Episode 12: Putting Rubber to the Road

The first time you conduct an interview, it’s not great. You don’t have any experience, and you can fall victim to a lot of the classic blunders.

Episode 12: Putting Rubber to the Road

You have your company’s core values figured out and job posted online, and candidates are starting to roll in. Now it’s time to put together your interview process with a list of vetted questions and remain cautious of traps in the interview process.

Show Notes

This is part three of a 3-part series called “Your Hiring Process Sucks.”

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Show Transcript

Welcome to season one, episode twelve of The Buck Stops Here Business Podcast. I’m your host, David Maples, and this is part three of “Your Hiring Process Sucks; Putting Rubber to the Road.” In this episode, we’re going to show you how to get your list of vetted questions, avoiding traps in the interview process, and making sure you’re following your process. Now coming to you live from our new- Now coming to you prerecorded from our studios in Kansas City, you’re listening to The Buck Stops Here.

Hello and welcome to The Buck Stops Here Business Podcast. You are listening to season one, episode twelve, titled Hiring Process part three. “Your Hiring Process Sucks; Putting Rubber to the Road.”

You’ve gotten your job description, your core values for your company. All those things are set up. So, you’ve done everything in the first part of the series. Series two, you’ve got your job posting online. The job posting is perfect, and you found the right candidates, and they’re starting to roll in.

And part three of this is you don’t have your process figured out yet. How are we actually going to go about doing it? So, someone calls you up, and you say, “Okay, do I respond today? Do I respond tomorrow? I don’t know.”

And the fact of the matter is, if you’ve not figured these things out, you’re going to miss out on good candidates. At the same time, if you change your process, there’s no standardized way of determining where your process can be improved upon. And so, true story, we’ve had candidates that we’ve changed our process for. I had a candidate come in, I said, I like the candidates so much, let’s just put the skills assessment right after the first interview.

And so it’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s really not a smart plan. And so what happens is you fall victim to a lot of the classic blunders, which I’m going to talk about here. This person had done so well on the first interview that the other candidates coming in, and I was like, “Man, this person is going to fill out the skills assessment and everything else.”

And then, before you know it, cracks started showing, right? This person wanted more time to do the skills assessment, which is supposed to be a 48-hour thing. And I’m putting off other candidates I have, and lo and behold, that candidate takes another job before they even fill out your skills assessment. You literally passed up another five candidates because you thought this one candidate was so good.

And that’s the problem with not having your process figured out. And you, as a business owner out there, might be saying, “Well, that’s never happened in my company before.” And I say, that’s just BS. Let’s level with ourselves for a minute. We’ve all made those mistakes in hiring.

The first time you conduct an interview, it’s garbage. You have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve never talked to people before. You don’t know what you’re really doing. You don’t have any experience at it, and you can fall victim to a lot of the classic blunders.

So, we want to talk about that today and talk about what that process looks like and how do you put all these things together. So, the first step in this process is making sure you set aside the proper time for your hiring. That doesn’t mean just the time for interviewing. No, that means the proper time for every piece of your process.

That means how long after they fill out an application on your website – and if you follow the stuff in step one about letting people apply on your website, as we said in episode ten – if you follow the right things, you should have a set period of time that you have that your people who are following up on your candidates follow. And you need to have the right amount of time. So, you need to say- Okay, cool. My process is a four-part process.

Step one is; I have their interview- it’s a phone interview with somebody, maybe in their own department, somebody they’re going to work with. It might be a direct manager or supervisor. Okay, but that phone call, when should that happen after your application?

Because if you want to measure your applications and you’re measuring all these things – and as we’ve said before on The Buck Stops Here, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – you need to have a set period of time like we follow up with all new applications within 24 hours, within 48 hours, within three days of receiving the application. Because here’s the challenge: if you’re trying to measure an application or respondents thing and you want to measure your process and see where there are problems in it, you want to make that more uniform. You want to say this follows the same process every single time.

We have a phone call out to set up a phone interview with people literally 48 hours, 24 hours after hiring, 2 hours after receiving the application. That’s at least a process and that we can measure it and make sure those things are being done. If you follow up on your resumes at two weeks from when the resume has been submitted, you get a very different response rate than if you follow up in 24 hours. And that person you follow up on two weeks later might be more desperate for the job. They’re just happy that they’ve hired you.

