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5 Questions to Ask When Hiring New Employees

The difference between taking 15 minutes for an interview and hiring blind could be customers lost.

Picture this: You’re a service business owner with a solid customer base that experiences an unexpected surge of business. Maybe you run a lawn care or window cleaning company and spring comes early, or you own an HVAC or snow removal company and a layer of snow shows up unexpectedly.

You had a plan in place to bulk up your team over time, but mother nature has other ideas.

You need more employees to help keep up with all the of the work coming in and you need them fast, so you quickly post a job ad or call candidates from an online marketplace and schedule them in as soon as they accept your offer, next to no questions asked (by you or the candidate).

Now you have bodies to do the work, but soon enough your new employees are cutting corners or failing to show up to work, and you’re now busy putting out customer service fires.

Does this sound familiar?

When we talk to service business owners, we hear about scenarios like these too often. A hardworking service business owner doesn’t trust his or her employees, and it’s taking a toll on their business’ hard-earned reputation.

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Your staff really are the faces of your company, the ones who your clients know.

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A little interview can go a long way

As a business owner, you’re building the best business you can, but you’re not the person interacting directly with each of your customers.

“Your staff really are the faces of your company, the ones who your clients know,” says Katie Pearse of The Maid Mentor. Katie’s experience as a residential cleaning business owner led her to create a comprehensive recruiting and “audition” process, but sometimes an unexpected surge of business or the departure of a couple of employees may leave you without the luxury of time.

That being said, spending some time, just 15 minutes, screening a candidate with the right interview questions will help you find and hire a good fit.

After all, the cost of a bad hiring decision outweighs the 15 minutes spent learning more about the newest face of your business.

Pick up those cues

Outside of the actual interview questions your candidate will give you plenty of hints about what type of employee and company representative they will be.

  • When you call them to arrange an interview do they answer the phone in a polite and professional manner?
  • Do you get the sense that they’re confident and approachable when you meet in person?

These first impressions will most likely be the first impressions your clients experience, so don’t forget to note your interactions with a candidate outside of the actual interview.

Ask them to prepare ahead of time

If you need to see any certification, or need an application filled out with pre-screening information, ask the candidate to prepare ahead of time when possible.

This way you can spend the valuable face time actually discussing the role, rather than watching them fill out paperwork, and you’ll avoid realizing in person or after the interview that they don’t have the certification you require to hire them.

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At Jobber, we believe that one coachable and enthusiastic person is better for your business in the long run than a highly skilled bad fit.

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The 5 question interview

The following questions are less about gauging skill and more about personality. Partly because you’ll most likely require certification for skill or will plan to train employees, but more so because (excuse the cliché but it’s true!) you can teach skill but you can’t teach attitude.

At Jobber, we believe that one coachable and enthusiastic person is better for your business in the long run than a highly skilled bad fit.

Bonus: they should only take you 15 minutes to run through.

1. Why are you the best person for this job?

This is a great no-nonsense question for you to open the interview with, and it works whether you found and recruited the candidate or they applied to your posting. It will show you how much time, if any, they’ve spent reviewing the job posting and your business.

More importantly, this question gives the person an opportunity to highlight their values and past achievements. Maybe they’ll emphasize their commitment to showing up every day, on time. They might tell you about their past success leading an efficient team.

Whatever their answer, it will tell you a lot about what energy and experience they would bring to the team. And you can decide if they sound like a good fit.

2. Looking back, what was one of your favourite jobs and why?

This question will reveal what motivates them on the job. Maybe they describe a position where they ran their own crew, and you can tell they value autonomy and can handle responsibility.

Maybe their favourite job involved working alone with minimal customer interaction, and the position you’re looking to fill requires a lot of customer face time. That might be a red flag.

If they provide a minimal response, don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper. Ask them why they feel they did a great job leading that crew, or if they have experience interacting with customers if they describe a more solitary position.

3. Tell me about a time you experienced great customer service and a time you experienced horrible customer service.

No matter your background, skill or education level, we all have a common understanding of what good and bad customer service looks like.

The candidate might describe a time they’ve provided great customer service or been on the receiving end, and either way you’ll get a clear picture of what they value in these important interactions.

You have your company standards, and this question will tell you if the candidate’s own standards are a match for what you expect to see on the job.

4. What would you need from the company to make sure you are delivering quality work and making our customers happy?

This question can teach you a lot about your candidate and your own business practices.

Your candidate may tell you they want to get paid on time because they’ve struggled with that in past jobs. Perhaps they value effective internal communication, or getting reasonable notice for additional or cancelled jobs.

Their insights will give you an opportunity to highlight certain areas of your work process, and potentially give you ideas for improvement.

This question also invites them to buy into helping you build and improve your business. If you show them right from the start of your relationship that you’re open to feedback in order to grow your business, they’re more likely to work harder and more thoughtfully.

5. What are your pay expectations?

You want to be able to make a decision by the end of your 15 minute interview, so confirm that they understand the pay if it’s set, or ask them about their expectations if there is flexibility.

With this question out of the way, you’ll have everything you need to make your decision and the next step can be an offer rather than spending more time negotiating.

Slow and steady wins the race

You’ve asked all 5 questions and the 15 minutes are up!

Hopefully you’ve determined if the person is a good fit or not, and have confidence that you’re only adding solid contributors to your team.

That being said, sometimes you have a mountain of work that needs to get done, so it might be a slow process, with some trial and error, to build a truly reliable crew.

Spending only 15 minutes to reveal which candidates are gems will certainly help you get there faster than hiring blindly.

We’ve also written about how an employee referral program can help you hire better candidates (with steps to implement one), and we’ve outlined how to write the perfect job posting to attract the cream of the crop.

Is there an essential interview question you would add to this list? Let our community know in the comments below.

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