Am I expected to work overtime or on the weekends?

But in some cases, you’ll get questions that demonstrate the applicant is really looking this position over, assessing his chances of being hired and may be a good hire for you. For instance:

Who will I be working most closely with?

What is the most challenging aspect of this position?

Is there anything about my background or résumé that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?

Is there additional training that you’d like me to do to become more proficient for this position?

Give your applicant ample time to ask any question he or she wants to ask. If you get the usual questions, no big deal. If you get some well thought out ones, that’s a good sign.

Note: Yes, it’s possible your applicant found his questions from a Google search or he purchased a book that gave him these questions. And if that’s the case, well, that’s initiative too, isn’t it?

What Would Your Employer Say If We Asked?

This is a great question to have handy during the hiring interview. You can substitute the words “supervisor” or “management team” for the word ‘employer.’

Here’s three examples:

You ask Frank what was a difficult problem that he solved at his last position. Frank says, “I was able to solve so and so…” and then you ask, “what would your supervisor say if we asked him about that?”

You ask Sally how would she rate her performance at her last position. Sally says, “well, I’d say I performed very well.” You acknowledge her and ask, “what would your management team say if we asked them about that?”

And one last one: you ask Alex how well did he get along with other employees at his last three jobs…he says, “fabulously well”… and you ask, well, you get the idea.

Asking the question “what would your previous manager say about that?” tends to add a bit of a guard rail into the hiring interview. Most applicants know that employers may check up on them at their previous positions, but coming right out and asking this kind of question makes this scenario much more real.

When asked further questions in the hiring interview, you may find you’re getting answers that are closer to what actually happened versus what the applicant would like to present to you.

We’re not trying to embarrass Frank, Sally or Alex — we just want them to provide an accurate representation of their capabilities so we can make the best hiring decision possible.

How Important Is Empathy?

First, let’s get a definition of empathy:

• The ability to understand other people’s feelings and problems 

Here’s another definition I like:

• The ability to understand how someone feels because you can imagine what it is like to be them

Let’s look at a simple incident that may happen at a dental practice.

Frank just had some dental work done. He makes his way to the front desk to pay for the service. Behind the desk is Sally who smiles when Frank arrives. She informs Frank, “Today’s bill will be $200.00” Frank looks a little confused, but gets out his credit card and gives it to Sally. She runs the card and gives Frank a receipt. He leaves the practice and goes home.

Frank gets home but he’s still a bit confused. Frank has a date later that night and he’s concerned he might still be in pain at that time. He realizes he should’ve asked Sally about pain killers, and if Sally didn’t know, she could check with the dentist before he left.

Now, that’s Frank’s end of it.

Sally’s end of it is this: She noticed Frank was a bit confused when she told him what his bill was. When Frank fished out his credit card and gave it to her, she decided, ‘oh, no big deal, he’s giving me his card.’

Now, if empathy is a strong suit with Sally, it could’ve gone this way:

When Sally noticed Frank was confused, she instantly asks, “Is there anything wrong, Frank? Anything I can help you with?” Frank expresses some concern about painkillers and Sally gets the dentist to come by and answer his questions.

Frank goes home with no confusions. If needed, he takes a painkiller and he takes the correct painkiller.

Without that additional information, Frank may end up taking a painkiller that wasn’t the right one for his situation. He goes on his date, he acts sluggish and an attempt to schedule a second date fails.

All in all, Frank is responsible for getting his questions answered, right? Of course, he is. But Sally, if she’s the empathetic type, is going to understand how Frank feels because she can imagine what it’s like to be Frank AND she’s going to take the time to find out what may be confusing him.

If Sally does take this extra step, Frank is a much better-serviced patient and, yes, he may even get a ‘yes’ when asking for that second date.

You get the point.

Empathy can make a huge difference when dealing with our customers, our clients, our patients. It can also make a huge difference in how employees get along with each other.

If someone shows up applying for a position and he has all of the right skills for that position, but perhaps lacks empathy, is that a deal-breaker? Well, if another person shows up, has essentially the same set of skills and IS able to understand other people’s feelings and problems, then that individual a better hire.

You may be thinking, “that’s all well and good, but how does one determine how much empathy a person has?”

You could ask an applicant this:

“What’s more important, having the right set of skills for a position or the ability to understand the feelings and problems of others?”

The correct answer is both. And that answer should come immediately. Any hesitation and your applicant may be a bit deficient in empathy. This of course is not a foolproof way of determining empathy, so I’m going to make a shameless plug here:

Our personality profile measures ten key traits, empathy being one of them. If you are not familiar with our test, watch our three-minute video. Below the video is a link where you can take a free test. You’ll get a chance to see how accurate the test is and you’ll be able to see what the test says your level of empathy is.

The Hiring Spreadsheet

I may be the first person to create The Hiring Spreadsheet. There may be others out there, but I haven’t seen one.

If you’ve been reading these Hiring Tips for a while, you know I’m big on sharing, so I won’t be filing for a copyright. Kidding aside, you can and should use this spreadsheet to your heart’s content.

As you can see, I’ve got three columns with:

• Candidate A
• Candidate B
• Candidate C

And six rows receiving a score:

• Strength of Résumé
• Background Checks
• Interview Results
• Skills
• Test Scores
• Gut Instinct

Each score that you enter is based on a range of one to ten.

As you’re moving through the hiring process with your candidates, insert a score in the appropriate row when you’ve completed each step. You’ll get a good feel for this. It shouldn’t take long. You’ll know when you’ve got a 10 and you’ll know when you’ve got a 7.

When you’re closing in on making a decision, step back and look at your total score for each candidate.

