Few things can waste more valuable time and resources or cause more morale problems than mismatching the person and the job. As a busy executive, you want to get the most out of your people while protecting your investment in their training.
Good employees turn up not by magic, but through good hiring practices, and smart hiring starts with smart interviewing. After you’ve asked the usual résumé questions—job history, education, salary expectations—probe your prospect with questions that will illuminate their hopes, goals, inclinations and reservations.
1. Tell me about yourself—all the exciting and interesting things.
People offer revealing replies to that question. So many people, even some top executives, say, “Oh, there’s nothing exciting about me.” You learn a lot about people’s self-esteem when they answer that question.
2. If you could wave a magic wand and create a perfect environment to work in, what would it be like?
Suppose the potential employee answers, “I don’t like to have someone breathing down my neck. I like to be left on my own, to make up my mind on how to do things.” You know immediately that this is the wrong person for a job that’s heavily supervised. (Choose someone who says, “I enjoy a lot of feedback” instead.)
Consider both the demands of the job and the working environment. If a quiet, personable individual replies, “I love working with people, but I’d like to have my own space,” be sure that’s possible. Work areas quickly become private domains, and rightly so or people wouldn’t take pride in them. But if the job requires sharing a table with the coffee machine, your employee may not last long or do the job well.
3. Describe the best boss you’ve ever had. What made them so special? Follow up: What about the worst boss ever?
If the description of the worst boss sounds anything like you, you know that person won’t be happy working with you.
4. What’s your hobby?
There are many questions the law does not allow an employer to ask—whether a person is married for instance. But you may want to know something about a person’s private life to determine if the hours or job demands are going to be stressful. For instance, if you need an employee who is bright and alert at an early hour, and their hobby will keep them up late on weeknights, you both may have a problem. Or if their hobby requires occasional time off to participate, the time to discuss the appropriateness of this is now.
But before you even get to the interview room to ask those questions, you should first ask yourself:
5. What am I offering this person besides money?
What opportunities for growth, excitement, achievement and fulfillment go along with the paycheck? Enthusiasm, motivation and persistence are rarely proportional to salary. Often they are in inverse ratio. Self-motivated employees are great, but it never hurts to spotlight some incentives.
Then, once you’ve offered them the job and they’ve accepted, ask yourself:
6. How do I keep my people highly motivated, productive and eager to come to work in the morning?
Your answers can be critical to a happy, productive, low-turnover organization. Start by making the job fun whenever possible to keep employees from getting stale. Share the big picture with them, so they realize their contribution is part of an important whole. Solicit their feedback, and act on it to prove to them that they are really making a difference. Then watch your people respond with hard work, loyalty and enthusiasm.
This article was published in July 2014 and has been updated. Photo by @amandaabigailphotography/Twenty20
Patricia Fripp is an award-winning keynote speaker, business presentation expert, sales presentation skills trainer and in-demand speech coach to executives and celebrity speakers. She has been called “one of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America."