Monday, January 2, 2017

Interview Questions That Work! Part II

"We all prospect, and don't even know we're doing it. When you start the dating process, you are actually prospecting for the person you want to marry. When you're interviewing employees, you are prospecting for someone who will best fit your needs." -- Zig Ziglar

Last time, I mentioned that screening for the right person for the job is always a challenge. You need someone not only qualified, but with a passion for the work and a desire to serve. You don't have the luxury of multiple interviews, following up with past employers, calling all character references, or reading through multi-page resumes, (they're usually not true anyway).

I gave you nine of 50 great questions for you to use in your interview process. Here are another ten that include good customer service screening questions and also some that will let you know how well the candidate can think on his/her feet.These questions will help you to decide quickly whether the candidate you are interviewing is the right fit or not. Each question has been filtered through a vast array of human resources scenarios to determine if any are "questionable" or "offensive" based on current HR laws, regulations, and interviewing rules, (e.g., discriminatory questions based on violations of ADA, Title VI, etc.), and each one has passed the test.

Customer Service
Providing excellence in customer service is so vital for the success of your company, that hiring talent that can deliver the best to your customers must be a priority. It’s been said that if you have great customer service, its assumed that you provide a great product. These questions will help you identify those candidates who not only know the importance of great customer service, but can deliver that service.

1. What have you done at your present/last company to provide a wonderful experience for your customers?
A generic question that the candidate can answer in a variety of ways. You are looking for specifics that shows the candidate took action to provide for a good experience for the customer. The best possible answers include total recall of incidents where the candidate knows that she shined and remembers comment cards from customers or kudos from supervisors.

2. Have you encountered a situation where you dealt with a really upset customer, or were even blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? How did you handle it?
Great follow-up to the first question. Every business has unsatisfied customers, whether justified or not. It is simply part of running a business. Here, you are tying to get the candidate to provide an honest account of a difficult scenario and how they handled it. The main thing you are looking for in their response is if they are focused on finding a positive solution for the customer.

3. How have you advocated for your customers when it was apparent that their issues could be prevented by improving how a product was designed (e.g., how the food was prepared, tires changed, medical device sold), how a process could be streamlined, or how communication could have been improved?
With this question, you are looking for where the candidate may put the blame for a customer service issue rather than doing what it takes to please the customer. If the candidate recalls an incident when he did all that was possible to right the situation regardless of who or what was at fault, you may have found someone who places customer service as a high priority-a trait that is required to be successful in this job.

4. Give me an example of when you went the extra mile for a customer?
Any question asked during an interview should be designed to elicit more than just a “yes” or “no.” This question prompts the candidate to retrieve a file that will give you information on how she thinks and reacts outside the normal parameters. Tony Hsieh tells the story of how one of his employees at Zappos, an online shoe store, once ordered a pizza for a customer who requested one using her personal credit card. You may not want a candidate that feels empowered in that extreme, but close to it would be nice.

5. Describe a delightful customer service experience you had when you were the customer in a restaurant. What did the server/cashier/hostess, etc., do to make it so?
You are looking for a response that indicates that they know what is meant by good customer service and what it took to deliver it for them.

Thinking on Their Feet
A team member who makes decisions to act, takes responsibility for their actions and the outcome of those actions, is valuable to the business. Questions in this section help the interviewer gain an understanding of how well the applicant thinks on their feet and if they are willing to make decisions or would rather be told what to do.

6. What are the first three things you would do on the job if you were hired for this position?
The question requires the candidate to be decisive and come up with an action plan. The answer you receive will give you an understanding into how the interviewee approaches new, possibly uncharted, situations. If the candidate answers that she will wait to be told what to do, you may have an unmotivated, high maintenance candidate.

7. If we hired you, what are the three most important attributes that you believe you would bring to our company?
The hope is that the candidate did their homework and knows a little about your company. If so, they should be creative in their approach to answering this question. One skill may be easy, and two may be a little taxing. Asking for three attributes requires that they think quickly as well as creatively on their feet. While the answers are important, how they get to the answers reveals even more. It shows that they can improvise and adapt to various situations at a moment’s notice.

8. How do you make decisions?
This simple open-ended question is packed full of potential. The candidate should elaborate on their decision-making process. If they stumble on this one, it may be an indication that they are usually told what to do rather than think on their feet. Perhaps they haven’t been given a chance in the past to make decisions. If other questions lead toward a good candidate, you may be able to change their habits by empowering them to make decisions. If you do not have the luxury of that kind of time, use their unsatisfactory answer to this questions as another red flag.