If that’s the criteria for how you find the good candidates, you want desperate hirees, then admit that to yourself and make that part of your process. But at least you have a process, and you can measure it. But when you’re like, why is nobody responding to our things? Well, it’s because they filled out their application and they didn’t think your company was serious about it. You can actually show the hallmarks of the core values in your company.

For example, if one of your hallmarks about your- and they’ve been to your website to apply, is that you’re a responsive company. We respond to our clients, and you don’t respond to their job application within a week, I think that says a lot about your company. And if you’re being honest with yourself, and we do recommend that on The Buck Stops Here, you want to look and see, kind of, what that looks like for you. So, you want to set the proper time aside for what you’re doing. That means make sure you know that this is a 15 or 20-minute phone call. This is not the time to relate “The Epic of Gilgamesh” to someone over the phone, which is going to take days.

This is literally, “Okay, cool. 15-minute phone call, going to call them. We’ll make three phone calls to every applicant until we make contact with them, and that’s it.” You know, we send an email and a phone call and set aside the proper time. Do understand that hiring does take a lot of time.

Absolutely. It takes a lot of time. I will promise you, if you follow the steps in the first two parts of this hiring process sucks segment, you’re going to find that you have a better response rate and you’re able to hire people better, and have criteria to judge people on. And so that means when you have an interview, you have 45 minutes for the interview. Don’t turn into old man story time with the hour and a half interview. That’s not the point of it, right?

They’ve got places to be, and you also need to show that you’ve got things to do. You’re serious about running your company. So, set aside the time for it, and that means the time intervals for following up and the other things you’re doing.

That also means after that interview, if you’ve got a three-step interview process, how many days do you allow to respond? You know, do you send something out five days after they’ve done something? When do you send those things out? Make sure you follow that time every single time. The next piece is you want to have a list of vetted questions. When you’re interviewing people, you need to: A, have a list of questions that are expected to be asked of all your candidates.

You need to have these questions vetted for legal requirements. There are certain forbidden questions- and this is not- the scope of this is not to be a lawyer on this kind of thing. It’s literally, there are certain questions you’re not allowed to ask in the job interview. You may want to have that reviewed by a lawyer or by an HR company at the very least, or at least go Google it online and find some reputable source who says you can’t ask these questions.

No, you cannot ask someone when they’re expecting their child to be born, okay? You can’t ask them those kind of questions. You cannot, in the United States, discriminate based on certain protected categories and classes. Do not lie to yourself about clever ways to get around these rules. I guarantee you the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State Workforce Commission have seen every lie you’re going to try to tell them about why you’re asking these questions.

Do not think you can be cute about this and try to get around the rules. Be ethical, have integrity about what you’re asking, and make sure you got the right list of questions. Make sure you’re asking questions that are proper to the job. At the same time- So make sure they are relevant to what the job entails. Right?

And there’s the standard list of questions, right? You know, kind of, like, tell me about a time you’ve overachieved major obstacles. Tell me about, you know, your strengths and weaknesses. By the way, a lot of people are expecting those questions. A lot of people are expecting those questions.

Okay? But what you’re really looking for when you start training your people on interviewing is how do those questions fit into the job? You want to have a narrative. And so, you want to ask deeper follow-up questions. So, tell me about your skills, your great strength, and then you can do a follow-up question in the interview where you have a-

Remember, you do this every single time. They list their strengths. Don’t- That’s such a throwaway question. They should know their answer to those. If they don’t, they haven’t done any homework. But ask the follow-up question about it.

So, tell me about this strength you’ve got. This strength you told me that you are XYZ or whatever it is. A great strength about you. Show me how that got in your way at a previous job. Remember, this is a strength.

Now, they got to start thinking about how this didn’t work for them in a previous job. That shows introspection. It’s an idea about deepening that and making sure they’re not just giving you the rote answer based on what they did. Ask your questions for a reason. If you have other questions, what I call legacy requirements- this is actually an interesting thing.

Legacy things are, kind of, set up from the past. Make sure that those legacy requirements- Review them. As, you know, we’re two years plus post-pandemic at this point in time, you know, the pandemic happening, things have changed. Make sure you have a reason to ask that question.

