Archives For Step 5 – Assessing Top Candidates

Always conduct background checks on your candidates before you finalize an employment offer. We’ve heard too many hiring horror stories that result from skipping this step! Additionally, to ensure your candidate is the perfect fit, we recommend our work behaviors, attitudes and skills assessments.

“In the interview he seemed like Brad Pitt, but once I hired him he was more like Danny De Vito.”

Business owners, I love you – but you don’t know how to hire.

You interview a candidate for a couple of hours or maybe even take him out for a meal. And if you are really thorough, you call a few of his references. While he’s got a few quirks, you hire him and hope to work alongside him for years to come.

personality profiles

Now come on! Do you buy a house that quickly? Or a car? When you think about it, the hiring practices of business owners are kind of crazy!

The challenge is that you can’t “test drive” your job candidates. You need to fill a job, and they need to get a job. The window is (hopefully) short for both of you. So how do you “get to know” a candidate really well in a short period of time? How can you more quickly learn who this person is and how they will fit with your team?

The only way I have found to do this is to conduct a personality profile assessment. This assessment, usually taken online, asks questions about a candidate’s temperament and personality and then delivers a report outlining the candidate’s profile. When you compare the candidate’s profile with the profile of your other team members, you can see whether the person is a fit or not.

I rarely see a profile that’s “bad” or “wrong for the position.” Instead I’m asking, “What are the risks and opportunities in hiring this person?” Sometimes a team needs a diversity of personalities to get the work done, but knowing how different people think can head off problems. For example:

  • When hiring for a role on a very fast-paced team with a lot of team members who like to give verbal direction, I saw a qualified candidate who was process-oriented and loved detail. This candidate would be a terrific fit, if the team could find a way to accommodate the candidate’s need to process new information and desire to get things in writing. This profile prompted a discussion that eliminated a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.
  • A very visionary, strong-willed client is hiring an assistant whose personality profile reveals that he is very concrete and pragmatic. How will the assistant get the detailed direction he needs? Will the manager be willing to slow down in order to answer all of his questions? If not it’s a disaster — if so he can really fill in a weak spot that the manager has.
  • An introverted finance person joins a team of highly extroverted salespeople as a pricing analyst. How will the team accommodate his need for greater analysis time? How will the introvert accommodate the team’s strong desire to brainstorm and problem-solve verbally?

These are real issues that come up all the time during the hiring process. Using a reliable, accurate, and well researched tool can help to head these issues off at the hiring stage and pave the way for a more successful hire.

What kind of tools do you use to make your hiring more successful?

Brad FarrisBrad Farris is a small business advisor with Anchor Advisors, Ltd. in Chicago, IL. Since 2001 Anchor Advisors has been helping creative professional firms to grow, by helping them clarify their purpose, get the most from their people, keep their eye on key performance measures, and implement consistent processes. Brad is also the author of 3 e-books and managing editor of EnMast, a business owner community. Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

Young workgroupAs baby-boomers continue to retire, it is more and more obvious that we need to start building a replacement workforce. When previous experience doesn’t exist, think about hiring for behaviors and teaching skills.

Some of the areas you might explore include the candidate’s school record. Many high schools will share information about the student’s attendance in class and grades. Ask candidates for names of teachers who can verify their participation and ability to learn new things.

Another area to explore is participation in extra-curricular activities such as scouts, sports and volunteering. If the candidate has shown an interest in getting involved and committing to participation, this can be a good indication of the ability to work well with others and work towards a common goal.

If the candidate has been working in a different industry, try to verify his/her work history with previous employers. Was the candidate dependable, did he or she follow policies and rules? Was the candidate helpful to others? Is the candidate a job hopper? Did the candidate grow within the position or was the candidate promoted to other departments? Did the candidate express an interest to learn new things? Was the candidate considered an asset in the department? Did the candidate work all assigned overtime? Why did the candidate leave? What was the candidate’s greatest strength and where did he/she need improvement?

These questions can be easily verified by asking the candidate what the previous employer will say. Since many employers will be happy to verify what you already know, ask the candidate to write down answers to a variety of questions and then send the questions off to the previous employer for verification.

Using techniques to help you understand previous behaviors will lead to better hiring decisions in the long-run. Most skills need to be learned and training someone with a solid work ethic will pay off in the long run.