9. Do you have any questions for me?
This question has been asked over a million times by employers, but doubtfully used for determining if the candidate can think on their feet. Typically what is asked are questions about salary, start date, vacation and other benefits. What you are looking for is a quick-thinking candidate who may have also prepared a strategy for this question. Both responses are positive.

10. Describe a time when you were asked to do something you were not trained to do. How did you handle it?The answer to this question provides insight into how the candidate adjusts to doing something outside of her comfort zone. Asking how she handled it helps to learn about her thinking process and if she can change direction on the fly. Candidates that can adapt and ask for assistance from managers and coworkers should be considered as able to think on their feet.

When you get a chance, let me know of any great questions you've used before to find qualified candidates.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Interview Questions That Work!

"You know, sometimes an interviewer will look at me and say - you're bright! They're actually surprised I might be bright. " --  Kirk Douglas

Screening for the right person for the job is always a challenge. You need someone not only qualified, but with a passion for the work and a desire to serve. You don’t have the luxury of multiple interviews, following up with past employers, calling all character references, or reading through multi-page resumes, (they’re usually not true anyway). 

What follows are 40 quick, easy-to-use, and immediately applied interview questions.  These questions will help you to decide quickly whether the candidate you are interviewing is the right fit or not.  Each question has been filtered through a vast array of human resources scenarios to determine if any are “questionable” or “offensive” based on current HR laws, regulations, and interviewing rules, (e.g., discriminatory questions based on violations of ADA, Title VI, etc.), and each one has passed the test. 

Traditional interview questions, (“Tell me about yourself,” or “What is your greatest weakness?”), are okay, but only reveal a fraction of what you need to make a decision for a qualified candidate.  You want to use questions, like the following, designed with laser-like focus to help hone in on specific qualities you are looking for in a candidate.

This issue will include the first nine questions to use when you are trying to determine the motivation and passion of the candidate

Motivation and Passion

In this section, you want to begin asking generally broad questions that force the interviewee to elaborate, and then some specific questions that reveal greater detail. This approach offers two benefits: It causes the interviewee to think about their responses since they can’t be answered in one or two words, (you get a sense of communication skills!), and the responses should help you uncover a consistency pattern that reveal truth.

1. What aspects of your work life history did you ever feel passionate about?

The interviewee must think over his work history to recall moments of motivation that kept him engaged in his work. The question is good for determining what parts of the job he is most likely to excel in.

2. In your previous work, were there any aspects you didn’t like, but you pushed on through anyway?

This question opens the door for the candidate to elaborate on his motivation and drive that keeps him going. The answers should shed some light on the core passion of the candidate if he reveals that although the going was tough, he knew that the reward was greater at the other end. This would be a candidate to continue through the interview process.

3. What two to four things do you need to be successful in this job?

The answer to this question should reveal the candidate’s work style and expectations. If they answer that the needs are from you and the company, move on to the next candidate. If the candidate states that most of her needs to be successful come from her, you’ve found a motivated candidate.

4. When it comes to rewards, whether monetary or non-monetary, which ones are the most meaningful to you?

Getting to more specific responses now, the candidate must provide an answer that agrees with his work history. Of course, any answer is revealing, but a non-monetary one such as “the pleasure of serving people,” or “the satisfaction I get after a job well done,” are preferable because it shows that the person is working with a passion for the work and not the money. Most candidates with these responses know that the money will come if they follow their passion.

5. During your career, what aspects have not lived up to your expectations?

The hope is that as the questioning continues, a voice of candor emerges from the candidate and you get real, meaningful answers rather than vague and general ones. This question, when answered honestly, will allow you to understand any frequent job changes, gaps in employment, or terminations. If the interviewee expected more respect and money along the way, this response may be a red flag. A good response, if it is honest, would be along the lines of “I failed to do…” or “I didn’t perform as I should,” or “I expected too much…” If the response is an emphasis on “I” the candidate is taking ownership of his path and not putting the blame on everyone else. This is a good sign.

6. Why did you apply for this position?

The candidate should have no problem answering this one. They may say the reason is money or that they saw the ad and thought they could do the job. Some of the best answers would be that they know a little something about your business and they want to be a part of the team. Or, another good response is that they know that their skill set matches the position and they would like to contribute to the success of the organization.

