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.

web analytics tool