Ace Every Interview: 3 ways to Make Your Process Ungameable
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Ace Every Interview: 3 ways to Make Your Process Ungameable

Ace Every Interview: 3 ways to Make Your Process Ungameable

Rarely does a company go through rapid growth without having their customer experience suffer significantly. Imagine your company growing, expanding, and needing more employees--a lot more, maybe hundreds more. How picky can you be when you need 400 new employees within the next few months? Demand for your product and services is exploding. Locations must be opened. The pressure is on to get people hired and trained.

This is where most companies start compromising on whom they hire. Even worse, they may start fast-tracking new employees through training. That's a mistake. What has always made you unique are the people you hired, how well they were trained, and the great customer experience your company delivered. If you give in to compromises, you will have high turnover, low morale, and your customer experience will be so inconsistent it will become a liability instead of your strongest competitive advantage.

Growth is great when done right. But don't succumb to the growth trap. You can't compromise your hiring, training, and the customer experience your company delivers.

Getting hired at your company should be extremely hard. It is only fair to your existing employees that you stay extremely selective on whom you let in. People need?to earn the right to be a part of your culture and legacy. Your goal should be that every long-term employee considers their decision to join this company one of the best decisions of their life.

The biggest problem with the typical interview process is that most intelligent candidates can game it. Everyone knows they are going to get asked, "Tell me two negatives about yourself." A well-prepared candidate will respond, "I am a perfectionist and workaholic."

The companies that hire the best employees have the best screening processes that are "ungameable." The following are three best practices for the interview/screening process.

1. Put them in distress

A great way to test out someone's character is to observe how they react when things don't go according to plan. Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab, takes every candidate out for a breakfast interview. The potential employee is not aware that Bettinger has asked the restaurant to purposefully mess up the candidate's order. As Bettinger sees it, character is everything, and the "wrong order" test is meant to gauge how a potential hire deals with adversity. "It's just another way to look inside their heart rather than their head," says Bettinger.

2. The engagement indicator

If you are looking for people who have the potential to be customer-centric service providers, evaluating their "5 E's" might be your most powerful tool. Many of our consulting clients have incorporated the 5 E's into their interview process, literally counting the times a candidate demonstrates each one. For example, they record the number of times during the interview that:

  • Eye contact was made
  • Ear-to-ear smiles took place
  • Enthusiasm was displayed
  • Engagement with the interviewer occurred naturally
  • Educated answers were given to interview questions

While I believe most employee candidates have the potential to provide excellent customer service, not all do. The 5 E's can help you identify candidates who are able to achieve a high service aptitude with rigorous training. During the interview process, if candidates are not smiling, making eye contact, and showing enthusiasm--then pass. No amount of customer-service training will change them. As for the engagement indicator, the key to that is having an interviewer who constantly displays all 5 E's.

3. Group interviews

In our businesses, John Robert's Spa and The DiJulius Group, we have found group interviews are extremely productive and telling. First-round interviews are always with a group of candidates. This reduces the time from six hours with each candidate to one hour. This initial interview focuses on what the company is about, what the position is about, and what it takes to be successful at both. We then ask the candidates questions that each has to take turns answering. The potential hire thinks they are being judged on who has the best answer. What we are really observing is what the other candidates are doing when it is not their turn to answer. Are they disengaged, fidgety? Or are they listening, nodding, and smiling while the other person is answering the question? That is the one we want.

 John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or

Published: August 9th, 2019

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