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Phone screens can improve hiring process

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:18 a.m.

The other day, a friend was lamenting that he had hired what he thought was a “phenomenal” secretary, but he fired her by 10 a.m. on her first day because she was unable to perform the job duties.

Inquiring about his interview process, I learned the process to hire this “phenomenal” secretary was pretty rudimentary. In fact, it was strictly based on his gut. Further, he confessed he had some concerns about this “phenomenal” secretary before he hired her, but he was in a hurry, and since she was the best of the candidates, he went with her.

He could have made a better hiring decision — without wasting any time — by inserting just a few more steps. Instead of doing multiple face-to-face interviews, he could have done quick phone screens with each of them, and invited in for a face-to-face interview only those who passed the screen.

Simple questions to ask in a phone screen include:

• Why are you interested in working here?

• Why did (would) you leave your last job?

• What kind of salary (or hourly rate) are you expecting, and why?

He could have prepared relevant interview questions to increase the likelihood of making a prudent hiring decision. “Behavioral interviewing” questions are most popular these days. These questions ask how a person handled a situation and the outcome achieved. Interviewers ask behavioral interviewing questions because research shows the best predictor of performance is past performance, so if you like the way a candidate handled something in the past, odds are good you'll like what they do if you hire them.

Examples of behavioral interview questions include:

• Have you worked as part of a team? Have you been on a team where someone wasn't pulling their weight? How did you handle that?

• Tell me a time when you realized something could be done a better way and you took the lead on changing the way it was done.

• You've had a lot of customer contact over the years. I'll bet you've faced a few angry people, haven't you? Tell me about the worst situation you remember, and how did you handle it?

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job.” Email questions to her at chris@postiinc.com.

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