Before You Hire Anyone: Five Key Questions

Mel Kleiman

Before you spend a nickel on recruiting, the next time someone quits or is fired, take the time to answer the following five questions. They will help define your real needs, refine your focus, improve the hiring process and deliver higher quality employees who stay on board longer.

1. Can you do the job another way or without people? Don’t be so quick to put out the "Now Hiring" sign. Could all or part of the job be automated? Could it be outsourced? Could existing employees share the tasks? Are you taking full advantage of the efficiencies offered by technology? Think of each perceived need to hire a new person as an opportunity to rethink and possibly improve the way things are being done.

2. Why would anyone want to work for our company? It’s crucial to differentiate your business from every other employer vying for the same job applicants—especially if you want to attract the best ones. What do you offer employees that others don’t? What could you offer that others don’t? If you don’t know why someone would want to work for your company, how can you expect potential applicants to know? Ask your employees why they came on board and why they stay. The most popular answers to these questions should be the focal point of your recruiting campaign, e.g., "Fun & Friendly," "Good People/Good Pay," or "Advance with Us."

3. Would I work for this job’s manager? The number one reason good employees leave is because of their managers. These days, most employees will not stick around where they are not appreciated or where they are treated poorly. If you suspect you wouldn’t want to work for this manager, it’s time to evaluate his or her unit’s employee turnover history compared to others in like positions and consider specialized training, reassignment or separation.

4. How will I know this person is the right person for the job? Gut instinct, interviews and what the applicant tells you are not proof that the person can do the job. The proven most reliable predictor of success on the job is testing.1

In order to determine what to test for, first identify the mental and physical capacities, attitudes, experience, education and skills that it takes to do the job. How smart does this person need to be? What kind of physical strength, stamina and dexterity are required? How will you find out about attitudes like honesty, dependability, customer service and sales skills? Once you pinpoint what’s required, use testing to make sure you get it.

Every step in the hiring process should be viewed as a test. If the employment application is not filled out completely, the applicant has failed to follow instructions. Do you want to hire someone who can’t follow instructions? If the applicant is late for the interview, don’t count on him to be dependable.

You can create your own tests for skills like math, reading, writing and languages, as well as skills needed for operating machinery and office equipment. If attitudes like customer service orientation or initiative are important, ask interview questions that explore the applicant’s experiences, feelings and point of view in these areas.

You can also check out the scientifically-validated tests offered online by many specialized vendors. (Type "pre-employment testing" in your browser.)

5. What will I do to ensure the new person’s success? Orientation and training are the two obvious answers, but what you are going to do to keep your new hire happy and motivated beyond that? If you don’t know, it won’t happen. To realize the best possible return on your investment, create a plan and stick to it.


1Best Predictors of Success on the Job: Testing = 53%; Temporary job assignment = 44%; Reference check = 26%; Experience = 18%; Academic achievement = 11%; Age = –1%. Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance, 96(1), Psychological Bulletin 72-98

Mel Kleiman, CSP, can be reached at 713-771-4401 or at

First published on e-BIM.