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Nailing the Employee Interview: Our Top Tips

The days of employees receiving an engraved, polished gold watch at their retirement are long gone — but do they have to be?  Today, most employers are laser-focused on candidates’ education and work experience and then wonder why employees leave in search of a better environment. Are we overlooking the reality that a company’s greatest asset is its human capital? Human capital being the collective value of a workforce’s capabilities, knowledge, skills, life experiences, and motivation. None of these attributes show up on a resume, which makes the interview so important. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned about effective interviewing over the past 40 years.

Don’t Get Hung Up On a Specific Skill

Let me tell you a little story about my grandmother. She was a great bookkeeper and had years of experience balancing the books. When society started to add computers into that equation, her lack of experience with technology slowly pushed her out of a job she had excelled in all that time. The point here is that focusing on someone with a specific software skill is shortsighted. Jobs evolve, and technology changes. Instead of looking for someone who uses the same software you use, ask the candidate questions about how they pick up on technology and new processes. That way, you’ll be able to identify a candidate that you can feel confident will embrace change and grow with your company as it evolves.

Focus on the Person-Environment Fit

If the best team on paper always won, playing the game would be pointless. Think of your company as a team; having the most skilled employees won’t help your business excel unless they can work well with the organization’s other members. A strong person-environment (PE) fit is essential to the sustainability of its people. Employees tend to have higher job satisfaction, a stronger commitment to their company, and lower intentions to quit when they match their job requirements, organization values, and workgroup values. Identifying the PE fit needs to be one of the top priorities of the interview. Focus the interview around who they are, instead of what they’ve done, and you will find yourself hiring someone that uplifts the team. Wondering how to accomplish that? We’ve got that tip too.

Use Behavioral Interview Questions

It’s common practice to give a generic personality test in an interview to help identify a candidate’s traits. Although those have their benefits, I believe they lack the necessary back and forth provided in an interview. It’s nice to know someone thinks it is wrong to steal, but it’s another thing to discover why they believe it is wrong. Behavioral interviews are the foolproof method to validate skills, strengths, and job fit based on fact and protect against prepared story or scripted answers. Kennedy wants to hire people that are passionate about efficiency and process improvement. To accomplish this, we ask them to describe a process at their job and follow it up by asking how they would improve that process.  Someone with no ideas for improvement or cannot explain why it does not need improvement will struggle to make it at our company. We suggest that you figure out what works best for your company and develop questions that distinguish those characteristics.  

As it may, my grandma’s career did not survive the technology revolution. Still, she was able to pass down her accounting expertise to my mother, who runs a company that provides client-focused services addressing accounting software needs. Who knows what she could have taught new bookkeepers at her old job? This would have been identified in an interview had it been done correctly. Their loss was my mother’s gain, which shows why it is necessary to construct the right interview questions to ensure a possible star employee doesn’t become someone else’s star employee — or even worse, your competitor. Whether your need is short term, long term, or temp to perm, the employee must create a solution rather than a disruption. These tips will help you nail the interview and find the right candidate that doesn’t just enhance your business, but helps it grow.


Matt Sarant is a proud member of the Kennedy Services family. Kennedy Services is one of Maryland’s oldest independent, woman-owned staffing services, located in the heart of Baltimore City. Kennedy Services continues to partner with businesses to support their growing staffing needs.