Employee Hiring: Knowing What To Ask

In an era of increased competition and slimmer margins, one of the most critical components to an organization’s success is people. Hiring the right employees will enable you capture the market and take your company to the next level. Hiring the wrong employee can literally cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Many managers feel that hiring employees tends to be a game of roulette. They think that hiring is a total risk and you never really know how that employee will do.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can reduce hiring risk by focusing on one key component of the process — the dreaded interview. Interviews are often thought of as time consuming, stressful, and tedious for both the interviewer and interviewee.

As an interviewer, which questions you ask, how you ask them, and who the person is sitting across from you are all moving targets. At times, this whole process is similar to shooting ducks in a carnival game. The interviewer keeps trying to hit the candidate with enough questions to pin them down and get the info they need, while the candidate is focused on going back and forth to give you the answers they think you want to hear.

As recruiters, we interview six to seven candidates each and every day for agronomy businesses. The best questions to flush out high performers have become clear over time. In this process, we find the most valuable and telling question we ask is: “Why do you want to make a change?” This question can be asked in a couple of other ways such as:

•  What circumstances bring you here today?

•  Why do you want to make this career change?

This open-ended question can catch some candidates off-guard and set the interviewer up for a straight and unprepared answer. In fact, the answer we are listening for is as much about timing and pauses as it is about what they say. Some candidates will discuss opportunity for personal growth, passion for your product line, or family reasons. Yet others may list problems with their current employer, their performance, dislike of their direct supervisor, and potential insubordination. Without too much effort, you can get them to reveal both positive and negative character traits.

However, it’s really the pause that we listen for. If you ask the question and the candidate pauses, they are thinking about how they will answer the question. A pause here can mean that they haven’t fully thought out why they want to make a change and may not be fully committed to change. We recommend probing further and asking tough follow up-questions here if there is a pause to determine what’s really motivating them to make a change or if they are really ready to make a change. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.

The big “red flag” answers are those that include money motivated changes or problems with a direct supervisor. Probe further if an issue with a supervisor or co-worker is the motivator. Is it just this one individual? Or does this person find fault with any supervisor? Do they blame supervisors, and not themselves, for their lack of success?

One of the few reasons we welcome is “the organization has run out of opportunities for me to grow my career.” You as the interviewer will have to verify the lack of opportunity, but a person that is driven to succeed and grow is one that we purposely look for as a top recruit. When we place a candidate like this with our clients, they are consistently among the top performers down the road.

While this answer may potentially point out a great candidate, you need to determine if you can handle them as an employee. Ask yourself the question “can I keep this person challenged and provide them with opportunities to move up if they are successful, or will they feel stuck and look for another career change in two years?”

Now For Some Fun

If you ask ANY candidate to talk about how they approach the market or a customer, they’ll all talk about value, customer service, and getting the job done. They all prepare for those typed questions and have prepared responses. We have a question we’ve used that can ferret out some interesting answers and reveal to the interviewer some interesting perspectives.

That question is: “Is it possible to make too much money?”

To get the best answer, silence is critical. The interviewer cannot say a thing until the candidate answers the question. Money has such an aura. We all want it; it’s why we’re in business. People crave it, and they know it is a powerful tool personally and for our businesses. Let that aura sink in and see what kind of response you get.

This question forces the interviewee to think on their toes. It’s highly unlikely that they have prepared for a question like this and you get a true glimpse at how they approach money. Answers to this question are as wide and varied as the candidates you interview and sometimes you must read between the lines to interpret their response. Many times the candidate will talk personally about money, about customers, or about the entire organization. At any rate, you will certainly get an interesting answer.

There may not be a right or wrong answer here. However, if eyes are considered “the window to the soul,” the answer to this question can be the window to a candidate’s motivation and priorities.

Do You Have Any Questions?

All of us probably use a question similar to: “Do you have any questions for me?” But many interviewers fail to recognize its true potential. It is probably the second most asked question in interviews after “tell me a little bit about yourself,” but far more important when targeting top talent.

