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Interviewing Tips from “Best to Work For” Companies

Interviewing remains one of the best ways to uncover a candidate’s abilities and determine if they will be a match with the culture of your department or organization.   Compare the following interviewing strategies–used by companies considered “Top Employers”–to how your organization interviews candidates (or, if you’re a first-time interviewing manager, use it as a guide) to help weed out unfit candidates and identify the skilled applicants equipped to thrive in your workplace.

A Broad Picture of the Interview Process

Roth Staffing Companies’ research has found that approximately 80% of turnover arises from hiring and interviewing mistakes.  The clues were there in the beginning, but the pre-screening and interviewing process didn’t bring the warning signs to the surface.  Effective interviewing is vital.

A great interview will reveal the interviewee’s strengths, weaknesses, and personality while also providing the candidate with more information about the hiring organization or department, the expectations of the position, and the workplace culture.  Effective interviewing can ensure that the interviewing organization and the interviewee understand each other’s expectations, which can lead to lower turnover, higher employee engagement, increased employer satisfaction after a qualified candidate is hired, and the foundation of a “Best Place to Work” environment.

With those objectives in mind, revamp your department or organization’s approach to the interviewing process using the following checklist.

1.      Envision the Perfect Candidate

“It’s essential to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate before starting your search,” states Daniel Landman, Director of New Business Ventures for Roth Staffing Companies.  “The best course of action is to assess top performers in that role and examine what makes them successful.  Or, if the open position is unique, examine the job duties associated with the role and figure out what skills and experience a candidate should have in order to succeed in the workplace.”

2.      Establish a Pre-Screening Protocol

According to Forbes, the average interview lasts 40 minutes.  That time can really add up for busy hiring managers!  Therefore, in-person interviews should be reserved for only the most likely hires.  Interviewing should be one of the later steps of the candidate assessment process so that hiring managers don’t waste their time meeting with obviously unfit or unenthusiastic applicants.  This also saves applicants from unnecessarily expending the time and energy preparing for the interview and traveling to your location.

This means you might want to fine-tune your pre-screening procedures to ensure the very best candidates bubble up to the top.  For instance, consider the ten-step screening process used by Roth Staffing and other “Best Place to Work” organizations.

  1. Determine a target candidate audience (recruit from the right group of people).
  2. Learn how the audience looks for jobs.
  3. Create and publicize an ideal job description.
  4. Screen resumes using specific criteria. For more information about screening resumes and other pre-screening techniques, peruse Roth Staffing’s white paper titled “Implementing Screening Processes that Net Top Candidates.”
  5. Conduct pre-screen phone interviews.
  6. Assess skills and conduct work previews.
  7. Pick finalists to interview in person.
  8. Conduct in-person interviews (more than one with various decision makers).
  9. Check references.
  10. Present an offer.

3.      Prepare for the Interview

Before the in-person interview, departments or organizations should create a system that judges candidates fairly and objectively.  One way to achieve objective assessment is by asking hiring managers to create a list of questions to pose to all applicants, as well as a rubric to judge and compare interviewees’ answers on a common scale.

In addition, your interview needs to include a targeted behavioral interviewing approach that is fully customized.

Finally, it’s important to have a wealth of helpful information about the candidate on hand during the interview. “In order to be well-equipped to interview a promising candidate, I always create a folder of necessary documents and interview guides,” says Carey Rehm, Branch Manager for Roth Staffing’s Las Vegas branch location.  “For example, whenever I sit down with a candidate, I make sure that I have a few clean copies of their resume on hand to jot notes on and a copy that I’ve already marked in areas I plan to address during the meeting.  I also include the results of any skills assessments and work previews in the candidate’s file so I can refer to the data when discussing the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.”

4.      Avoid Bland and Uninformative Q&A

Organizations that have been recognized as the “Best to Work For” view interviews as a conversation, but unique questions help spur that conversation in the right direction.  Adjust your interviewing style to move away from a one-size-fits-all question and answer session and toward a more customized and insightful approach.

Interviews should be a two-way street; interviewers should be prepared to answer various questions from applicants —such as those in the following list— at the end of the discussion.

  • What is an example of a client challenge you have recently faced?  How did you respond?
  • Where do you see the business or department going in the next year? 10 years?
  • What impact would I have on the team if I get hired?
  • What would make someone really successful in this role?

5.      Get Others Involved

Roth Staffing Companies recommends interviewing and screening committees that include multiple people in the interviewing process.  These committees can encompass the candidate’s potential manager, other managers, and peers on their team and in their department.

In addition, Top Employers know that including top performers in the interviewing process is a great way to assess the candidate’s potential for success; oftentimes, your best coworkers are the ones most familiar with what it takes to succeed “in the trenches” and possess insight into the personality traits, skills, and experience that make a candidate qualified for the position.

“I have several top performers on my teams that always provide helpful feedback about interviewees,” states Robert Hankin, Senior Vice President of Roth Staffing Companies.  “I trust them to flag any areas of concern that may not occur to me when interviewing the candidate, and to provide their honest opinion about whether a prospect will be a good fit.  Asking for input has saved me time and time again from hiring applicants who could have damaged the culture and productivity of the IT departments!”

6.      Reevaluate the System

The same interviewing processes and styles may not work for your department or organization forever, so it’s important to reevaluate protocols every six months or so to ensure that they remain effective in recruiting top performers.  Don’t be afraid to try new interviewing strategies!  Sometimes the most unlikely approaches can uncover the best candidates who will be passionate about building your department or organization into a “Best Place to Work.”



What You Can Ask

  • Previous work experience
  • Education and training
  • Job-related military service
  • Open ended questions are the best to stimulate conversation

What You Cannot Ask

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Age
  • Arrest
  • Citizenship
  • Credit
  • Disabilities
  • Financial status
  • General questions regarding
  • military service
  • Health/Medical Condition
  • Marital Status/Children
  • Religion

Favorite Interview Questions

Here is a list of favorite interviewing questions from hiring managers. Infuse your hiring philosophy into your interviewing strategy–know what you want your questions to reveal!

  • How would your best friend describe you?
  • What unique experience or qualifications separate you from other candidates?
  • Tell me how you would go about _________ (installing a new system, organizing these records, etc.)?
  • Think of someone you have had problems within your career; someone who you would NEVER use as a reference. Tell me the adjectives they might use to describe you and why they had this perception? Then we can discuss how you dealt with the situation.
  • What have been the biggest failures and frustrations in your career? Biggest achievements?
  • When I contact your last supervisor and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?

Curve Balls

You hear a lot about “curveball” interview questions such as Zappos’ famous “What makes you weird?”  Asking an off-the-wall question just for the sake of it does nothing for your interview process, but strategically thinking of question(s) that will give unique insight regarding the candidate’s suitability is vital!  Sometimes their reaction to a question is all you need – revisit step 1 “Envision the perfect candidate” and build questions that reveal (or don’t reveal) your list of traits.

  • Just entertain me for five minutes. I’m not going to talk. – Asked by Acosta
  • Room, desk, car – which would you clean first? – Asked by Pinkberry
  • How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain? – Asked by Disney Project Engineering
  • How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? – Asked by Horizon Properties
  • How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State Building? – Asked by JetBlue


Sources: Forbes, CareerBuilder, Open Req, XeniumHR.com