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Dale Hammernik On A Smarter Way To Screen New Staff

Last week I encouraged you to take a hard look at the staff you’re “running with”, and whether they’re helping you or not.

And I mentioned that I’d be back with some counter-intuitive thinking about screening and interviewing potential employees who will actually help you.

Here’s what’s great about the approach I’m about to share: It doesn’t have to be used solely with prospective employees. Use this question-asking approach with your *current* staff, and watch your unity and effectiveness soar.

Dale Hammernik On A Smarter Way To Screen New Staff
“When placed in command – take charge.” – Norman Schwarzkopf

Frankly, there is just so much pabulum out there about how to conduct an interview… “What’s your greatest achievement?”; “How do you respond to adversity?”; “What’s your favorite color and why?” … and so on. Yikes.

Many interviewers (and managers) resort to this approach simply because it seems what everyone else does. Unfortunately, it’s not only lazy, it’s terribly ineffective. No, high-quality interview questions should have four characteristics:

1) They should be easy to answer. They need to be direct, and focused into specifics as much as possible.

2) They should have just one answer. Instead of asking a general question like, “How do you deal with deadlines?”, ask,”What was the biggest deadline you had in writing your last book? Step me through how you dealt with that deadline.” The second question gives you specific information you can use to evaluate the candidate.

3) They should have a clear, specific purpose. The purpose of every interview question is the same: to gather a piece of data–but it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a direct attack. For instance, if you want to know if someone stays current on the latest technologies, a good question would be, “What technical journals do you read?” as opposed to, “What’s the last book you read?”

4) They should be task-related. Sure, we all like to delve into personal issues, but you’re always better off if you stay with topics that are very specific to the job.

I’ve put together a good list of sample questions that you can use as a guide for putting together interviews and performance reviews…these are samples of course, and can be a jumping-off point for you.

*Factual questions
-How many people report to you?
-By what percentage did you increase sales last year?

*Action questions
-How did you handle the last customer problem elevated to your level?
-Step me through how you debugged that particular program.
-How did you build your business plan for the roll-out of that division?

*Candidate-specific questions
-What was the last deal you closed?
-What was the biggest objection you got in that sales cycle? Step me through how you overcame that objection.

To recap, these specific interview questions are good because they require specific examples of behaviors, not just theories that sound good. If your candidate can provide specific examples of past behaviors, chances are she’ll exhibit those same behaviors in the position you have available.

*Probing questions (these are follow-up, clarification and detail questions):
-Tell me more about that.
-Could you please be specific?
-What do you mean by that?

Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.

I’m personally dedicated to the success of your business–and your staff. Can other tax accountants say that?

Feel very free forward this article to a Waukesha County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Waukesha County families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

Dale Hammernik
(414) 545-1890

Hammernik & Associates