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

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
Agronomist and farmer on iPad inspecting weeds
EmployeesLand O’Lakes: Ag Industry Failing To Attract Next Generation
March 15, 2016
The world’s demand for food will surge by 2050, with a projected 10 billion people requiring a 70% increase in Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Scarce
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Trending Articles
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
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncontrolled Weeds
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
Latest News
ManagementWashington Visit and Bayer/Monsanto Deal Update
May 26, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discusses a recent trip to DC and the latest news on the proposed pairing Read More
Fertilizer closeup in hand
Industry NewsVerdesian: Striking A Balance Between Yield & ROI
May 26, 2016
Finely tuned nutrient management plans are helping farmers throughout the U.S. improve nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment (ROI) Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Pa…
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect 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
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, 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
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More