7. How do you like to be managed?

The answer to this question provides a look into the candidate’s level of responsibility they take for their own actions. It is also a good way to determine if they will fit into the current management style in your business. A motivated candidate typically provides an answer along the lines of, “Give me the parameters and business goals and I will self-manage.”

8. Tell me about what has motivated you recently.

This forces the candidate to recall seminars, books, events such as movies or plays, songs, or people that have impacted his motivational level. You are looking for something that puts fire in his belly rather than the answer, “Nothing.”

9. Walk me through your mental process of dealing with complaints about customer service.

A motivated and passionate candidate will know how to do what it takes to please the customer, particularly if they are a seasoned veteran in the hospitality industry. Look for the candidate taking responsibility for the situation and not pushing the blame on the customer or a coworker.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Unraveling the New FLSA Overtime Rule

" By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day." --  Robert Frost

The effective date for applying the new overtime rules is December 1, 2016. (Be aware that this is a Thursday so you will need to make changes for the payroll period in which December 1 falls accordingly). Out of all the questions I get concerning rules, regulations, and government interference... I mean new laws, this is perhaps the most concerning for employers.

So, here is an attempt to clarify the new rule, which is over 500 pages, to make some sense of how it affects your business. The rule is being marketed as a save-all for employees who have been working long hours without getting paid overtime for them. Unfortunately, the rule won't help employees as much as it is advertised. There will be some who will benefit and some who will suffer. Some will see extra pay and some will see their hours cut in an effort to avoid the new ruling.

The main changes presented in the final rule relate to the minimum salary levels that apply to the white collar overtime exemptions, as well as the formulas for calculating and increasing these levels. However, no changes were made to the exemptions for outside salespeople, teachers, lawyers or doctors.

Here is what it boils down to:

1.) Minimum salary level: Since around 2004, the salary level for white collar overtime exemptions has been $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. The new rule sets the minimum salary at $913 per week, or $47,476 per year. This rate was established based on the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States, currently the South. This increase now places the federal minimum salary level higher than the corresponding salary levels in California (currently $41,600 per year) and New York (currently $35,100 per year).

2.) Highly compensated employees: The current minimum salary level to qualify as a highly compensated employee is $100,000 per year. The final rule increases it to $134,004 per year. According to the Department of Labor, this amount represents the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally. To satisfy the requirements of the highly compensated employee test, employees must be paid a minimum of $913 per week in guaranteed salary. But, for compensation paid in excess of the minimum $913 per week, the regulations remain unchanged that bonuses or other incentive payments can be used to establish the $134,004 per year required salary. In other words, additional compensation of up to $86,528 - in the form of bonuses, commissions, or incentive payments - can be used to satisfy the highly compensated employee test.

3.) Use of nondiscretionary bonuses and commissions: - The DOL’s final rule permits employers to use other forms of compensation to satisfy up to 10% of the new minimum salary requirements. The additional compensation must be paid at least quarterly and may include nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments and commissions.

The final rule requires employers to pay exempt employees at least 90% of the minimum salary level per workweek. This equates to $821.70 per workweek or $42,728.40 annualized. Additional compensation – up to $4,747.60 per year, or $1,186.90 per quarter – may be used to satisfy the remainder of the salary requirements.

There is a little more fluff to the new ruling, but this is basically what it covers. The bottom line is that some employees will benefit and some will suffer due to working fewer hours. Remember that in all cases, document your pay policies and make sure you are following these new rules come December, 2016.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." --  Mark Twain 

I couldn't swim.  I mean, I could survive in water for a short time, but I couldn't swim with any kind of form, and definitely not competitively. 

I was a runner at the time, competing in everything from 5Ks to ultra-marathons. Triathlons were the rage and my new girlfriend had completed a full Ironman so I wanted to learn how to swim so I too could compete.  I joined the YMCA and spent countless hours in the pool.  My girlfriend showed me how to swim.  The lifeguards showed me how to swim.  Even other swimmers I didn't know tried to teach me the ropes, but none of the tips, tricks, or demonstrations helped.  

Then, I discovered the book, Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin and John Delves. From cover to cover the authors spoke to me explaining the fundamentals of swimming that I could grasp and apply.  I begin using the techniques from the book and within a short time I was swimming!  I didn't make the Olympic team or set any records, but I did feel comfortable and glided through the water like never before.

