Most of us want to hire applicants like us. That may not be the best idea . . .

hire me mirror

The hiring process impacts everything. Few leaders would contest the notion that the people hired by your organization directly affect it’s productivity, growth, profitability and the level of customer satisfaction.  We have a tendency to hire people we like, or people like us, but we all objectively know that this isn’t always the right decision.  Why aren’t we better at interviewing and selecting?

Interviewers need a proven methodology for obtaining relevant information and assessing it. They need to know what to look for and how to get the useful information that leads to hiring the best people, not the ones most like themselves. Here are four best practices that will help.

#1 – Have a thorough understanding of the job specifications

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there . . .

– Lewis Carroll

Managers must take the time to identify the capabilities and other criteria needed for success as they write the job description.  This seems obvious, but without this knowledge there are no objective standards for assessing the candidate during the interview. The purpose of any interview is to identify the candidates who can and will effectively perform the job and who will fit into the organization.  This assessment includes three kinds of criteria:

  • Can Do’s – an assessment of the competencies needed to succeed. These are the required skills, abilities and experience needed to do the job.
  • Will Do’s  – an assessment of motivation. What is the candidate willing to do? Will he or she travel, work night shifts, initiate sales calls?
  • Fit Factors – an assessment of how the candidate fits into the culture. Can he or she work cooperatively with managers, co-workers, and customers?

#2 – Review the resumé and application before the interview

The closest a person comes to perfection is when they prepare their resume.

– Stanley Randall

A careful resumé review highlights both what’s there and what’s not. Reading ahead of time allows the interviewer to look for gaps in time, the frequency of job changes, salary history, and the reasons for leaving past employers. Reviewing resumés and cover letters allows the interviewer to form a preliminary impression of the candidate and to identify issues that relate directly to the position.  Questions can be prepared in advance to probe particularly important areas or to fill in the gaps that aren’t clear in the application paperwork.

#3 – Utilize behavior-based questions to determine the candidate’s qualifications

I know of no way of judging the future, but from the past . . .

– Patrick Henry

A candidate’s descriptions of his past behavior are effective predictors of his future behavior. Seek specific examples from the candidate’s past experience that pertain to the open position.  This kind of behavior-based questioning allows the interviewer to project future job performance based on what the candidate has done, not on what the interviewer intuitively feels that the candidate might do.  Ask specific questions and require detailed answers that include names, dates, places, events and outcomes. For example:

  • Describe a time when you dealt with a difficult customer.
  • Give an example of a significant project that was completed on a tight deadline.
  • Share what you have done in a past job to save the company money.

#4 – Create an interview atmosphere that encourages the applicant to do the vast majority of the talking.

There are several protections against hiring the right person and not asking the right questions is the surest.

– Pete Tosh (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

Encourage the candidate to talk. The candidate should spend 80% of the interview time answering questions that are directly related to the position and the criteria established in the job description. Interviewers should understand that when they speak, they interrupt the interview. These interruptions should only be used to probe, clarify, encourage, or to re-focus the candidate back to the specific questions.

It’s not always best to hire the person in the mirror

Using an objective and proven methodology significantly increases the chances that you select the candidate with the best capabilities and fit, not the one who is your closest reflection.

Could your organization use some professional help with recruiting?

Georgia Employers’ Association has enhanced and expanded our recruiting capabilities to provide our members with a reliable and affordable recruiting resource. Perhaps you’re having difficulty finding quality candidates or lack the time to devote to the intensive recruiting effort required to recruit specialized skills. GEA can provide a range of services that are designed to produce candidates who meet the specific requirements of the job description. For more information, see our Enhanced Recruiting Services page.


Pete ToshPete Tosh manages GEA’s professional recruiting services and is the co-founder and President of The Focus Group, an executive search and management consulting firm.  Pete can be reached by phone at 478-746-6891 or by email at