Observe them closely. Did they prepare a list of standard questions you can get off the Internet? Did they research the company and/or position enough to have a few targeted questions prepared? Do they just “wing it” and throw an unprepared question at you? Or do they take your question as a sign that the interview is ending and head for the door?

We have found that when this question is asked, interviewers tend to relax and let their guard down. It is at this point that we actually work hardest to listen, and pay close attention to the candidate’s process and thoughts. It’s safe to assume that if they researched the opportunity and prepared questions ahead of time, then they are serious about the opening. It also gives you insight into their ability to prepare and pay attention to details — a skill top salespeople and managers possess. Additionally, if they “wing it” and come up with solid questions without preparation, it’s an indication they think well on their feet. This could also be a sign they don’t have a fear of speaking interpersonally — which is needed to interface with customers.

While these three questions can’t provide you with a hiring guarantee, they will give you a considerable amount of insight into those you meet with and can improve your odds of hiring the right candidates. If used correctly along with an additional group of questions, you will improve your hiring accuracy as a result.

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Employee Hiring: Knowing What To Ask

  1. The link at the end of the article for the interview guide did not work. Is there another way to obtain the information?
    Thank you.

  2. The link at the end of the article for the interview guide did not work. Is there another way to obtain the information?
    Thank you.

Employees Stories

Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Training Scholarships
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
EmployeesASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour: 10 Things We Learned
May 10, 2016
In the Midwestern ag retail world, the last week of April and the first two weeks of May are akin Read More
Purdue Online Course Screenshot
EmployeesPurdue Center Offers Online Course For Ag Sales Professionals
March 16, 2016
A new online course from Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business will help sales managers and advanced salespeople Read More
Trending Articles
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Latest News
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Shareholder Proposes Monsanto ‘Host…
July 20, 2016
One of Bayer AG’s top 20 shareholders said Wednesday it may make sense for the life-science company to launch an Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsNew Leaf Symbiotics Snags Former Monsanto Microbials Le…
July 20, 2016
NewLeaf Symbiotics, announced today the appointment of Dr. Janne Kerovuo as Vice President for Research and Discovery.  Dr. Kerovuo comes Read More
Corn and ditch
ManagementStudy: Saturated Buffers Reduce Nitrates From Subsurfac…
July 19, 2016
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dr. Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentAgronomists, CCAs, Custom Applicators Invited To FSR Ag…
July 19, 2016
Agronomists, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and custom applicators can stay current on agronomy issues on the grounds of the Farm Read More
Soybean Field
LegislationOhio Soybean Association Names Brian Hill Legislator Of…
July 19, 2016
The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) has announced that State Representative Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) has been named one of two Legislators of Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Latest Monsanto Rumors: A Game Of Tones
July 18, 2016
When companies are engaged in the back-and-forth of the acquisition game, the tone of their various announcements is always important. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsWest Central Distribution Introduces New Elite Family O…
July 14, 2016
West Central Distribution recently released a new line of Elite adjuvants to work alongside the new herbicide technologies that combat Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsBayer Makes New Offer For Monsanto
July 14, 2016
Bayer AG boosted its takeover offer for Monsanto Co. to about $65 billion in a bid to overcome the U.S. Read More
ManagementAn Update on Water
July 14, 2016
CropLife Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matthew Grassi discuss agricultural water issues in conjunction with a recent field trip in Ohio. Read More
Co-Alliance employee
EmployeesNew Purdue Program To Focus On Talent Management
July 14, 2016
Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business is starting a new professional development program to help food and agribusiness Read More
Industry NewsFMC Agricultural Solutions Appoints New Global Regulato…
July 14, 2016
FMC Corp. has named Andy Hedgecock as Global Regulatory Affairs Director for FMC Agricultural Solutions. He joins the company this Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechWhat Can Inoculants Do For You?
July 13, 2016
When it comes to preventing disease and promoting growth in your plants, who couldn’t use a helping hand? By forming Read More
Microbes
Seed/BiotechMighty Farming Microbes: Companies Harness Bacteria To …
July 13, 2016
What if farmers, instead of picking up some agricultural chemicals at their local dealer, picked up a load of agricultural Read More