Archives For Step 4 – Interviewing

Save yourself from terrible face-to-face interviews by doing phone screens first! We’ll coach you on how to conduct effective phone screens, or we can do them for you. Once you’ve identified candidates you’d like to bring in for interview, you can use our interviewing guidelines to help you prepare.

Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” –Brian Tracy

improving company culture

Once you have completed the hard work of recruiting and hiring it is now important to create, or expand on the essential – and sometimes overlooked – process of team building. A team that garners an attitude of trust and respect is tantamount to success.  If your employees know that they are all working toward the same goal, the individual efforts can quickly turn into fulfilling group collaborations.  Here are some suggestions for improving company culture to bring your team together.

Physical activities

The engagement of physical activities with your employees is an excellent way to not only promote health and wellness, but also promote the bonding that is unique to exercising with others. The experience of joining together in this setting can easily translate to the work environment and allow for your employees to trust each other in a different way.

The range of physical activities is extensive and can range from an office hike (if you have a smaller team) to large interdepartmental softball teams. For example, the J.M. Smucker Company holds bowling nights and softball games for its employees, and TIAA-CREF employees can play up to six sports on site. Getting people to work together on teams outside of the workplace is awesome for improving company culture. 


Attend a Speaking engagement

There are a multitude of speakers that discuss topics that can be transformative professionally and personally. Choosing a speaker that will educate your team in your field or that will enhance their personal lives is an excellent way to join together and encourage collaboration. A great way to gauge interest is to poll the work-force to see what kind of speaker or what specific speaker would be most appreciated. Successful personal and professional speakers include Eric Thomas, Ray Lewis and Steven Covey.

Surrounding area tour

Touring the town or city that you live in by boat, bus, or walking is a great way to get to know your environment with your employees and explore common areas of interest. It is especially welcoming to employees that you have relocated or that are new to the area. If you’re in a city, visit the historical district. If you’re in a rural area, take a farm/woods/park tour.


Scavenger Hunt!

Working together on a scavenger hunt is an excellent way for your team to collaborate as well as allow individuals to reveal their different skills sets under the high pressure circumstances. Everyone’s strengths and innovations are clearly on display during this challenging and surprising game, and it is a great opportunity for your team to gain new perspectives of one another.

The most comprehensive scavenger hunts ask participants to take photos of certain items with team members and give points for each photo taken. High scoring photos might include, “Team members with a Speed Limit sign that is not a multiple of 5.” Low scoring photos might include, “Team members assisting someone with their groceries.”

For a great Chicago Scavenger Hunt, please visit NewHire’s valued client, Windy City Fieldhouse.


Supporting your team members personal endeavors

If members of your staff are pursuing acting, sports, or another personal hobby, attending their event is a great way to recognize who they are as individuals outside of work, as well as build camaraderie. A show of appreciation for your team after work hours is a great reflection on how much they are a valued not just for what they do but for who they are.

Not only does team-building drive growth and productivity, but it also makes hiring and recruiting much easier, as it helps your company gain positive reviews on websites which are often visited by job applicants. These are a just a few examples on how to foster team work in your organization. Do you have any fun things in mind for improving company culture?

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Searching for a job is a lot of give and take. Especially if you are brand new to the workforce (see: the author of this post), it can be a lot more giving than taking. After all, you are leveraging a limited amount of experience against high ambitions.

“What’s your expected salary?” they ask, and you mumble back something about how your roommate with the same level of education and skills is making enough money to pay rent and buy a venti mocha every day, but you might settle for just the rent.

You apply, apply, apply and for every 30 applications, you hear back once. And if you are lucky enough to make it through a phone screening and two interviews, you have to wait. Whether two hours or two days, that wait can be nerve wracking. But if all goes well, you are hired.

Truth be told, the entire process is daunting and long. Not to mention, if you are anything like me, you may have jumped the gun on signing a lease and moving out of mom’s house before you had a job locked up.

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take that make finding the right job — and helping the right job find you — easier.


Let them see you:

A lot of job applications offer questions that are meant to weed out unqualified candidates. These screening questions allow hiring managers to see only the applicants who have the characteristics they find most important. They save both parties — employer and candidate — time and money. When faced with such questions, it is important not to sell yourself short. If you are applying to be a reporter for a newspaper and they ask for years of reporting experience, don’t leave out those four years in college you spent on the school newspaper. Experience is experience.