For example, there’s a question a lot I see on employers’ applications all the time, you know, “Do you have reliable transportation to and from work?” Does that question even matter if they’re in a virtual work environment now and they have reliable transportation from their bedroom to the den of their house? I mean, I don’t know what that question is even there for now, right? But the idea with it is you want to make sure those questions that you’re asking that. Is a four-year degree required in your job?

Is a 3.7 GPA necessary? Remember, if you have a process and you follow it- if you really have a good reason that’s being said there- But remember, the GPA, not all colleges are created equal. If a GPA requirement of a 3.0 or higher is required- I mean, they’ve got a 2.5, but they went to Yale or Harvard.

Are you going to turn up your nose at that versus a three-five at a community college? Just a question. Just something to think about when you have a legacy requirement. Do they need a four-year degree for what you do? Is that required in this particular thing?

If the answer is no, then maybe you don’t ask that question anymore. Look for other things. Vet your questions based on the candidates’ criteria for success. Look at your existing candidates and say, what do they have? Maybe some of your best employees didn’t have, you know, a four-year degree.

I’m not saying a four-year degree isn’t useful. I’m saying it can be useful. Google famously didn’t promote anybody at any point in time if they did not have a computer science degree. They would not promote somebody unless they had a degree in computer science. Well, I guarantee you there’s a lot of computer scientists out there who are terrible managers.

Maybe that wasn’t the best criteria. They actually lost some really high-quality employees, and I believe one of them went on to start Twitter or something else at some point in time because they didn’t have a computer science degree, and they couldn’t get the time of day to get promoted. Same kind of thing. Figure out, does that really matter? Does that matter at your organization or your company?

And at the same time, in your interview process, make sure you’re avoiding traps. So, there’s two kind of traps, I want to say. There’s the laid trap by the person, right? Where they say they try to get you into, and this does happen occasionally, they ask you a question that would violate legal regimes. Like somebody asked you something direct, like, do you have a problem hiring somewhat of my ethnicity? Or hiring a pregnant woman?

Or how do you guys treat pregnant women on the job? You want to be very careful when you’re answering that question. Not because they’re trying to lay a trap there, but it’s not an appropriate question. You say we comply with all anti-discrimination laws. Have a thing there you can respond to it with, if that does happen. And if you interview enough people, it does.

They don’t always know. They aren’t laying a trap, but you can create a literal quagmire you’re stepping in by holding out on there. Stick to your script a little bit, okay? Be careful of going off and telling crazy stories or tales.

By the way, this is also not a place for you as an interview to relate your work experience and life. You’re interviewing them. They will interview you and ask questions, but keep your stories applicable to the questions being asked. One of the biggest things that I’ve seen happen is people falling prey to the halo or horns effects. Kind of the idea with it is that you have a really good interviewer, and I mentioned it earlier in the podcast, you have somebody who seemed like a really good hire for you guys, right?

And then everybody, you have five interviews a day, and everybody pales in comparison to that first person during the day. Try to make sure that you’re judging them on their own merits. You know, you may give the skills assessment, that person might be really really really good at interviewing, but you do the skills assessment later, and they completely mess up on that.

Two things about it, first of all, don’t judge your other people according to them and don’t allow their ability to do really really well in the interview to change your criteria and what you’re willing to accept. “But, man, they were really personable. They were very good in person.” Okay? If you have a skills, a hard skills assessment, then they have to be able to add, and they can’t add, then don’t hire them for your accounting position. Just don’t do it. You’re asking yourself to be set up for failure. It happens.

It happens all the time. Happens to the best of us. You will make mistakes in hiring, I guarantee you. But remember, a bad hire, depending on which study you believe, can cost you between three and $10,000—a single bad hire.

Now, maybe at a large company that’s not a big deal, right? But at a very very small company, there’s two things to think about on that. That bad hire, if it costs you $5,000, the $5,000 is nothing. You may be listening to this podcast, but “Man, I wish I had an extra $5,000.”

The $5,000, as I said, is nothing. It’s the four months of time that you burn that you’re never ever ever going to get back. And that’s the thing. That really is why it’s critically important, especially the small company. If you’re under, you know, 50 employees, that’s really incredibly important.

Every one of those hires is important for you, right? And you want to make sure that you don’t make mistakes on hiring, not just because of the money. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. So, make sure if you are looking at that and you see there’s a red flag there or something like that, don’t risk it. The other side of the halo and horns effect is you have a bad interviewer, and everybody else looks good in comparison.

