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

Employee Training Employees at Silverado Ranch Supply receive monthly training that focuses on how to read labels, handle hazardous materials, document use of hazardous and other materials, and actions to take in an emergency situation. Source: Lindsay Dixon, consultant, Silverado Ranch Supply, Yerington, NV
EmployeesTop 10 Employee Retention Mistakes
March 9, 2015
Ag retailers are constantly looking to please their best employees, but many err in how they attempt to retain them. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
EmployeesThe Three Keys To Employee Success
February 12, 2015
Everyone hiring in the agricultural markets has three major concerns to address. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholarships
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
EmployeesThe Importance Of Employee On-Boarding
September 4, 2014
A key component to employee retention is sometimes overlooked in the business. Here is a brief guide on how to implement and carry through with such a plan. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division Facilities Receive Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification
July 13, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Feed Division, a marketer and distributor of value-added feed ingredients for the aquaculture, livestock and pet food industries Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Expands To Brazil With Acquisition
July 8, 2015
BRANDT has acquired a majority interest in Target Brasil Fertilizantes Ltda. through its Brazilian subsidiary. Target Brasil manufactures, distributes and Read More
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
FungicidesReport: Sudden Death Syndrome Symptoms Appearing In Soy…
July 30, 2015
Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’s Read More
Seed/BiotechAdvanta Seeds Adds New Phoenix Corn Hybrids
July 30, 2015
Corn growers in the High Plains and Western states have new options available for the 2016 growing season from Advanta Read More
ManagementTechnology and agriculture: a Futurist’s Perspective
July 30, 2015
Futurist David Zach, speaking at this week’s InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, shared thoughts on the benefits and limitations of Read More
Biofuels Plant in Lousiana
Industry NewsIdle Biofuels Plant In Louisiana To Reopen As Ammonia F…
July 30, 2015
A Lithuania-based company plans to spend $265 million to reopen an idle biofuels refinery in Grant Parish as an ammonia Read More
FFA at Monsanto Booth at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
Industry NewsFive Students Receive The 2015 Monty’s Plant Food Compa…
July 29, 2015
This fall, five college-bound students will have financial support through the Monty’s Plant Food Company FFA Scholarship. All five scholarship Read More
GYPSOIL Blendable Pellets
Crop InputsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches Pelletized Gypsum …
July 29, 2015
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) announced this week at Ag Media Summit that its GYPSOIL Pelletized Products Division will open a Read More
StewardshipOhio Water Quality Project To Determine How Much Phosph…
July 27, 2015
Researchers with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University are looking for farmers in Read More
FertilizerKoch Agronomic Services Launches N-TEGRATION Technology
July 27, 2015
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC (KAS) has launched  N-TEGRATION Technology, a process technology platform designed to enable production of enhanced efficiency fertilizers at Read More
HerbicidesExpert: IARC Herbicide Classifications Leading To Confu…
July 24, 2015
Few people in the crop protection industry had heard of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) before this Read More
ManagementFCI Trade Summit Update & Precision Tank Turns 50
July 23, 2015
Editors Dave Frabotta and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the upcoming FCI Trade Summit in Las Vegas, NV, and how Precision Tank Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesUSDA Deregulates Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Cotton Trait
July 23, 2015
The USDA today issued its decision deregulating Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist cotton trait in the U.S. The USDA has now completed its Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Showcases Versatile Product Por…
July 23, 2015
Technology has revolutionized agriculture by bringing farmers, retailers and distributors to the forefront of the digital age. To meet the Read More
FertilizerWSJ: Cf Industries Exploring Merger With Dutch Chemical…
July 23, 2015
U.S. fertilizer maker CF Industries is in advanced merger talks with Amsterdam-listed chemical company OCI NV, the Wall Street Journal Read More
HerbicidesNufarm Releases New Panther SC Herbicide
July 23, 2015
Nufarm has announced the availability of new Panther SC herbicide. Panther SC is the first liquid formulation of flumioxazin available Read More
EquipmentFarmLink Launches Farm Equipment Sharing Program
July 23, 2015
FarmLink has introduced a new online farm equipment sharing community – MachineryLink Sharing – leveraging this new economy business model Read More
HerbicidesCould The South’s Most Troublesome Weed Represent A Thr…
July 22, 2015
Palmer amaranth is undoubtedly the most troublesome weed in the southern United States, taking a devastating toll on both cotton Read More
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Hires New Director Of International Sales
July 22, 2015
Global Agriculture firm H.J. Baker announced today that Steve Langley has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division and Animal Health Read More