That being said, be honest. In the same way that you feel you deserve the right job, the companies with which you are interviewing deserve the right employee. If you aren’t qualified for a position, don’t waste your time or the time of the company by exaggerating or embellishing your skills.


Let them hear you:

If you have been invited for a phone interview, or better yet an in-person interview, wake up at a reasonable hour and prepare your mind and body for the day. Speak loudly and clearly. Be confident. I am certain I was screened out of the first job I received a phone interview for because I woke up just as they were calling and sounded groggy and slow. After that, I started to treat my job search as if it were my current job. I woke up early each day, got the coffee brewing, and went to work searching for a job.


Let them know you care:

If you’re unemployed or working a part-time job, but you are looking for a full-time position, use your downtime wisely. Prepare for common interview questions like:
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses? What was something you liked or disliked about your last job? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Also, take some time to research the companies you have applied to. How do they serve their clients? How do they make money? Do they do any philanthropy?

This allows you to give thoughtful responses that might set you apart from your competition. When you get an interview, make sure to follow up afterward and let the company know your level of interest.

If you find that you have a lot of downtime, take some online tutorials on different skills that might be useful at the jobs for which you are applying. While I was job searching, I learned HTML programming and Microsoft Access for free on the Internet. Through those tutorials, I was able to put new skills to use in my job at NewHire.


Know what you’re looking for:

This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. When I was looking for a job, I started out not really knowing what I was looking for. I was thinking that I needed a high-paying position at a huge company, because I was a college graduate, darn it. As I continued searching and considered my past employment, I realized that the best thing for me would be an entry-level position where I wanted to live (Chicago) at a company that would let me express my passions for writing, interacting with the people around me, and maybe even telling a joke or two along the way. I wanted the room and freedom to grow at a company that valued growth.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to be doing each day, my job search narrowed significantly. Enter NewHire, who screened me, called me, interviewed me, and hired me after a few days of nervous wait time. Now I’m talking with people from all over the United States, writing blog posts, working on a team, and, yes, even cracking a joke or two. How’s that for a job search?

If you think you are ready to put yourself out on the employment market, check out our job board. We update it constantly with new positions available all over North America. If you are more of a social media guru, check out our Twitter and Facebook pages for frequent #hiring updates.

what to listen for when phone screeningPhone screening candidates is an underrated piece of the recruiting and hiring process. In many cases, you hear about resume stacks and interviews but nothing in between. In reality, phone screening bridges the gap between deciding who catches your eye and who you want to actually interview in person. But what does a phone screen actually entail and how do you know if it’s a good one? How do you know what to listen for when phone screening?

As I said, phone screens serve as an intermediate step, helping you determine who is worth interviewing on-site. Those on-site interviews are long and often take time out of several schedules in order to run smoothly. Phone screens, on the other hand, are quick and painless. A typical screen should last 10 minutes and be a handful of thought-provoking, open-ended questions.

You can ask all kinds of questions (within the realm of legal questions, of course, and there are plenty of illegal questions you can ask) as long as you’re asking the same questions to everyone. You should have a template pre-made and use it for each of your phone interviews.

Once you have that template of questions, you know what you’re going to be asking. But how do you know what to listen for when phone screening?

What to Listen for when Phone Screening

The one thing that should always be on your radar when conducting a phone screen is confidence. The type of confidence will vary based on position – think charismatic confidence for a sales representative vs. knowledge-based confidence for an accountant – but it remains important that the person makes you believe that they know what they’re doing. A candidate who can’t make you believe that they’ll succeed is one that you probably don’t want to hire.

Of course, some people just get nervous over the phone or in interviews. It happens. That’s okay, too.

Bear in mind that your perception will be influenced by what position you’re trying to fill. A customer service rep will need to be friendly, outgoing, and some level of cheerful in their job so it stands to reason that they must come off that way during an interview. If you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t exude confidence and it’s for a position that requires hard skills more than it does personality traits, you can find out what you need to know by asking knowledge-based questions.