Karla Dobbeck

Karla Dobbeck is a certified professional in Human Resource Management with over 20 years of experience in many aspects of human resource management; including placements, employment law compliance, policy and system design and development, and supervisory and employee training. Her clients include professional & business organizations, privately held companies and associations. To learn more, visit

How to tell candidate is lying picture

Just as you might put on your best clothes, smile, and fib a little to impress a first date, job candidates sometimes do the same thing when trying to get a job. When dating someone new, you don’t get to really know the person until several dates in – when the “honeymoon” phase starts to wear off.

Hiring an employee is the same way except you don’t have very many “dates” to get to know who they really are. It’s important to find if they’re lying to you right away to prevent you from making a bad hire.

A lot of candidates lie

According to the Society of Human Resources Management, 53% of all job applications contain inaccurate information. The Wall Street journal also found that 34% of all application forms contain outright lies about experience, education, and ability to perform essential functions on the job.(1)

And to add the 9% of job applicants who falsely claim they have a college degree, list false employers, or have identified jobs that didn’t exist.(2)

These are some pretty substantial numbers – how are they getting away with this? 

There are a few websites out there that candidates are using to back up their lies. sells fake job references for candidates and boasts the following on their website:

“We will act as your very own human resource department and supervisor using one of ours/or your virtual company. Verifying your name, job title, job description, work dates and answer any questions with a positive reference in a professional, business like manner.”

It gets worse. sells a book on how to “fill in the gaps” on your resume with false information, written by a former recruiter:

“There are a lot of legitimate reasons for writing a fake resume. Perhaps your current job title didn’t properly convey all the duties or responsibilities that you had. Maybe you are unemployed for a period of time. Everyone knows that doesn’t look good on your resume. Did you assist a manager who was incompetent and wouldn’t give you a good reference if his life depended on it? The bottom line is if you know you can do the job, why shouldn’t you fluff up your resume a bit?”

Why shouldn’t you? …Well, maybe personal integrity or ethical standards, to name a couple of reasons.

And if that wasn’t enough, provides fake references as well. They even go as far as claiming:

“If you’re calling us from London, Sydney or even Texas, we’ll assign a voice actor with the appropriate accent to “Fit” that [anywhere in] the World!”

How to combat lying candidates

If their nose isn’t growing and their pants aren’t on fire, it may be hard to identify when someone is lying in an interview. Here’s a few ways you can spot lying candidates:

1. Take your time – ask for the same information in different ways

If a candidate makes claims that seem to good to be true, ask for more details and then ask again a different way. Don’t be afraid to be surprised at an answer. Ask “Did you really do all that?” or “What other help did you have with the project that you haven’t mentioned yet?” Asking about information in multiple ways will help you find flaws in their stories if they’re lying.

2. Use Brad Smart’s “TORC – Threat of Reference Check”

Tell the candidate as the interview starts that you will be confirming all the information you gather in the interview with the candidate’s references. It will make a candidate think twice before lying to you.

3. Ask questions only qualified people would know on your job application

If your candidate is truly qualified for the job, he/she should be able to answer some basic questions about the line of work they’ll be doing. You can even weed them out even before they step in your office by asking job knowledge questions on the job application. For example, if you’re hiring a baker, you may ask:

1. What in chocolate cake makes the cake rise? 

a. Baking soda
b. Yeast
c. Chocolate
d. Flour

If they answer “b. Yeast,” you probably don’t want them cooking in your kitchen. It’s best to put their application in the “NO” pile.

4. Conduct skills testing – make sure they can actually do the job

If they do answer the questions correctly in the application, conduct skills tests to make sure they can actually fulfill the basic job functions. For example, if you’re hiring an accountant, they should be pretty familiar with spreadsheets. Test them on their Excel skills or conduct other skills tests to make sure they can actually do the job, and not just claim that they can.

5. Background checks – a few bucks up front can save you thousands later

We’ve had plenty of candidates tell us that they have nothing on their record, but their background checks say otherwise. It’s better to spend the few bucks up front and find out if they have a history of theft before they start stealing from you.

Always verify candidate information

A bad hire can cost you thousands of dollars (not to mention lots of headaches), so it’s best to do it right the first time. Always conduct background checks and tests on your candidates, and trust your gut if you suspect they’re lying and verify their information.