Why even share this story?  Because training does not always provide blanketed coverage.  Not all training sessions work for all attendees. Sometimes you have to provide customized training for various trainee needs. This book, from 1996, not only helped make me a swimmer (and end the embarrassment of having my girlfriend teach me), but unveiled three key points that should be applied to all employee training:

1.) Start from the ground- When training team members, it is important to remember that training requires beginning from the ground up.  Too often organizations will try to build upon skills, knowledge, talents, and abilities that aren't there.  A great deal of assumption is applied to the performance levels of employees.  

In Total Immersion, the authors state, "The body struggles to learn complicated motions-- like a fluid and powerful swim stroke.  But it easily masters the simple ones into which every complicated motion can be broken. Start from the ground up, gradually and easily assembling all the parts of an improved stroke using unique, bite-size skill drills."  We need to do the same for our employees.  Taking the necessary baby steps in order to reach the more advanced degrees of training ultimately produces greater performance levels.

2.) Eliminate drag-  One of the best illustrations in the Total Immersion book is a drawing of a barge beside a yacht.  The barge was me, swimming on my stomach and plowing through the water, exhausted when I got to the end of the pool.  The yacht is how I was supposed to look, swimming on my side, knifelike up front, easy for the water to go around.  I was creating drag instead of eliminating it.

I would imagine that some of your team members are doing the same thing right now.  They are a drag on the company, its resources, and its production level.  It is not intentional (I hope not!  If so, read this article), but if the employees don't understand the "why" it is difficult to appreciate the "how," or the lessons given them during training.  Give them the reasons why they are training first and how it affects the overall picture of the company.  Do this and you will eliminate, or at least reduce the drag.

3.) If it feels good, do it some more - In Chapter 7 of Total Immersion, the authors explain the difference between sensory skill practice and drill-and-swim.  "Drill-and-swim is training-wheel swimming in that if you start to fall, you can fall back on the drills for support.  Sensory skill practice takes the wheels off for as long as you can leave them off.  It challenges you to pedal straight and true, as far as you can go, before starting to wobble again."

The point here is that the drills, or baby steps, teach team members what the sensation should feel like.  Sensory skill practice brings it all together.  When an employee gets it, they and you will know it.  When I got the swimming down, I jumped out of the water with excitement.  The drills worked, and when it all came together, I just knew it.  I felt it.  When employees get it, it simply feels right.

Whether it is technical training, customer service training, sales training, or manual skills training, it pays to formulate a training plan that speaks to every employee.  A gloss-over training session does very little to improve performance. But total immersing employees in bite-size nuggets of training goes a long way toward developing a more professional and productive workforce.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fire Your Consultant!

"All too many consultants, when asked, 'What is 2 and 2?' respond, 'What do you have in mind?" --  Norman Ralph Augustine 

There is a often repeated story of the consultant that was hired to fix a piece of machinery in a factory.  When he arrived, he took a hammer and tapped twice on the machine and it started running.  

A week later the CEO received an invoice for $1,500.  The CEO called to complain and demand a breakdown of the invoice and stated, "All you did was hit the machine with a hammer."  The consultant kindly responded that the cost for hitting the machine was only $1, the remainder of the invoice was for knowing where to hit.

Though an interesting story, and many consultants use it as a defense for justifying their charges, what the story lacks is commitment from the consultant.  You see, he uncovered the problem and provided a solution... for now.

If you've retained a consultant and he or she is not committed to your business, the best you can do for your business is to fire them and do so today.  Fixing a problem without commitment is what a plumber does.  Nothing wrong with this approach, at least for the plumber.  But when you hire a consultant, you want to at least know that they have your long-term interest at heart. 

Here are three key factors that the consultant you hire should have in order to help your business succeed. They should:

1.) Feel the Pain- A business consultant should understand and empathize with your situation. He or she should feel what you are feeling in order to seek and provide a solution.  When you explain your issues, they should feel the hurt and frustration that you do. When you are angry they should be just as ticked.  When you cry, they should taste salt.  They should step inside and become owner, leader, or manager in your organization and wear your shoes.

2.) Take ownership of the problem-  The consultant that you hire should own whatever the problem is.  It should be as if the problems were transferred to the consultant and completely off the plate of the business leader.  The consultant should convey sufficient confidence and competence to the business leader that the leader hands over the issue to him or her.  The consultant needs to take the issue home, sleep with it, eat with it, bath it, and own it.