Does your applicant know how to use Quickbooks? Can they explain how they would handle a certain software malfunction? Can they tell you about a project they’ve led in the past?

Each of those answers will present you with an impression of their confidence (or lack thereof).

But be warned; confidence is best in moderation. A phone screen candidate who picks up the phone and says, “Cancel the rest of your calls – I’m getting this job!” might be a bit overbearing. Phone screen candidates who ignore your questions to tell you how great they are have a way of finding themselves in the “thanks but no thanks” pile real fast.

Be sure to consult your original job advertisement and look back at what your key accountabilities are for the job. Set up your phone screen to ask about those things and take notes as the candidate talks. You might not remember everything they say, but your notes will fill in the blanks and you’ll have a strong understanding of the kinds of people you’re seeing.

things you can't ask during an interview

Liability is a real threat and there are plenty of ways to get yourself in trouble and prompt discriminatory-practice lawsuits. Whether you’re still in the phone-screen stage or doing face-to-face interviews, there are certain pieces of sensitive information that you, the hiring party, can’t ask during an interview.

Here is a sampling of things you can’t ask during an interview:

  • Age
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Marital status (including maiden names)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Child-bearing status
  • Arrest record
  • Current health or disability status
  • Living situation
  • History of bankruptcy
  • History of disability insurance
  • Organizational memberships

Remember this when you’re looking to make a hire: Not everyone will come into an interview and look for ways that you’re discriminating or ways that they can hold you liable for improper hiring practices. However, some people will be aware of things that are sensitive for an employer to hear, and they may be prepared to use those against you if you don’t hire them.

That’s why you need to be aware of the things you can’t ask during an interview. Sometimes these questions can come up in natural conversation, but you need to know that you cannot ask about them without facing liability.

On a similar topic, lots of hiring companies are turning to social media to aid in their hiring processes. I cannot discourage this strongly enough. All of the bullet-points above are sensitive information that can be used in discrimination lawsuits, so hiring companies need to be careful when dealing with any of those topics.

Think for a moment about your Facebook page and how many of those info-areas can be discerned from your page. Probably a lot, right? That means you shouldn’t be using Facebook to find out about your candidates, as you’re learning sensitive information.

There are third parties who will look up information about your potential employees and can browse social media sites for you, and they’ll protect the sensitive information from reaching your eyes and ears. If you’re that concerned about what someone is doing with their personal lives, third parties are the way to go. However, if you can stand to avoid the dangers of learning sensitive information – and encountering the threat of hiring discrimination – then I suggest avoiding it.

Admittedly, most job-seekers are not applying for jobs for the purpose of creating lawsuits. These are all things that will protect you and would really just steer your interviews off-track and ultimately lead you into dangerous territory. You can’t help it if the information is offered to you, but do not ask.

phone interview

It happens; a candidate drops a bomb during an interview that disqualifies them with one answer.

Once, in response to the most average question, “Why are you looking for a new job?” I heard quite a surprising (and somewhat embarrassing) answer.

The candidate explained in overly much detail the (failing) romantic relationship she was having with her boss. She elaborated that she needed a new job so she could end that relationship. She demonstrated poor judgment by telling me way too much personal information. (I can’t really comment here on the complicated issues involved in work-place romance which may, or may not, be reflective of additional poor judgment.)

Most of the time, candidates give answers during interviews that aren’t clear cut disqualifiers. Consequently, it’s important to listen hard during a phone interview to discern any warning signs. Some answers to interview questions might provide subtle indications that the candidate won’t be able to perform on the job, isn’t being exactly accurate with details on the resume, is a poor culture fit, or doesn’t have the right skills to be successful.

Here are 5 things to listen for:

1. The candidate demonstrates good judgment.

Under pressure, can the candidate make a sound decision that is inline with the core values of the employer? Can they provide information in way that is appropriate for the situation?

2. The candidate demonstrates self-awareness. 

Does the candidate demonstrate that they understand the value of their job, both for themselves and for the mission of the company? Can the candidate identify past mistakes and express a better course of action for next time? Do they bad mouth past employers? Do they take responsibility for their actions or cast blame?