Or you had a really lousy morning. You were stuck in traffic for three hours. You did not sleep. You’ve got a newborn kid at home, you did not sleep well last night, and you got to get there and interview people in the morning, and you were just, “Oh, I got to interview people. I want to be anywhere else but here today. I don’t want to interview people.” I’m sorry. That’s part of the job.

You signed up for this. That is your responsibility. The buck stops with you that day. And unless you can pawn that off to somebody else, which, by the way, if you make that decision and they’re not familiar to interviewing and they’re not capable of doing it, you made a decision. And do not expect to have a good outcome.

Just don’t expect it. So, in that particular case, make sure that you’re not judging other people based on your bad situation this morning or their way of doing it. And I’m wearing a periodic table shirt today, actually, in honor of me talking about this podcast because great hiring is not alchemy; it’s chemistry.

It’s not myth or magic. It is literally facts and circumstances and processes. And that’s the difference between thinking you can turn lead into gold and literally precipitating something out of a solution. One is a chemical reaction, and one is complete fantasy. And it’s important for you in your business to think about these things.

This is very important for what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do. Now, there’s two pieces I want to bring up, kind of, at the end of this kind of thing when you’re putting all these pieces together, is that when you’re hiring for things, there are two major components in any hiring, right? One is the skills that are required to do a job, and one is culture fit. You need to decide upfront which one is more important for your company. If culture fit is primary- and remember, your company will have a culture whether or not you dictate it. Every extra person, every extra element or molecule, or anything that is added to your solution will change the chemical makeup of your company.

That is a fact. That is a hard fact. And if you have somebody who, “You know, man, their skills are great. They have all this experience and everything else.” And you talk to them, and they don’t fit in with your company at all, you are literally flirting with disaster. Don’t do it. Just because somebody looks really really good on paper, or they say a lot of the right things there, but when you talk to them, you’re like, “Man, this person is incredibly abrasive.

“And I’m putting them in a department with people who kind of have a whole family atmosphere, and they take care of each other’s kids.” Any company you’ve got a culture there for, right? You’re going to add that person in, and they’re going to become a pariah, or they’re going to destroy that department. Ask yourself if you’re going to add someone to your makeup and your mix, and they don’t fit in, they don’t align with their core values- By the way, if you tell them your core values and they laugh at you, show them the door.

That doesn’t get any better. It never gets any better than the honeymoon in any relationship. Never ever ever ever. So, realize if there’s some red flags there upfront, if they don’t agree with what your core values are in your mission and vision, and if you’ve relayed that stuff-

By the way, you can have it on your website, or you need to talk about it a little bit in the process when you’re trying to fit for behavior fit or culture fit. That’s really important. The other part to not neglect is your skills. There’s a baseline level of skills. If you are not willing to train in the position, or if you’re too small to train in the position, do not hire somebody who says they’re a fast learner. Because no matter how fast a learner they are, they’re going to resent you if you can’t give them some time and attention to at least show them the ropes.

Now, sometimes- I did mention this in a previous episode, you know, kind of that scene in Ghostbusters where a new ghostbuster shows up or potential hire shows up, and they’re like just burned out. They’re just happy. They just want a warm body. Don’t fall into that trap. Don’t hire somebody- That’s again, that’s kind of a corollary of that kind of horns problem—the desperation thing.

“I just need a warm body at my company because I need a person to fill the position.” Steve Jobs famously said it’s better to have a hole in your organization than an asshole in your organization. Always thought that was kind of funny because Steve Jobs had a reputation as one of those things. But the fact is that he’s totally right. You don’t want to move too quickly.

Stephen Covey says if there was one habit he would have added into his seven habits of highly effective people, it would be to move slower on an opportunity, move faster to eliminate a problem. So, think about that for a minute. What does that mean in your hiring process? You might create a position for somebody based on – and by the way, I’ve fallen into this trap before too – based on, “Oh man, they’ve got this whole skill set. I could maybe have them do that.”

But the hole in your organization is X. And somebody comes along, and they have part of X, but they’ve really got more Y and Z. Do you create position Y and Z?