3.) Follow-Up - This is typically an area where most consultants fail. They tackled the problem, washed their hands, and forgot about it. The client is left feeling alone again hoping that the issue was completely resolved and that someone will follow-up to make sure.  Tragically, the business leader uncovers another issue, but is unsure whether the consultant cares enough to fix another problem and so delays contacting him.

Your business is too precious to allow an outsider with no blood in the game to come in and tinker with.  If your consultant doesn't feel your pain, own the problem and then follow-up with you long after the invoice is paid---fire them.  Though rare, you can find those who will possess these three qualities and walk with you through the trenches providing solutions along the way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enjoyed A Piece of Apple Computer Treatment Today

While in very much a hurry today, I realized that my Dell laptop, of which I paid a handsome sum for a few years back, decided to act weirdly.  Of course this was not a good time for this kind of thing to happen because I am scheduled to conduct a harassment training session for a company here in Orlando in about five days.  I was stuck.  Stopped in my tracks by a non-working, frustrating- building, piece of junk and future doorstop.

Needing a laptop to present some critical figures and informative case studies as well as state and federal laws to my audience, I went onto an Apple site and found a chat feature.  I threw my issue at the feet of the customer service rep and waited to see if this person could magically provide a solution.  I was not disappointed.

My Apple representative was superb!  My first question to her was that if I go to the Apple store, (which is about 45 minutes away because of Central Florida traffic), and bought a MacBook Air, could I plug in my InFocus projector?  She immediately chatted me back a link to an adapter that I would need.  Then, a minute or so later, she sent another link to one that was about $6 cheaper.  I was impressed.

I told her that I would go to the Apple store on Thursday when I had some time and purchase both the computer and the adapter.  She suggested that if I order it online before 5:00pm that I could have the items on my doorstep on Thursday, two days away.  Great!  I placed the order while still chatting with her.   She walked me through the process and stayed online with me until I received my confirmation.  She then asked me for the order number that I received via email so she could confirm that everything was in order.

Just wanted to share with you that this is the way it is done.  No hesitation.  No pressure.  No frustration.  No guessing how to do things.  No wondering if I made the right decision.  This customer service rep held my hand through the entire transaction.

How about your business?  Does your team go the distance with your customers?  Please let me know.  I would love to share your story with others.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do You Know Your MVV?

"A mission statement is not something you write overnight... But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life."---  Stephen Covey 

Thankfully the economy is picking up steam and most of you are back at, or exceeding, 2008 successes.  Congratulations!  But let's not be sitting on our laurels.  (Mary Kay Ash once said that a laurel sat upon isn't worth anything).  Now is the time to market like its 2008 and you really, really, really need the business.  It is also a time to make sure all of your team members are on board with the company's mission and vision.

If business has been so good that everyone is being pulled in all directions just to keep up, or even if you've hired the best you can and all is running smoothly, make time this month to review your Missionand Vision Statements to make sure you are on course and communicating your Values.  

Knowing these inside and out provides clarity for your brand and helps you to better communicate this brand to your team members and customers.  

Here are three quick ways to get this accomplished:

1.) What do you Value? This is the starting point for the Mission and Vision Statements.  Knowing what you value establishes the foundation for everything else in the business.  It gives direction and serves as a light in the darkness when things may go south.  When you know and understand what it is that you stand for, every decision you make becomes easier because the cloudiness isn't there.  The fuzziness doesn't exist because your compass is clearly showing you the way.

2.) See if the Mission is impossible-  If you pull out your Mission Statement and it is covered with dust, give it a quick review to see if it still applies.  If it doesn't, if your business no longer follows the plan, chunk it!  Schedule a time with your team to re-write one and this time plaster it all over the office, shop, restrooms, smartphones, and vehicles.  This will save you countless hours of aggravation and disappoint later.  Your Mission defines the direction of the company.

3.) How is your Vision? - The Vision Statement is different from your Mission Statement in that it defines the optimal desired future state, or the mental picture of what an organization wants to achieve over time.  It functions as the North Star providing guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years.  Does your Vision Statement do that?  Is it relevant to where you see your business down the road?  If not, like the Mission Statement, schedule a Vision Statement building party and nail it down.

Do you know your MVV?  When you do, the direction of your company and the brand of your business is easier to communicate, easier to focus on, and easier to achieve.  What are you doing today with your business?

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