3. The candidate speaks clearly about the duties and responsibilities of past jobs.

Can the candidate explain what they were doing and why? Finding this is one way to explore if details of the resume are accurate. The interviewer can also learn if the knowledge and experience gained in past employment will be valuable in the new position.

4. The candidate is knowledgeable about the products or services provided by the current employer.

This is one way to learn if the candidate is engaged at work. If the candidate is checked-out in the current job, what’s the likelihood for engagement in the next position?

5. The candidate asks thoughtful questions.

Thoughtful questions let the interviewer know what concerns the candidate has about the current opportunity. Did the candidate step up and do their homework? Lastly, the questions asked, can help determine if the candidate is a good match for the culture, values and mission of the employer.

If the candidate can’t satisfy any two of these five items, it’s probably a good idea to quickly and tactfully say “no thank you.”   At the very least, you might want to do a bit more digging in areas where you see a red flag, before scheduling an in-person interview. If you’re interested in learning more about in-person interview tips, check out our Interviewing Tips and Guidelines resource.

Happy listening!

broadcastWant to know more about the changing world of recruiting and hiring? Check out our Webinar series, where you will learn to take complete control of the 6-Step Hiring process that defines who fills that next open seat. 

Bad interviews happen in a number of ways. The candidate may be rude, crass, lazy, late, disinterested, over-aggressive, under-dressed, or maybe they didn’t show up at all. These things happen. Even if it may have been one of your top candidates before the interview, things change. You, as a hiring manager, need to be prepared.

So how do you handle a bad interview?

In short, you move on. The entire purpose of having a hiring process is that you have the ability to continue running and re-running that process. You’ve been screening and interviewing candidates through a few steps of your process by this point, so you ought to have more than just one candidate coming in for interview. Now that one has essentially removed themselves, you can focus on more candidates who deserve a shot. Continue filling the earlier part of your hiring funnel, either through advertising more and getting more candidates, or putting more candidates through to the phone screening and interviewing stages.

We at NewHire like to refer to a bad interview as a bullet dodged. Whether you’re finding out that a candidate is a poor fit professionally or personally, or perhaps that person is a complete lunatic, it’s better to find out before you’ve actually brought them on as an employee. The only thing you’ve lost with a bad interview is the time you took to get them there, and if you’re using an efficient screening model, that shouldn’t be much. Better to waste an hour’s interview than a month’s salary.

One of the hidden upsides of a bad interview is that it makes the rest of your candidates look great. It might sound silly, but your good job-seekers appreciate the bad job-seekers simply for sake of comparison. Placing a series of overweight mixed-breeds in the Westminster Dog Show would highlight the purebred dogs the same way a lazy, disinterested candidate will make an enthusiastic job-seeker look great.

Everyone is going to handle a bad interview differently, but the best thing you can do is shake it off. If you harp on something that went wrong, it’s easy to carry that frustration into the next interview or project it onto someone else. If you can shrug your shoulders, chalk it up as a learning experience, and move on, then you’re ahead of an awful lot of your competitors. And if nothing else, you might get a good story out of it.

effective phone screensA resume and application look promising, but you need to supplement them with more information – why did the candidate leave previous positions, how well do they communicate on the phone, are their salary expectations in line with what is being offered? Prior to setting up an in-person interview with a hiring manager, I conduct brief phone conversations to gather information, qualify candidates for the next step, and define the process for prospective employees. Here are some suggestions for managing an effective phone screen process.

Set an appointment via email

I find that it alleviates phone tag and gives candidates a chance to prepare. I don’t generally hold it as a prerequisite for advancement that the person has researched the company before our conversation, but it impresses me if they have done that. This gives them that chance. It also allows you to organize your own schedule and set up conversations in a block of time that you have reserved for the purpose.

Set the stage

I define the conversation early in the call by giving an approximate duration, and say that I have a set number of questions about work history and what the candidate is looking for. Then I ask them about their current situation – “are you currently working? Please tell me about your last/current position.”

Have prepared questions

It is important to have a list of questions in front of you. You might deviate off script – it is ok to ask someone about their bronze medal, experience as a test pilot, etc. – but don’t dive away from it. Having prepared questions standardizes the process for all candidates and gives you a reference point for talking with them.

