How to interview potential employees

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New business owners often have challenges delegating tasks and entrusting other people to help them. However, you can never go at it alone, a team is essential and choosing the right people to work with can make or break your business.

Here are some key questions to ask when interviewing potential employees:

Introductory Questions: Get to know your employee beyond just the accreditations that they have on their CV. Ask them questions about who they are outside of the work environment, get to know more about their passions and hobbies.

Career path questions: This will give you an insight into the candidate’s long-term and short-term goal.

Teamwork questions: Instead of just asking them a yes or no answer like ‘Can you work in a team’, rather ask them to share an experience where they’ve had to work in a team. Their answer will reveal their character and show you if the candidate is a leader, follow instructions and can meet deadlines. The characteristics revealed will tell you what kind of position the candidate will be suitable for.

Closing question: Give the candidate an opportunity to ask you questions as well. This will show you how much they know about you or your business. You’ll also be able to tell if they’re genuinely interested in the business and industry that you’re in.

What do you look for when hiring employees? Post By: SimplyBiz

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20 comments
    Interviews have evolved quite a bit in the past 20 to 30 years since the advent of the internet. If you want to really find out about a potential hire you are going to have to go beyond traditional interview formats and questions because every worthwhile candidate willhave researched typical interview questions online and also researched your firm online. If they haven't done at least that the first interview should be over in under 1 minute. We also don't go for all that psychometric and formulistic testing used by consulting firms like McKinsey Bain and Boston and a lot of big companies who use the HR department to make the decisions. Maybe it works on really juinior candidates but we think it is a complete waste of time for anyone interviewing for a middle to senior position. We also think HR should stay out of it and let the people that the candidate will work for manage the interview. HR can get involved in the background doing the checks clearances etc. But the bottom line is that the candidate needs to fit with the people they wiill work with so those people should be doing the interviews. For us we like to adopt a three part interview process. The first interview is the softball interview just to see if the person is presentable knows about he company and has done their homework. That would probably cover all the stuff mentioned in the above article. If they pass that interview we generally ask them back for a skills based interview. If they are applying to be an analyst for example we will give them a case study and ask them to sit in a room without their phone and internet connectivity (to prevent cheating) and build a simple financial model. That tests a lot of stuff including their analystical capabilities and their tehcnical (excel) capabilities. If they pass that interview the third interview is a social skills interview where we take them out for lunch. We follow a precedent set by Charles Schwab's CEO who takes candidates out for breakfast but arrives at the restaurant early and convinces the manager and waiter to deliberately mess up the candidate's order (in exchange for a great tip of course) to see how the candidate reacts to the situation. You can tell a lot about a person by how they react to this situation. Now that the cat's out of the bag it may not surprise the most saavy candidates if that happens - but the key is to try and introduce an out-of -the-box situation to see how candidates react on an unscripted basis - a situation they cannot plan for that reveals who they are. That's really what you want to know from an interview process - are they presentable are they competent and what is the true nature of their personality? Works for us (and it's a lot of fun to watch the range of reactions too - definitely worth the price of lunch and a decent tip).
    I think that is such a clever way to go about it @DrDavidBates! I love the social interview - the way you handle that really does show your true colours.
    The real success of business is the quality of people around you and so interviewing is one of the most crucial aspects of small business success. I always say I would never hire someone who I wouldn't invite into my home for drinks. So if we don't hire a piece of paper - why do we rely so heavily and focus our skills on reviewing the CV in an interview? Checking and validating the correctness of the individual's qualifications and experience is what your recruiter or HR will do for you. By the time someone sits in front of you it is time to discover who they are what makes them tick if their values are aligned to your organisational values; if their career trajectory is aligned to your organisational goals. The important thing in interviewing is to make the person feel comfortble. If they are nervous - you won't get to meet the real person.There are a few things I havelearned over the years that bring out the correct answers in people. For example - the reason for leaving......when I ask the first time it is because their career is stagnating and they don't feel like they are going anywhere. If I probe by asking if they have addressed this with their manager or HR the reply might be my manager is not approachable - we don't see eye to eye. When I ask whether there isn't an opportunity to transfer within the company given that their reason for leaving isn't the company or their work - the reply might be - I think there may be downsizing looming and given that Iam not the star employee - Iam worried that Imight be affected.The third reason is usually the real reason and this real reason explains more about the person that you are dealing with.
    Another question could be : which of your friends do you admire the most for what they have achieved in their career this far? If the answer is someone who has found balance between work and life;or Ingrid because she is already a Director of her firm etc - the answer will help you to understand what is important to that person and what drives them - learning titles money or work/life balance. It is important to remember that employment works both ways - the employee has an obligation to do the work that you pay them to do but just as important an employer has an obligation to safeguard that person's career and provide them with the opportunity to fulfull their professional goals. Therefore it is vital that you are aligned with mutual respect and commitment to the relationship with the people you choose to bring into your team.