I would say be very careful before you decide to jump to doing that. So, with that kind of to sow all this together, have your process and stick to it. As we talked about in a previous episode, maybe use a behavioral assessment, something like DISC. We have an episode about this, about using a DISC profile in your organization. We also have a piece of software online that Catapult Creative Media, my digital marketing company, was kind enough to allow to make free on the internet. You can see that at discba.com. Maybe look at hiring, look at getting someone if you have trouble with the hiring thing, and there’s a lot of different ways to go about your hiring process, right? You could use a staffing firm. You could do it internally.

You could hire an HR company to do part of it for you. But at the end of the day, you want to have a plan of action, you want it to be organized, and you want to make sure you’re following it, okay? And don’t make exceptions for your process. If your process is, we always do a background check.

If your process is to always call the references, make sure you do that every single time. By the way, I really firmly believe in calling previous employment. If someone’s lied – by the way, you don’t know unless you check on these things – if someone’s lying on the resume, that’s going to show up in other places when they’re working for you. It absolutely will.

And don’t lie to yourself about when that happens. If you have a process, if you drug test people – and by the way, that’s something to be aware of right now. Marijuana is becoming legalized in many many states, okay? Be aware of that as people work remotely. Do you have a process for that?

Do you have what this is right? Now, generally speaking, what they do on their own time, if it’s legal, is okay. Generally speaking, it’s on your clock. They’re not allowed to do certain things, but make sure you’re testing with those things. If you have a policy for that, make sure it’s written, but follow it.

If you drug test every candidate and you don’t drug test them, what does it say about your process? And if you do have some kind of insurance claim later or legal liability based on that later, not following your process can actually open you up to legal liability and major lawsuits. So, make sure you’re doing that. So overall, at the end of the episode, what are your takeaways today?

So, the takeaways are today, if you do one thing, make sure you have a list of questions for the job that you’re hiring for. It’s a list of vetted questions that you want to ask every single time. Make sure they make sense for the position. Have a follow-up question listed in there. Whatever the answer is, have a question to dig deeper into it.

The throwaway questions like, “Tell me about a time in your life you have overcome a major obstacle.” Anybody interviewing should know have, like, three answers to that, right? You want to ask a follow-up question to dig deeper into that question because otherwise, it’s just garbage. They’ve been practicing at it. Who even knows if it’s true? You want to ask more about it.

You want to make sure you’re avoiding kind of the halo and horn effects that’s either good or bad experiences with a previous candidate. Okay? Also means that, you know, if you have a process, follow your process, right? If you have somebody who interviewed real horribly, but it was enough to get through to the second interview, then you let them through the second interview. Don’t just throw away that resume just because you had a really good candidate came in after them. They may or may not work for you.

And the last one is to write down your process and stick to it. Train to the process. Set aside the right time you need for the interview. If you do behavioral assessments or job skills assessments, or job inventory assessments, do them every single time. If you have a background check or something else, make sure it’s relevant to the job, but make sure you do that and check the details on that resume.

It’s always doing that. I don’t remember the exact number on it, but some percentage of resumes have things that are completely fraudulent. I believe it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of like, 20%. It’s one in five. It means you probably need to take a look at that in the marketplace and see kind of what’s there.

At least that’s exaggeration. Some may be outright lies. They may not be. I remember years ago I heard that there was a football coach, I think, at Georgia Tech or somewhere else, it doesn’t even matter where, but they had completely made up their previous coaching job, which is how they got this other job later, right? And you think at that level where somebody’s getting paid a million plus dollars a year, somebody would check it. And so it shows you guys, it’s not just you, it’s other people out there. They make the same mistakes.

So, that’s it for this episode of The Buck Stops Here Business Podcast, “Your Hiring Process Part Three; Putting Rubber to the Road.” If you liked what you heard here, please go review us on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, and give us a five-star review if you liked what you heard here. You can respond to this video on YouTube and give us some comments. We’d love to hear from you guys on that and see what you’d like to hear on upcoming episodes.

We are going to be interviewing an HR expert who’s going to talk more about kind of the legal requirements or things you need to know when setting up. And especially, I think that we’re going to be excited about having her come in and talk about what it’s like to hire people in different states now because I think that’s one of the challenges a lot of business owners are looking at. You’re trying to find candidates, and there may not be a lot in your local market, so looking elsewhere can broaden the field and get you that next great hire you need. So, again, thank you guys for listening. Be well. Go out there and be awesome.

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