Take notes as you talk

The purpose of the call is to gather information, and taking notes creates value for anyone else in your organization who is engaged in the hiring process (and for yourself when you are trying to recall your conversation later on). It also helps to formalize the process at this stage – ask candidates for clarification on parts of their biography that you want to know about and need to accurately capture. I have my list of questions written out in a Word document and I take notes under each question as I work my way down.

Sometimes you have to interrupt and rein in the conversation

Of course you don’t want to be a brute about it, but if a candidate has already supplied an answer to your question and is digressing, I think that it is ok to interrupt and ask your next question. One of the advantages of defining the conversation early – basically setting an agenda for the call – is that you have established a reference point to return to if the conversation gets off topic.

How much money does the candidate want to make?

If the salary range is not explicitly posted in the ad, you will want to establish that the person is affordable. If the compensation is mentioned, you want to confirm the candidate’s understanding of it. No one likes the question, and I empathize with the difficulty of providing a number without really knowing what the earning potential is. I typically ask “how much did you earn, and how much are you looking to make in a new position”. See how they reply – offer as much information as you are at liberty to provide, and if they remain wary, ask for a “ballpark” range so that you make sure that you aren’t wasting their time. Remind them that it is early in the process and that this is not a salary negotiation. Usually this lowers people’s defenses.

Mention next steps and define the follow up procedure

It’s a great way to end the conversation too. Thank them for their time and ask them to send you a follow up inquiry in X number of days. They have your email address from the appointment invitation, and the encouragement of email will free you from some phone tag. Candidates want to know how to follow up, and they tend to appreciate it when you define the process for them.

Respond to inquiries

When they inevitably follow up, answer them to the best of your ability. Your answer might be, “I don’t know, please follow up again in a week”. If you are interviewing people on behalf of someone else, forward requests for updates to the hiring manager. It is a good way to remind them that the two of you are dealing with candidates who are going exit the process if they take another position or become disenchanted with the timeline.

If you are interested in NewHire’s phone screening template, give us a shout and we will share it with you.

Last week, Alicia explained what questions interviewers should avoid. This week Eric explores the answers candidates shouldn’t give!

bizarre candidates

We’ve all been there. You think you’re prepared, but you’re nervous. Then the interviewer asks you THAT question – and your mind goes blank. Or you’re so excited to get the interview that you immediately focus on what the company can give YOU, rather than what you can bring to the company. Or you’re flustered because so far it’s been a bad day. For whatever reason – you make one of these interview faux pas that can take you out of the running for the position. Keep these tips in mind when you’re in the hot seat so you shine.

Q: “What are your biggest weaknesses?”

A: Some variation of “I work too hard” or “I don’t know when to stop working.” Nobody’s perfect. Interviewers are looking for people who genuinely know their weaknesses and make efforts to learn from them. Turning a strength into a weakness shows the interviewer that you don’t focus on personal growth.

Q: “What do you know about our company?”

A: “Not a lot” or “I didn’t know you made that. I love that product!”
Do some research before the interview. With pretty much any information you need only a few mouse clicks away, not knowing anything about the company you’re interviewing for is inexcusable. Do your homework! Use Google, LinkedIn, and employee reviews on Indeed. Even if your mind goes blank, have a few things written down that you can refer to if needed.

Q: “What salary do you expect?”

A: “I don’t know.” Or “What do you suggest?”
Once again, do some research. and other salary sites are available to see what the average salary for your position is. Interviewers are looking to see if you know what you’re worth and if it aligns with their company.

Q: “What was your manager’s biggest weakness?”

A: “He/She was a horrible boss!”
Be careful about badmouthing former employers and colleagues. You never know what ties they will have to the companies you’re interviewing for now. Have a plan about what you are going to say about your current (or most recent) job and manager, and why you are looking for a new position.

Q: “Do you have any questions for me?”

A: “No, I think we’re good.” Or some variation of that answer.
Always have some parting questions – either to firm up next steps in the process or to generally find out more about the company culture, the job, the customers, and the team. Find out how you can fit in, and if this is a place you really want to work. Remember if you get the interviewer talking, it will take some of the pressure off of you.

In general – be prepared to give real answers to questions and avoid the “I don’t knows” as much as possible.

