Secrets to Hiring Smart: New Ways to Mix Wisdom with New Formats, Questions and Intuition

In my career the task of hiring always landed on my desk. There were other “sets of eyes” on the potential employee, but I was often the first or last set of eyes. Over the years, I relied on a unique format and questions, combined with my intuition. There is no magic recipe that will work in every situation, but I’m sharing top tips that have worked.

Let’s start with a quick and true story to test your hiring skills. Can you spot the behavior that prevented the person from becoming the next Assistant Director of Development for a charitable organization? I’ll give you the answer at the end of this article.

Colleen’s Interview

Colleen volunteered for the organization, and the Executive Director thought she would be a potential match for the position. A few employees said they liked her. The previous person who had this position moved away to get married. The organization hired me to be a last set of eyes.

Colleen walks into the interview room with an assured sense and a quick smile to the two employees whom she knows who are sitting at a small table in the room with me. She has a folder in one hand, and a paper cup of coffee in her other hand. She puts the folder on the table at one of the vacant seats where I and two other employees are standing around, turns to set her coffee on the top of a low bookshelf behind her and says: “Hi, Guys.” She takes her seat and says to the employees, “Nice to see you.”

Now, here are some tips.

I. Quick Review of Hiring Wisdom

A. Use these basic wisdoms about your company.

1. Know what positions your company needs now – and will probably need later. When you hire, keep the following wisdoms in mind.

  • Yes, you hire for skill sets, but you also hire:
  • Talent for organizational depth and growth
  • Variety of thinking styles for team-building strength.

2. Don’t act in haste. If possible, you use a temporary hiring agency to “try out” candidates.

B. Know how to scan a resume. Keep these basic wisdoms in mind about sorting through resumes and interviewing.

1. Look for skill sets, education and training, and experience that match what you need.

2. Look at how long the person has held each position. Look for:

  • Promotions as signs of trust
  • Job-hopping as signs of what – unhappiness, inability to get along with others? At the interview ask: “Tell me what worked and didn’t work for you in this position?” You ask a question that conveys both the negative and positive aspects.

3. Look to see if the person included a paragraph review of both their skills and personal characteristics. Smart applicants let you know not only what you are hiring but whom you are hiring. If the candidate does not list characteristics, ask: “What made you leave out a list of things about you? What are they?”

4. Ask traditional questions such as:

  • What are your job and career goals – long- and short-term?
  • Why did you apply for this position or company?
  • What do you know about me or this company? (If they didn’t do any homework to learn about you, ask: “Why not?” Or, “What makes this job seem like a good fit?” You are looking for someone who wants a good match and who knows who they are!)

II. New Ways for Interview Formats and Questions to Boost Your Intuition

A. Do non-competitive group interviews to save time and to boost your intuition.

1. Invite your top candidates to a casual meeting. If you have a lot of candidates, you can schedule a few group meetings. Aim for no more than 10 candidates in a group for each meeting.

2. Explain to your candidates that you like to save time by explaining the basics of the job requirements and telling them about you and your company. Be sure to tell them that this meeting is low key and non-competitive.

3. Observe how your candidates act before the actual meeting. Who mingles? Who talks too much? Who gobbles up all the food? What is the person wearing? I had one candidate show up in a dress with a plunging neckline.

4. At the actual meeting ask everyone to briefly introduce themselves. Look for people who don’t say anything positive that would present themselves as a good match. Look for people who say too much about themselves. Both extremes are signs of anxiety and insecurity. You don’t want someone who needs direction all the time – or someone who wants to be your new partner now.

5. Explain in detail the job requirements and your company.

6. Ask for questions.

7. Now ask for a show of hands of those who are still interested. Tell those who are not that they are free to leave.

B. Tell the remaining people the next step is for them to demonstrate their skills. Depending on the position and your time, you can explain that you will:

1. Arrange for them individually to shadow a current employee in the particular position. Tell the employee to give the candidate an assignment for the day or days. Get feedback from the employee.

2. Ask each person to prepare a 15 to 20-minute demonstration of their ability by doing a teaching pod, a sales pitch or cold call, writing sample – or whatever you need. You could do this on the spot or arrange for an individual meeting that will occur in no more than a week.

3. Ask each person to write on the spot about a situation at work that they didn’t handle very well. Tell them to add what they would do differently. Or, ask each person about a problem they solved at work. Tell them to add why they used a certain technique or made that decision.

4. At the end of your explanation of the next step, ask for a show of hands of people who will go to the next step. You will be amazed at how many people leave!

C. Ask these unusual questions on individual interviews to learn about their character – without asking about it!

1. Ask them to tell you about their childhood. Did they have siblings? Who was the bossy one? Who was the favorite? Who was the maverick?

2. Ask them to tell you why and how they came to live in your city – or why they want to move to your city.

3. Ask them to tell you about their top learning experiences or changing points in their life.

III. Boost Your Intuition with all or any of these exercises

A. What animal does this candidate remind you of? For example, think about different breeds of dogs.

B. One a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the highest, how certain are you that you would hire this person?

C. What adjectives describe your “take” on this person?

D. What words describe the way you are feeling about this person?

E. Where in your body are you feeling these feelings? Is your pulse racing out of anxiety? Do your legs want to get up and walk away?

F. Do you like and trust this person?

G. Imagine that you have agreed to hire this person and you have to stand up in front of the staff to explain why. Now stand up in the privacy of your office and do it out loud. What does it feel like?

Here is the answer to the story at the beginning of the article. Colleen did not get the job because she didn’t want it! The Director offered it to her, but Colleen turned it down. I knew she would not accept because I assessed her following behavior:

  • She didn’t introduce herself to me.
  • Her smile to the other employees was too quick, automatic, and insincere.
  • She turned her back to us as she said, “Hi, Guys.” And this greeting was too casual and disinterested.

How did you do?

Want to be part of my next book about empowering your intuition about love, happiness, success, and other things? I would love to hear your story. Click the link in my bio below and provide your contact information, include the word ANGEL or INTUITION in the Message box, and I’ll send you the information! Your participation will help others!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker #7132, honored for her pioneering work with women’s issues in love, life, work and family. The National Association of Social Workers has named her as One of the Fifty who has contributed to the field. She is the subject of biographical entry in many Marquis’ Who’s Who publications. Her latest self-help, research-based books are Smart Relationships and The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie, the cartoon companion book where you can follow a year of Cookie’s love missteps and learn about yours! Discover more and check out her books by signing up on her website. Visit