Interviews that click
Finding the best talent with the right questions
By Rhonda Abrams
IN SMALL BUSINESSES, every employee counts.
Hire the right person and he or she will help you
increase your income and decrease your headaches.
Hire the wrong person and you’ve got trouble. So
when it’s time to hire, it’s critical that you choose the
right person. One of the key steps in successful hiring is conducting interviews that help you discover
the best talent and the best fit.
Ideally, once you get the word out about your
job availability, you’ll attract lots of applicants. Then
it’s up to you to screen the applications and meet the
best candidates. After all, you probably don’t have a
human resources manager to turn to. But, with just
a little bit of preparation, you can conduct a killer
interview and find just the right person to add to
your team and take your business to the next level.
What are the keys to successful interviews?
Set aside time. Don’t rush through interviews
or allow interruptions such as calls or questions
from staff. Block off time on your calendar, and give
each candidate sufficient time.
Plan your questions ahead of time. Make
a list of things to ask all candidates that will help you
know if they’re a good fit for the job. Then review
each candidate’s application for specific questions
about his or her own background.
Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Get the candidate talking.
Plan what to say about your company.
The best candidates may be considering more than
one job offer. Let them know about the job and also
the upside of working for your company. Be positive, but be honest.
Review your benefits. Many applicants are
particularly motivated by benefits, especially health
insurance. If you offer benefits, be sure to let the
Know what not to ask. Be careful—some
questions are illegal (see box at right).
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Never make any promises or implied promises
about job security, raises or career advancement
(such as “I never lay anyone off”). These could get
you in legal hot water later.
Leave time for questions. Always ask if the
candidate has questions. The best candidates will
ask questions about the company, your products or
services, and/or the job itself, not just questions
about salary, vacation and work hours.
Schedule a second interview. If this is an
important hire—especially if it’s your first employee
or you’ll be working in close quarters (including
your home)—meet with your top prospect a second
time before making a job offer, perhaps over lunch
at a restaurant. This type of setting encourages people to let down their hair, and you’ll get a better
sense of the person and whether you click.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Don’t do all the talking! Really listen to how candidates answer your
questions and what’s on their mind.
Remember, the interview process is a two-way
street. Your top candidates will also be deciding
whether they like the job and want to work for you.
Ideally, it will be the perfect fit—for both of you—
and you’ll find that hiring the right person helped
your business grow. C
DON’T RUN AFOUL of anti-discrimination laws! Here’s
what you can and can’t ask
in a job interview:
No: How old are you?
What’s your date of birth?
When did you graduate from
No: What language did
you speak growing up?
No: Are you married?
Do you plan on having
No: What is your
religion? What religious
holidays do you observe?
No: Do you suffer from
any chronic illnesses? Take
Have a disability?
No: Have you ever
No: Are you a member
of the Army Reserve?
Yes: Are you over 18?
Yes: Do you speak any
languages other than English
that would be useful in this
Yes: Do you have any
conflicts with the company
Yes: Can you work
on holidays or weekends
Yes: Can you perform
physical tasks necessary
for this job with reasonable
accommodation for your
Yes: Have you ever
been convicted of a felony?
Yes: Do you have any
The Costco Connection
Costco offers online payroll services to Costco
members, through Intuit. For information, visit
Costco.com and click on “Services.”
Rhonda Abrams has started four successful
companies. Currently, she heads The Planning
Shop, a publisher specializing in entrepreneurship
and small business (
She is the author of Successful Business Plan:
Secrets & Strategies.
COSTCO AND INTUIT have
teamed up to make Rhonda’s
newest book, Hire Your First
Employee, free to Costco
value absolutely free.
Just go to