(2) Resume Inflation: Two Wrongs May Mean No Rights, by Barbara Kat Repa,, 2001

It’s a never-ending debate and a never-ending topic of interest. Who are the best Sales Reps and what characteristics do they share?

I believe that “pleasant persistence” should be a key behavior characteristic in the Sales Reps we hire. How do I define this trait? It is a willingness to engage in repeated interactions with many, many people in a way that communicates that the Sales Rep simultaneously values the prospect’s time and values the product/service the Sales Rep is selling.

This stance contradicts certain conventional wisdom. Many people believe that the best sales people are aggressive and extroverted, often called “Hunters” who eat what they kill. This makes the prospect “game!”

A recent Havard Business Review blog post adds some data to the debate: Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople – Steve W. Martin – Harvard Business Review. The result? Modesty and Conscientiousness are the two behavior traits most highly correlated to success in sales.

What do you think of this result?

Now, everyone has their favorite behavior/personality assessments. (Meyers-Brigg, DISC, Devine, Caliper… the list goes on and on) I’ve been exposed to many and find them valuable when used appropriately. Here’s what I consider an appropriate use of behavior assessments. Use them to:

– understand the behavior requirement of the particular position for which you are recruiting
– integrate the identified behaviors into your job description
– assess candidates against the benchmarked behaviors
– engage candidates in a conversation about the behaviors you require
– determine whether or not the candidate models the required behaviors during the entire recruiting process
– say “No” to candidates who don’t match your require profile

Please note that I did not recommend that you use your assessment of choice as a “knockout.” Behavior assessments are NOT math tests. They are not 100% accurate and are best used as guide during the recruiting process.

Hire better salespeople NewHireLooking to hire your own sales superstar? Check out our Roadmap on How to Hire Better Salespeople. You’ll learn the 3 job boards you have to be on to engage with sales talent, the assessment strategy you’ll never hire another sales rep without, and the best interview tips for hiring sales reps. Get it here…

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the importance of Checklists. I was asked recently if I had a Checklist for Hiring. I do and here it is:

10 critical things to know before you make an offer.

Ask yourself, Is the person…

1. The “Best Available Talent
2. Legally eligible (has to provide proof!)
3. Reference and background checked
4. Able to work in the place(s) and for the time required
5. Pleased to accept the compensation offered
6. Able to do the work…
a demonstrated capacity (not experience) to do the job
7. Able to learn and adapt
8. Time Horizon minimally acceptable (likely to do the job for x years)
9. Going to get along with others in your environment
(NOT a recommendation for a homogenous environment)
10. Someone you are looking forward to seeing everyday

Love to hear what you think. Did I miss any? Do you disagree with any?

According to this morning’s Chicago Tribune 18 states and the U. S. House of Represetatives are considering bills that would restrict the use of credit checks in pre-employment screening.

This is an important topic and we’ve addressed this topic several times. Here’s what we think:

1. Only use credit checks of prospective employees if in their job function will involve access to your money.

  • If you are hiring a sales rep who will travel, get a company car, an expense account, a company credit card or the like, by all means check to see how they handle their credit.
  • If you are hiring a graphic designer, or a customer service rep with no access to company financial instruments, then you have no good reason to check credit.

2. If you are going to do background checks, obtain written permission from the prospect, but go one step further.

  • Ask the prospect before you do the check if there’s is anything that you are going to find that the prospect would like to discuss in advance. Think of this as an integrity check.
  • Balance the information revealed with the nature of the issue. Think about how you would like to be treated and treat the prospect with the same respect and thoughtfulness.

3. Reveal negative information reported by credit check (or any other kind of check) to the prospect.

  • Many states require that you do this, especially if the result affects your decision to hire or not. Get an employment attorney to review your options and recommend a course of action before you take action with the prospect.


Recent question from a client that I thought might be of general interest: Do you have a format that you typically use for reference checking? What do you typically look for and what is the role of the reference checking in your view? What should not be expected of reference checking?

There are various perspectives on the value of reference checking. Brad Smart, of Topgrading fame, thinks it’s the most important part of the recruiting process. For his perspective you can get “The Smart Interviewer” at Amazon for about $20. Perhaps the most useful tidbit Smart provides is the concept of “TORC” or “Threat Of Reference Check.” Smart argues persuasively that informing candidates at the beginning of the interview that the interviewer will be checking the candidates’ answers with references ensures more truthful responses.

