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The Top 15 Questions Hiring Managers Should Master

As you may recall, in my last column I asked if the hiring managers in your organization know the answers to the 15 questions that make all the difference between success and failure in recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best employees. Here now are the answers.

  1. The number one, best source of proven, great employees? No, it is not employees who come from referrals. It is all the great people who used to work for you--the good ones who left to work someplace else. Build a system to stay in touch with them and keep them in the family; you may get them back or they may send you other great people like themselves. When someone good leaves, there's a good chance you can hire them back if you call them toward the end of their first week on the new job, especially when it doesn't turn out to be what they hoped for.
  2. The one key question to ask every time someone gives you a referral? "Is this a referral or a recommendation?"
  3. The biggest mistake most hiring managers make when it comes to looking for their next new, great employee? Most hiring managers and organizations recruit people who are looking for a job. We need to be recruiting working people who are not looking or only passively looking, but who, nevertheless, may be interested in making a change. (At any point in time, only about 16 percent of the U.S. workforce is actively looking for a new job.)
  4. How to better identify what you really want and need in your next employee? This doesn't mean creating yet another job description. It means the hiring manager writes a letter of recommendation for the best employee they have ever had, listing what that person did to merit such high praise; or writes a piece that describes what it takes to win the "Employee of the Year" award for that position.
  5. How to get people to tell the truth in the interviewing process? The way to do this is to tell applicants up front in the interview that you expect them to be truthful. (If you would like to learn more about how to do this, either look in "The Interview" section of my Hire Tough, Manage Easy book for how to position people to tell the truth, or email us for the full explanation.)
  6. The number one, biggest mistake while interviewing? No, it is not talking too much, even though that is a close second. The number one mistake is not having a clear picture of what you are looking for. Most interviewers never take the time to pinpoint which traits, attitudes, skills, etc. make a winning employee. If you don't know what you're looking for, how are you going to find it?
  7. The single most important interviewing question to ask every single applicant? "Tell me about your very first job and what you learned from it." Too many interviewers start off by asking about the applicant's current or most recent job. Start with the person's earliest experience and then each subsequent position so you can "watch the movie" going forward and look for growth and development patterns. (If you would like to learn more about this, email us.)
  8. How and why everything you do in the hiring process is a test and how to evaluate the results? The U.S. government says everything you do in the hiring process is a test. This means if you ask someone to fill out an application completely and they leave parts blank, they just told you they cannot or will not follow instructions and they failed the test.
  9. A tool that will make everyone a better interviewer with no additional training? The tool is a Reference Verification form. (For a free copy, email
  10. How to legally ask the questions that need to be asked? You need to figure out what it is you want to know, but more importantly, why. For example, you can't ask if someone has young children, but you do want to know if the applicant will be able to get to work on time every day. In this case, the question might be: "Other than being personally ill, is there any other reason you might not be able to get to work on time?" And while you cannot ask about workers' compensation, if you are concerned about safety, you might ask someone to tell you about their workplace safety record.
  11. The number one reason great people quit? It's not for more money. It's because they get tired of having to carry the load for unreliable, subpar employees.
  12. The number one motivator for almost every employee? This one isn't money either. The number one motivator is recognition. More than 60 percent of U.S. workers say they have received no recognition for their work in the last year. It is the one thing that every manager has 100 percent control over and costs no money.
  13. The other four major motivators everyone is looking for, no matter which generation they belong to? Great boss and coworkers, interesting work, growth and opportunity, and work/life balance.
  14. The most important question every new employee is asked after their first day at work and what the answer needs to be? The question is either, "How do you like your new job?" or "How was your day?" The answer needs to be: "My day was great; it's a super company. I already love my job."
  15. How to reduce employee turnover by five percent immediately? Hire bad employees. They never leave.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer of training processes and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of five books, including the best selling Hire Tough, Manage Easy. You can reach him at 713-771-4401 or Visit his blog at

Published: February 18th, 2009

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