ICS Magazine

The Power of an Effective Employment Interview

April 26, 2000
One of the keys to hiring and keeping good personnel begins as early as the initial employment interview. Carefully planned and properly executed, the employment interview can help you avoid hiring the wrong person for the wrong job. There are two general goals of the employee interview. The first goal is to get to know the applicant and evaluate how they fit into the work environment of your business. The second goal is to evaluate how the applicant will perform their specific job tasks. No matter how skilled or experienced the employee is at job task performance, if they don’t fit into the work environment of your company they probably won’t last. Another way to state this is: hire first for attitude and second for skills. Skills can be taught, but attitude is another story.

In my travels, I have the opportunity to speak with owners and managers of cleaning businesses all over the world. By far, their number one challenge is identifying and keeping good employees. When I pursue this a little more, I find that the “problems” or challenges brought up in discussing what makes up good or not-so-good employees are rarely skill related and almost always attitude related. Yet when interviewing potential employees, many employers spend all their time on skill-related questions.

In a labor-based service industry, such as cleaning and restoration, hiring the right people for the job is a critical part of building a successful business. The employee interview is a key part of identifying and qualifying the best potential employees. Conversely, a poor employee interview cannot only fail to deliver the information needed to make the best decision, it can leave you open to legal liabilities as well. Let’s look at some of the techniques of interviewing that have been shown to lead the employer in making solid hiring decisions.

The successful interview requires preparation. Set an appointment for the interview and clear your schedule for not only the interview period but for the 15-30 minute period prior to the appointment. Use this time to think about the position being filled and the type of person that best fits that position. Review the potential employee’s resume and employment application, highlighting areas you wish to ask about.

When the applicant arrives for the interview, note whether or not they are on time and their general appearance. Are they dressed and groomed appropriately for working in your company and representing the image you wish to project through your staff? If the applicant is careless about these things at the interview, they will more than likely be careless about them as an employee.

The more information you have about the applicant, the more you can make an informed decision. That’s why you want the applicant to do the talking. Have several open-ended questions prepared to help get things started. If you ask questions that can be answered yes or no, then those are the answers you are likely to get. These tell you very little about the applicant. Good questions to ask would be: “What do you see yourself doing five years from now?”; “How do you define professional ethics?”; or “How do you feel about being supervised?” In answering these types of questions, the applicant tells you something about themselves and how they approach the business environment. It is also good to have prepared a few questions specific to your company and the position being filled. Think about some of the typical issues and challenges that have come up in the past and ask the applicant how they would handle that type of situation. Remember, don’t talk too much. You are not the one being interviewed.

It’s improper, or illegal, to ask direct questions about race, religion, age, sexual orientation, or any other factor that could possibly be viewed as discriminatory. Many times when allowed to talk about themselves, candidates voluntarily reveal a lot of information that you could not ask directly.

When you’re satisfied that the applicant has the attitude and personality to fit into your company’s work environment, turn to the detailed written job description. If possible, give them a copy of this when they first arrive for the interview and ask them to read it while you review their resume and prepare for the interview. Ask if there are any questions about the job description and if the applicant sees any areas or duties they might have difficulty with. Go over the basic duties of the job (not in great detail), and again ask what, if any, duties might present any problem. Make sure any specific skill requirements are met, such as driver’s license for someone who will need to drive your truckmount to the jobs. Most of these requirements can be addressed with the applicant before ever getting to the point of the live interview.

End the interview by asking if the applicant has any questions about the company or the job. Thank the applicant for their time and point out that you will be making your decision soon and that if they are selected, you will contact them soon. When a new employee is hired from several applicants, and those not selected call to inquire about the job, it is wise to simply say the position has been filled without getting into details of why they were not selected.

A well-planned, thorough employee applicant interview will help you select the right person for the job. Take the time to prepare and do a good job. The time spent in conducting a good interview is time well spent.

Some Sample Open-ended Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.

    • What is your strength?

      • What area do you need to improve?

        • To what type of leadership style do you respond best?

          • Why do you want to come to work here?

            • What are your career goals?

              • If you could have the ideal job, what would it be like?