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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

It's Halloween: Is Hiring Trick or Treat?

Boo! Halloween and hiring have a lot in common. When you are adding people to your organization it is trick or treat? You can land a super hero, or you land a clown, a witch, or even worse, a monster. All the candidates are wearing costumes, with masks that portray what they think you want. So how do you discover what is behind the mask?

More than ever as businesses are growing, hiring the right person is probably the most critical process in running a business. Without people no sale is made, no purchase is transacted, no machine is run, no product is manufactured, no website is launched, no service is delivered, and no order fulfilled.

In a small business the risk of hiring is significantly greater than in a large corporation due to the tightness of the organization. Some larger corporations I have served would rather hire 100 people and get rid of 80 to find the right 20 than to invest the right amount of time finding the right 20 first. This recipe certainly worked for a 10,000-plus employee organization, but this approach would be a disaster in a small to medium sized business. In fact, one bad hire will change the chemistry in the small business in a far greater way than any other change you can introduce. Consider that impact with the fact that hiring is inherently subjective and you can see you need a clear process and the proper tools:

What steps are included in a sound hiring process?

  1. Job Definition: What and why are you hiring?

  2. Recruiting: How do I find what I need?

  3. Screening: How do you cull out what you do not need? Assess for cultural fit.

  4. Testing: How can I prove they have the skills and temperament for the job?

  5. Interviewing: How do I really know the candidate?

  6. Background checking: How can I find out if the person is safe to hire?

  7. Reference Checking: How do I confirm what I hear is true?

  8. Making the offer: How do I close the deal?

The most subjective part of this process is interviewing. Therefore I offer five ironclad commandments of interviewing:

I. Never, ever, hire “on the spot”- sleep on your decision
II. Never be the only interviewer – get additional perspective
III. Prepare and follow an interview guide- be consistent and organized
IV. Do not make excuses, or overlook flaws- they will not go away
V. Assume the candidate is now at their best- if not, they should be

The true purpose of the interview is to gain insight into the candidate’s style and work ethic. Tests and reference checking can confirm experience and skills. Properly conducted background checks will minimize the risk of “negligent hiring” Only interviews can assess the fit of the candidate.

During the interview process you should talk less than 25% of the time and listen 75%. Listen actively, rephrase, or repeat the candidate answers in asking follow up questions. Look for reasons NOT to hire during the interview.

Here are my top 12 questions that can be the heart of your interview guide for almost any opening:

  1. Why are you interested in this opening?

  2. What was your first job and how old were you when you starting working? (Caution: do not ask for the year or any other comment that may discern age.)

  3. Describe what you see as your strengths related to this job/position. Describe what you see as your weaknesses related to this job/position.

  4. What section of the newspaper (or what magazine) do you read first?

  5. What do you do when the work you have performed slows down?

  6. If someone told you that you had made an error, describe how you would react and what you would say in your defense.

  7. Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. How did you handle the situation?

  8. Give an example of a time when you were trying to meet a deadline, you were interrupted, and did not make the deadline. How did you respond?

  9. Could you share a recent accomplishment of which you are most proud?

  10. Describe an ideal supervisor.

  11. What do you consider ideal working conditions?

  12. What question have I not asked that you wish I had?

It is much easier not to hire a problem than it is to get rid of a problem employee. Leaving a position open that extra amount of time until the right person is found is a far better option than just filling the seat. Just consider the headache, and heartache, of too quick of a decision. Enjoy the sweet candy of a strong hiring process. Protect yourself, protect your employees, protect your company, protect your vision….hire slow, hire right.

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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