And don’t worry – you’ll nail it!

picture-deskThe in-person interview is the most valuable time that you can spend with a potential hire. It is the best opportunity that you have to get an understanding of whether or not continuing the hiring process with this individual will be right for you both. Be sure to maximize this time by being clear with yourself beforehand about the information that you need to gather from the candidate during the interview in order to make a sound decision. Utilize the interview questions below to make the most out of this point in the hiring process.

1) Please tell me about your education and work history in the last 5 years

Though you have someone’s resume in front of you, it is important to hear them articulate their background and experience. This will illustrate for you their ability to communicate a great deal of information, as well as provide an opportunity for accuracy, relevance and to garner further details.

2) What can you tell me about our company?

This question will determine how much effort the candidate has taken to research your organization. It could be a win-win if they spent time to learn more about your business.

3) Why do you want to work for our company, and why did you apply for this role in particular?

This question will allow the candidate to explain from their perspective why the two of you are a great fit. In addition, you can determine if the candidate has misread your organization or their potential place in the company.

4) How do you think your specific work skills can be an asset to our company?

This question provides an opportunity for the candidate to highlight the skill set that they find the most relevant in themselves, and will most likely be utilizing during their tenure with you.

5) What has been the most recent obstacle that you had to overcome to complete a project, and how did you overcome it?

This question provides an opportunity for the candidate to discuss a challenging work situation and how they utilized resources to overcome it. You will be able to get a glimpse into the candidate’s tangible problem solving skills and thought process.

6) Please tell me about a project that you worked on recently that involved a team and your role in that team.

This question will uncover the candidate’s recent history involving teamwork and whether or not they gravitate toward a leadership role.

7) Please tell me how you keep yourself organized with your planning system.

This question is vital in particular if the role at hand calls for managing multiple projects at a time. It can also be discovered if the candidate is successfully navigating new technology to keep things on task.

8) Tell me a time when you disagreed with your Supervisor.

This question reflects how the candidate deals with authority in conjunction with something they feel very strongly about. It will reveal how the candidate approaches a difficult situation and whether or not they are able to maintain their composure while dealing with this potentially tricky matter.

9) How does social media play a role in your career?

This question will reveal how the candidate will naturally use new technology to promote your business or themselves. If there are issues of privacy and image in your organization it is important to address them here.

10) What are your favorite aspects about yourself? What would you like to strengthen about yourself?

The best way to learn about someone is to let them tell you themselves. This different spin on an old question will allow the candidate to think differently in how they choose to communicate about themselves.

11) What do you do in your spare time for fun?

This personal question provides an opportunity for the candidates to relax a little bit after the pressure of the interview. You may also discover that you have things in common!

12)  What questions do you have for me?

This question will determine if the candidate has come prepared to learn even more about your organization; in addition, they will reveal their intentions based upon the questions that they choose to ask,

The most informative interview you can have is to pose open ended questions to the candidates. It does not allow room for yes or no answers and it will provide a wealth of information to you in the process. Please let us know what your favorite in person interview questions are!




Recently, I was at lunch with President of a $10 million manufacturing company and he related to me a story of another business lunch that changed his career forever:

Just after college he was interviewing with one of the largest management consulting firms in the world. This organization is well known for its thorough interviewing process. He said he had made it through four rounds of interviews and was excited to get his career started with this company.

The last step in the process was lunch with his future team. While dining in a nice restaurant, my friend started feeling more at ease and relaxed (no… he wasn’t drinking, though it is well-known about this particular firm that holding your wine is a job requirement!). In an unguarded moment, my friend mentioned that he didn’t enjoy flying. Some one asked if he was afraid to fly. No, he said, not really anyway. It did make him just a bit nervous but he was sure he would get used to it.

He never got the chance to “get used to flying.”  He didn’t get the job. He’s sure to this day that what stood between him and the job of his dreams was his off-hand remark that flying made him nervous. If the company hired him, he would have been on a plane at least twice a week, every week, for years. The company didn’t want to take that chance.

We recommend that hiring managers share a meal with a candidate whenever feasible. The social environment of a restaurant can often help reveal a candidate in a way that a formal job interview, resume or assessments never can.


Have you experienced a meal as part of the interview process? How did it go for you?