I think it’s important and necessary to check references but not particularly helpful. Mostly we use them in a negative context. We assume that just about any one can find 2 people to say something really nice about them. If references seem hesitant or unsure we may take this as a negative sign. We had a recent case where a client, doing their own reference checks, reported a false reference right at the end of the recruiting process. He checked 4 references for a sales job. Having a hard time reaching the 4th person he asked the candidate for help. The candidate immediately made available her boyfriend using a false name. Needless to say, the candidate didn’t get the job.

So, as a process, I think it’s helpful. You must keep expectations relatively low and you must listen to glowing references with a skeptical ear. If you have a particular concern about a candidate’s suitability for a position it is helpful to question references specifically about that concern in as much detail as possible.

If you do check references make sure you stick to a script that helps you avoided questions that could lead to negligent hiring claims, such as age, race, gender, and disability issues. Almost more than candidates themselves, references may be sensitive to these issues and report back to the candidate.

Here’s a link to the Reference Check Template that we use a NewHire. Feel free to make use of it. And don’t hesitate to ask me for help, if you need it.

TurduckenWe’re often asked, “What can we ask, what can’t we ask, when it comes to background checks.” I’m always concerned that my answers sound “fuzzy.” My concern is alleviated. Not that I have an answer, but that the answer truly is fuzzy.

From today’s New York Times comes an article about an appeals court case involving background checks for employees of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

It turns out that privacy law, when applied to pre-employment fact checking, has been called a “Turducken,” by a prominent appeals court judge in San Francisco.

For those you not in the “culinary know,” a Turducken combines 3 deboned fowl stuffed one inside another: a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a Turkey. I’ve never tasted it though I’d like too one day (I just don’t want to put in the effort myself).

For this judge the description was about what a “mash-up” employment law is when it comes to privacy. He hopes the Supreme Court will take up the issue to provide clear guidance.

Our advice to clients remains the same for now:

1. Make sure that any check you do is relevant to job performance
2. If you’re not willing to deny a candidate employment based on the result, don’t do the check. (You’re just wasting time and money.)
3. By law, you must share negative results that have an adverse consequence with the candidate.

Credit checks on prospective employees are more and more common. But are they appropriate?  I’ve been getting asked this question often lately.

My answer:  it depends on whether or not the future employee will be handling your money.

Will he be handling cash? Then, by all means check out his credit.

Are you going to issue her a company mobile phone or laptop? Yep, check.

Other reasons to check:  general financial duties (AP, AR, bookkeeping, accounting)… probably an excellent idea.

But what if your employee’s duties do not expose you to financial risk?  Then I think you can skip the credit check.

Whether or not you choose to check, though, it’s important to know how to do it properly and what to do with the information once you have it. I’ve linked here to an excellent Wall Street Journal article that does the best job I’ve seen in helping us understand the ins and outs of credit reports and scores.

The article reviews new websites that offer consumers the ability to check their credit score for free. Importantly, Credit Scores (like FICO) are different from Credit Reports. There is no standard Credit Score, different entities calculate them differently and they can be highly inaccurate.

Credit Reports are detailed histories of an individual’s credit and are prepared by one of the big three credit agencies:  Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

When we obtain a Credit background check on behalf of a client it is always a credit report… never a score.

If you do choose to check out someone’s credit, be careful how you use it. Here are some things to consider (there may be others as well):

  • You must obtain signed authorization from the person who’s credit you wish to check. Use a standard form provided by the firm that is going to do the check
  • Be careful to treat the information confidentially; share it with no one outside your organization and only those with a legitimate reason to know inside your company
  • Provide a copy to the candidate if asked
  • If you believe the Credit Check will have an adverse impact on your hiring decision contact an employment attorney to learn the proper procedure to notify the candidate
  • In a recruiting effort, if you check the credit of one top candidate, check the credit for all of them

From the Wall Street Journal: Credit Scores: Can You Get Them Free?


This from today’s Chicago Tribune: Attorney may face disciplinary action over ad seeking secretary on Craigslist

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I think this lawyer needs a lawyer. Among all the hiring sins he committed and there are MANY, perhaps the biggest was writing it all down. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps the biggest was his vile expectation and treatment of women and employees.