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Hiring the 'Right' Employees

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Hello beautiful humans!

How do you hire your employees? What questions do you ask and what do you look for? How do you know that a potential prospect is going to be a 'right' fit for your company and/or business? How do you know they will be a good employee and team player?

I can say with some degree of confidence that there is no full proof method for hiring great employees 100% of the time. That is not to say that there aren't some great strategies out there. Fellow coach Steve Borek , for instance, utilizes the TriMetrixHD assessment (cited below) with his executive clients to great success and there are many others as well. Although assessments can be great tools, I believe there are two things to consider. First, that it is given by a qualified and certified (if applicable) company or person who is able to read the assessment accurately? Second, have you taken the assessment or test and did you pass it? You would be surprised at how many HR and leadership can't pass the tests and/or assessments that they require for employment if they've ever taken it to begin with.

Years ago, while managing a physician's office, I was tasked with filling a position for office support. This person would be responsible for taking care of patient charts, scheduling appointments and procedures, collecting copays, etc. I interviewed many individuals. The person I selected for the position showed up to the interview in dirty blue jeans with horse manure on her boots. Her current job was working at a stable where she scheduled and assisted with trail rides for visitors. She emphatically apologized for her appearance and said that she had been called in to work at the last minute to assist with a large group and they had run into some issues with the horses which caused her to work later than she had planned.

The physicians questioned my judgement and I explained. "You see a person with horse shit on her boots. I see an honest and responsible person showing me that she was aware of her priorities and honored a commitment to be at that interview on time even though she knew her appearance was inappropriate." I gave this woman a chance because I was looking at more than her wardrobe or rather, her wardrobe gave me a lot of insight into the type of person she was. BTW, she turned out to be the best employee we had hired to that point.

Hiring the right person is difficult, to say the least. You have 30, maybe 60 minutes to find out as much as you can about a person to determine if they're going to be all that you need them to be. The problem is, the majority of people come to an interview dressed the way they are expected to dress. We ask the same old questions of the applicant knowing that we are probably only hearing what they think we want to hear. We go through the same routine of reading the application and resume, maybe calling references (who a good part of the time are really just friends of the applicant and are not going to give you an honest review) and we have no real insight into who the person is, what their true work ethics are or how good of a fit they will be with our company. We see a mask that they have perpetuated to get a job. How do we know if it's real?

I stopped! I just stopped. I no longer ask potential employees to describe a time when they met with a challenge at work and how they worked through it. I no longer ask them to tell me what makes them feel they will be a good fit for this position or what they know about my company. I do not call on references (although I will call former employers if applicable). I'm not interested in learning the generic answers they have memorized for these questions.

I start by making small talk to make the applicant feel as comfortable as possible. I make a suggestion, such as, "You might consider using your cover letter to tell a little more about your natural skills and abilities in the future" with the specific purpose of seeing how they react to feedback. I ask them to tell me about a non-work related goal they have set for themselves and how they have gone about working towards or achieving it and what challenges they met along the way. I might ask them what is the one thing about the interview process that they just can't stand or what they would rather be doing right now.

The point of my seemingly random questions are that they tell me a lot more about the person than the direct questions of the past have. For instance, I ask them to tell me about their favorite book or movie. By telling me about a book or movie, I can determine how they communicate. Are they able to explain the storyline easily or do they have trouble getting their point across? Do they use their hands when talking-suggesting that they are capable openly expressing their thoughts and so on. I will even give them fictitious scenarios like how would they construct a shelter if they were stranded on a mountain top or ask them if they would rather fly a kite or make a kite.

Each of these types of questions tells me something different. Are they really thinking about the question presented? Do they ask questions for clarification? Are they a thinker or a doer?

That's not to say that some of the traditional ways of hiring an individual is not still important. It is! But I believe that just like the way we evolve our leadership, we need to evolve our hiring practices. A cohesive blend, of questions and comments designed to get as much information as we can in the short period of time we have. I asked several prominent leaders in the business world some tips about what they are looking for in applicants, questions they ask during the interview process and about their hiring practices. Here is some of what they offered

  1. Ask what they're having for lunch to get them comfortable

  2. Be precise in the job posting to ensure quality candidates

  3. Ask what they look for in an employer

  4. Do they understand what the goal of the team is or will be

  5. Are they adaptable and able to address challenges

  6. Do they want to grow with the company or are they just looking for a job

  7. Ask them what active listening means to them

  8. Ask about employment gaps for clarification (life happens)

  9. Do they have a good attitude and demeanor

  10. What NATURAL talents, abilities, and skills do they bring to the team

  11. Ask them what job satisfaction means to them

  12. Don't be afraid to ask for a second interview

  13. What's something interesting to know about you

  14. What do you do when you disagree with instructions

  15. What are you passionate about

  16. What makes you unique

  17. Sell me this pen

  18. Do you consider yourself successful

  19. Are they curious about the position, the company, what is expected, etc.

  20. Utilize a hiring specialist and/or assessments

Ok, so you've checked over the resume and application, given an assessment, had an interview or two... surely this will give you the answer as to whether or not you should hire the individual, right? The truth is, your odds for hiring based on the replies from a Magic 8-Ball are most likely close to the same. As I said at the beginning, there is no full-proof way of knowing who is going to be a good employee and who isn't. Go with your gut! Sometimes you just have to trust the horse crap on their boots!


Change up the questions you use during the interviewing process. Throw in a curve ball every now and then just to see what it can tell you about the applicant.

Morals of the Story:

  1. There is no full-proof method for hiring great employees 100% of the time

  2. Hiring assessments and tests can be useful tools, but you should always require your current staff to take them before requiring it to new applicants even if it is just for baseline stats.

  3. Don't judge a person by their appearance, gaps in employment history, lack of experience, etc. Ask questions, get clarification and reasons (not excuses).

  4. Applicants will tell you what you want to hear, dress the way you think they should dress and use friends as references to give them good reviews just to get the job.

  5. Mix traditional hiring methods with the out of the ordinary. Evolve the hiring process.


Steve Borek, MCC, PMC, BCC, BS, MBA ~

Tips about hiring provided by:

Kimberly Buntyn, AVP Firstsource Solutions

Millie Lipscomb, Niece Products of Kansas

Curtis Major, Performance Measurement/Audit Lead BlueKC

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