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Personnel Interviewing Tip
Here* is a way to glean much more information about a job candidate during the interview process.

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If you are in a job setting where a tour of your office or job site is possible, then this tip is for you. You should always give your job candidate a good look at your operation and a tour of your facility can serve this purpose. Such a tour can also give you loads of important information about the candidate that you cannot get from the formal interview. This is because during the tour, the candidate becomes involved in real-time interaction with the work environment and other employees. You can observe the candidate actually interacting with others and with the workplace itself.
Before you embark upon a tour, you need to have a plan and you need to practice. You need to get it your head that you are NOT giving a tour but rather, you are observing a person to whom you are giving a tour. There's a subtle but big difference! Your tour needs to be informative to the job candidate and should cover as many areas in your workplace environment as are practical given your particular time constraints. Try some of the following techniques to learn more about the job candidate:
  • Introduce the candidate to a variety of people in your organization as your tour progresses. Pick people that would be considerably higher in the organization than the candidate and pick some that would be considerably lower. Pick some that are white collar and some that are blue collar. And be sure to find the janitor if you can! Then evaluate the following:
    • Did you detect any difference in attitude of the candidate towards employees s(he) met? Was there more interest in talking with the VP of Operations than with the Janitor?
    • How did the candidate interact with the employees s(he) met? Was it a ho-hum deal or did the candidate express sincere interest in the employee and what they were doing?
    • Pay attention to how your current employees are reacting to the candidate. Do you see a theme of positive or negative reactions?
    • Pay particular attention to the answers to the "How are you today?" question most of your current employees will ask the candidate as they are being introduced. You can get a good deal of information about where the candidate falls on what we call the "optimist vs. pessimist scale" An optimist will reply, "Great!", or "Fine". A pessimist will reply, "Not to bad". "Not too bad" is as good as it gets and it goes down hill from there.
    • Pay attention to any comments the candidates make about the employees s(he) has met during the tour. Does the candidate say "She seems nice", or "He has a tough job". Does a theme of negativism or enthusiasm emerge from these comments? Candidates that say nothing at all may just be shy or quiet and that's OK. Other candidates may have constructive positive comments to make and this tells you lots about their team player orientation. Still others have a tone of cynicism or negativism about them and this is a red flag! For example, one candidate might observe that "Sally has a tough job to do there" while another might ask "Why does the company make Sally work so hard?" Every single reaction a candidate has to employees s(he) meets tells you loads about the candidate. You just need to learn to look and listen for the clues!
  • Introduce the candidate to a variety of technologies your company uses in its daily business. Show the candidates the computers and computer rooms. Show him or her the cook stoves and restrooms if you are a restaurant. Show them the rocket motors and design tools. What ever your company uses in the way of tools and parts to build products, show them to the candidate (you should, of course, avoid sensitive or secret areas of your company). Then evaluate the following:
    • What comments and observations does the candidate make along the way about what s(he) is observing? Do their comments verify or deny any claims they may have made in the interview or on their application about familiarity with your business or products?
    • Do their comments reflect a general orientation to positive or negative thinking? One candidate might say, "You sure have a lot of outdated equipment here!" and another might say, "Your production looks great given how old this equipment is!" One candidate might say "This equipment looks pretty dirty to me." and another might ask "Would this machine run faster if the grease were cleaned away from the drive chain?"
    • Does the candidate demonstrate an inquisitive, interested nature by asking questions or making interesting observations?
    • Does the candidate demonstrate an ability to ask clarifying questions? Every business will have technologies and tools that most candidates will not fully understand. Look for questions or comments from the candidate that help the candidate clarify what s(he) is observing. This would demonstrate the candidates skill level in sorting out issues and in problem solving.
    • Does the candidate spend his or her time telling YOU everything they know about a subject, technology, or tool or do they spend time listening and learning from you?
    • Does the candidate just talk TOO much?
    • Is the candidate "getting" what you are saying or demonstrating?
    • Does the candidate comment upon blatantly obvious safety issues that are observed?
    • Does the candidate actually ACT upon observations that you would expect most employees to act upon? For example, just purposely walk over a paper cup laying in an isle someplace and see if the candidate picks it up to throw it in the trash. Have an employee carrying a big load of boxes trying to open a door and see if the candidate jumps in to open the door for the struggling employee. While it may not be important to you whether or not an employee picks up trash inside the office, it is important to you as an interviewer to understand the level of observation being demonstrated by the candidate. Some candidates will never even notice the paper cup in the aisle. Others will just not care. Still others may care but be unsure whether to act or not in the interview/tour setting and this is quite OK. The point is, your tour will give you plenty of opportunities to detect how observant the candidate is.
    • Can you detect the level of common sense possessed by the candidate as you tour the tools and technology of your company? Pay close attention to his or her behavior and observations and you should be able to assess this important issue.
    • Pay close attention to what candidates DO NOT say. In every work environment, there are things to see or experience that you would expect most people to make some comment about. If your candidate is not making such comments, perhaps they are very shy or perhaps they are just not paying attention
    • Listen for the candidate's overall impression of what s(he) is seeing and experiencing. Some will express being somewhat overwhelmed by it all because there is so much to take in (a very good sign). Others will express a complete understanding of what they are seeing or experiencing (not a very good sign)..
  • Use the tour to assess the me/we/they orientation of the candidate. Some people are self absorbed and others are team players. Some see the game of employment as "us" (the employees) against "them" (the employer). Others see it as a more cooperative effort. Pay attention to the following on this issue:
    • How does the candidate phrase his or her observations? Do they say "We used to do it this way." or "I used to do it this way."?
    • Does the candidate ask "Why does the company only pay overtime after 10 hours in a day?" or "Why do you only pay overtime after 10 hours in a day?"? In the first instance, the candidate is separating him or herself from the company and in the second they are not making that distinction.
    • During the tour, does the candidate make a subtle or even obvious shift from talking and thinking about the company as an outsider to one of and insider? Many candidates who are very comfortable with the job environment they are viewing will begin to say things like "If we did this, that result would happen". instead of "If you did this, that result would happen". Pay very close attention to this important clue! It will happen inadvertently with candidates who strongly identify with you and what your company is doing. It most often indicates a candidate who is an excellent team player. In some cases it indicates someone who is cocky and thinks they already have the job. The other clues detected along the tour route will help you tell the difference.

Finally, be cautious about quickly drawing conclusions with candidates that make very few comments. Some are quiet and are good listeners but don't make many observations. Others just don't get it! But you often cannot tell the difference with quiet candidates.

Let's take a tour

We could go on forever here. But you get the idea. Take your job candidates on a tour and then pay close attention to the candidate. You can vary the themes discussed here endlessly to suit your own business.

There are very few situations where a tour of the facilities or work environment is not practical. The photograph on the left depicts one of the few we thought of. So, take the time and take your candidate around for a walk. You'll be surprised what you will learn!

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*Disclaimer: Neal & Associates provides these tips as general guidelines. Consult with the appropriate policies in your company and applicable Federal, State, and local laws and regulations before implementing them.

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