In this example, Candidate C has a total score of 45. Candidate A is not far behind with a 41. And Candidate B is lagging considerably with 34.

So what does that mean? Well, if you played it straight and gave each subject the score it deserved for each candidate, then the total score should mean something to you. It should help you with your final decision.

Are some areas more important than others? That will depend on you and the position. If you’re a great salesperson yourself and you’re hiring a new salesperson, then “skills” and even “gut instinct” may be more important. If you’ve got candidates that are somewhat close together in their total scores, look over the scores for “skills” and “gut instinct” and factor those in more heavily.

Maybe one candidate with a few total points less than another candidate does substantially better in those two key areas.

You should add or delete subjects on the left side to customize this spreadsheet to your specific needs.

Many of you are very good at juggling all of this information in your head. I know when I’m looking at a good deal of information on a subject requiring a decision, having it in front of me can bring clarity and a bit of sanity.

It’s always going to come down to your judgment. With the help of this spreadsheet, you’ll be able to make that judgment call more easily and more confidently.

Want to get started right away using a hiring spreadsheet? I’ve included an Excel version of the spreadsheet that you can download and start using. Just customize to your needs.

The “Battle” For Hourly Workers — Part Two

In Part One of this tip, we discussed finding hourly workers. Different ways they could be found, some ideas on incentivizing your current staff to help you locate them, that type of thing.

In Part Two, let’s take a look at keeping your hourly staff.

Now, I realize hourly staff can be a high area of turnover. But the focus of this tip is to help you keep the ones that are doing well.

The first thing that comes to mind of course is more money. If you’ve got two or ten or a hundred hourly employees and one or more of them really stand out, you could sit down with them and say,

“Bill, we really like your hard work and we’d like to keep you as part of the team. I’d like to increase your pay X. What do you think about that, Bill?”

Bill will normally like that and will feel rewarded.

Now Bill may have been thinking about moving on. He may have seen another job or two that pays more or has better perks, but you’ve cut him off at the pass, so to speak, and he’s happy to hang in there with you.

More pay is of course the simplest path to keeping hourly workers that have demonstrated their competence. But it’s not the only way of doing this.

Most people want to feel a part of something. A group. A team. And yes, even a company.

Do you have weekly staff meetings? If not, this is a good place to start. One obvious use of a staff meeting is to bring up broad issues that you’d like all of your staff to know. But here is another interesting use of the staff meeting:

Bring a few of your hourly staff up to the front and acknowledge them in front of everyone. You could even give them a gift card to a local restaurant or maybe an Amazon gift card, something to let them know you appreciate their value.

Are you going to rub other staff the wrong way by doing this? Maybe, but ideally, they’ll work a bit harder as they may like to have a little validation in front of the group.

Staff meetings are a good way of acknowledging your staff, even your hourly ones, but there’s no need to wait for a staff meeting. If you observe Alice doing a great job as a cashier or Frank is doing a bang up job clearing the dishes every day, let them know.

“Alice, you’re doing a great job here. You handle the customers really well and I’m glad you’re a part of our team.”

“Frank, I know it’s not the most glamorous thing to clear away dishes day in and day out, but I just wanted you to know you’re doing a great job with it. I appreciate your hard work and I’m glad you’re a part of the team.”

Now, those two statements took how long? A minute? Thirty seconds?

You know where I’m going with this. A little acknowledgment goes a long way. People appreciate being appreciated. Do not underestimate the value of that last statement.

The best method to keep good, competent, caring hourly staff is to acknowledge them. More pay if you can. And the not so infrequent: “hey, you’re doing a great job, Sarah. We love having you here” — any method of genuinely acknowledging people is appreciated and will help you keep your key people on board.

Does The Applicant Feel Entitled?

I realize this may be a bit of an edgy subject for some, but I think it’s worth exploring.

First, let’s look at a definition of entitled:

“Believing oneself to be deserving of certain privileges”

We know the entitled person when we see one. They believe they should be treated with more importance than others.

On the hiring end of things, they may feel they “deserve” the job.

Some believe younger generations — Millennials and Generation Z — are more entitled than previous generations. That may be. But I’m not sure age is a total factor in this.

If you’re sitting across from someone who feels they “deserve” the job, you may find that future employee wanting to be treated better than your other staff, perhaps even with kid gloves.

We sometimes see very talented individuals who also have that aura of entitlement. If you encounter that, you’ll have to juggle those two factors when making your decision. I tend to push in the direction of people who want to be part of a team and want everybody treated fairly.

But let’s discuss this point a bit more. You have someone who is super talented in front of you. You’ve checked with previous employers and they tell you he was an excellent producer. They may also tell you he was somewhat of a prima donna*. What to do?

Perhaps you can be very direct with this individual and ask them in the interview:

“I see you’re very talented and your previous employers speak very highly of your productivity. If we were to hire you, would you expect us to treat you with more importance than the existing staff?”

Who knows, your applicant may say:

“Absolutely. I bring a great deal to the table and I expect to be treated with that in mind.”

You could respond with:

“Thank you for your candor. We would certainly consider your talents in relation to your pay, but would you want us to treat you better than the other staff in day-to-day activities?”

If you get a “yes” on that question, you might want to keep looking. A very talented employee that rubs other employees the wrong way loses you some of that talent by eroding staff morale.

Keep an eye out for the entitled applicant. He may be a great hire, but he may also add unneeded stress to your scene.


* A few definitions:

Millenials are generally considered born between 1980 and 1994. Generation Z between 1995 and 2015.

Kid gloves: To handle something delicately and carefully, to deal with a person or a situation gingerly.

Prima donna: a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.

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.

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