    This is spot on especially with entrepreneurs. Often people become entrepreneurs because they do not like the corporate environment- so they either avoid it by starting their own companies or they leave it to start their own companies. Perhaps don't like the hierarchy or they don't like they rigid hours or they just don't like the culture. They want to be masters of their own destiny or they want more flexible hours or they want a different culture. This is increasingly possible in the outsourcing/consulting mode that a lot of industries are in these days. So having made that decision to be an entrepreneur it is vital that you hire people consistent with your values and culture. For example when we started the investment banking firm we adopted a 'no assholes' policy. We wanted to be able to pick and choose our clients and colleagues and have a lot of fun without dealing with a lot of idiots peeing in the pool all the time. In our industry we are probably going to spend more time with that person than our life partners so we look to the character of that person very closely. Of course they have the skills and competencies we need but more importantly they need to have the values and personality that will fit in our teams. So once we know they have the talent most of our time is spent on finding out if the soft skills and personality fit with us.
    Most of the fantastic people I'vehired over the years were people I met and started to trust and like very quickly. They felt right and I could see passion commitment hard-work and intelligence in their eyes. I've found if someonespends a lot of time talking about what they want out of a job its probably not a good sign—I always listen for a passion to contribute to mybusiness and help mesucceed.
    no assholes policy......I think I will use that David - thank you :)
    I tend to look for employees that are confident but humble. There is a funny balance between self-confidence and hubris. One of our key managers a few years back had tremendous self-confidence and this person convinced our management team that they would be a very strong performer. Once they were in the job we found them lacking in many areas which would have been fine. But because this person was not humble enough to take feedback and consider the fact that they were not perfect in every respect they ultimately didn't work out. I like to find people that want to continuously improve - that's the way I manage myself.
    I have always said - Ican teach anyoneanything - but not how to have a goodattitude. Passion integrity hard work humility and appreciation for the small wins and the blessing in every day -I will take any day over the alphabet behind someone's name. In our business it also helps to be a little unusual I find...
    It's also important to remember that regardless of who you hire you're unlikely to find a superman or superwoman. You may get lucky but in most cases everyone you hire will turn out to exceed your expectations in many areas but fall under in others. This is simply the way of life: nobody is perfect. Every person we hire is both a performer and a potential—and remember to look at potential just as much as performance.
    Very important for me is to feel a rapport with someone. This allows you to build trust mutual understanding and you find common objectives and goals so much quicker if you have that rapport from the start!
    It helps to always be on the hunt.I tend to think about recruiting people all the time.Whenever I meet someone great I think to myself could that person be interested in joining me? As I get to know them I try to keep them in the back of my mind as someone I may want to recruit some day into the future. Then when you are ready you have a mental list of candidates already.
    We have a little gem in our business. She applied along with 1600 other applicants for an internship. From a very poor desolate part of the Eastern Cape her CV showed not only her qualification but also the fact that it was written beautifully and she was deeply involved in her community. Interesting in the interview - she was extremely nervous and spoke very little but for each question she gave an intelligent considered answer. So with no work experience and extremely shy.....we brought her up to Johannesburg and initially put her in an area that was customer facing. She didn't manage very well. I believe in playing people to their strengths so we then moved her into the most technical part of our business where she quietly and competently has wow'ed us with her beautiful writing skills her aptitude - her intelligent approach to her work. She quietly and diligently throws herself into whatever she is given and produced outstanding work on time and exactly as per the brief.What a superstar. So we have been able to invest in her training fast track her development and she has been not only permanently appointed but promoted and we will continue to invest in her development because we are a better business because she is a part of it. Sometimes you have to polish the diamond to realise the value.
    David another point which your comment raises is that you still even at your level of business personally get very involved in every hire. I think this is why you are so successful.For an entrepreneur each person in your team represents you - there cannot be a better investment of your time that actively participating in your selection process.
    I believe in trusting my instincts/gut when hiring and it has more often than not worked for me.What are your thoughts on going with your gut on this?
    What was your biggest hiring mistake and why? What caused you in hindsight to drive right through the bright red stop signs and hire that person? We learn from our biggest mistakes. What was your biggest hiring mistake and what did you learn from the experience?
    I ignored the signs of over-confidence as this person flew through the interview process giving all the right answers. In the end this person was arrogant and was a complete culture mismatch. I have learned to trust instinct and to not ignore warning signs.Rather interview again or let a subject matter expert interview the person too in order to gain better insight and understanding of the person but first and foremost trust your gut!
    i'm looking for ethusiasic and enegertic employees those that will be actively involved in everything in the company those who will come up with new ideas and contribute in the company. Although theres my friends and family and sometimes when i talk to them i can see that they underestimate me so i want to know that is it good to work with friends and family?
    I hireemployees who are smarter than me and have a unique experience that could potentiallyenrich my business by helping us look at things in a different way which will help us improve customer value. Education is important but I look at it from an experience + potential point of view. i.e. if they can show that they love their craft and continuosly strive to improve themselves then that's a winner. When I was an Operations Manager I hired a guy who could not read + write + did not have an ID and came from a rural background. My Boss & other colleagues thought I was crazy so as part of his probation periodI gave him a chance to help us solve a few maintenance problems. His ingenuity and dexterity using cost effective recycling/upcycling & organic solutions like he did in his rural home did wonders for our Operations Budget. All he needed was an opportunity and I am happy to say I did not overlook him as he had what we were looking for. So I don't look too much at qualifications but what value you can bring to the business.
    @TheTastyChef I fully agree that is IF you have that ability or what ever you like to call it though I do think that propper checks should still be followed