Clues to a good hire can be found during interviews

08/20/2014 8:42 AM

08/20/2014 5:00 PM

The hiring process should be simple: Your consideration of applicants’ resumes and their responses to several standard interview questions should invariably lead to one perfect and obvious candidate.

Yet, despite your consideration of these elements, the perfect candidate is rarely obvious.

Fortunately, there are other clues that can alert you to whether a seemingly stellar candidate is the real deal. Consider adding these strategies to your interview process to increase your odds of selecting the best possible hire.

Listen for details. The more detail an applicant provides about past experience and accomplishments, the more likely the information he or she provides is legitimate.

Pay attention to language. Sometimes, phrases like “was a part of” and “aided in” hint that an applicant’s direct involvement in a project was limited. Ask for clarification to make sure you understand what the individual’s role was, or if you think he or she might be trying to disguise inexperience.

Ask applicants to show, rather than tell. A leading question such as “are you good with deadlines?” will almost always elicit a response of “yes.” Ask for or encourage applicants to give examples of how they demonstrate desired characteristics or behaviors in their daily lives.

Consider attitude. According to a recent Leadership IQ study, 89 percent of new hires who failed within the first 18 months of their jobs did so because of attitude, not because they lacked technical skills. Behavior-based (and even hypothetical) questions may help you get an idea of an applicant’s attitude, as may reference checks. A varied job history over a short period of time may raise red flags in this area.

Watch your phrasing. Small tweaks in how a question is posed may help you get more valuable information from would-be employees. For example, “Tell me about a time when you had a miscommunication with a coworker” may be a better prompt than “Tell me how you’ve remedied a miscommunication with a coworker.” You might find it valuable to observe which applicants answer the first question with both a description of the miscommunication and the solution, while others simply describe the problem.

It may seem like you have to be Sherlock Holmes to gather enough clues to make a successful hiring decision, but be assured that your time and effort in this area will be well spent. A poor hire can be extremely draining on a team, and certainly on you as the leader of a company, department or team.

Assuming your monumental efforts lead to a better overall hire, the return on your investment will seem almost exponential. And once the right hire is on board, the rest is elementary.

Katie Loehrke is a human resources subject matter expert and editor with J.J. Keller & Associates Inc., a compliance resource firm. For more information, go to

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