The only thing worse than having to fire someone who isn’t right for the job is having someone who is right, not show up to work. Finding and hiring the right people is one of the biggest challenges facing the roofing industry these days. Many companies are feeling the pain of what seems to be a revolving door of employees coming and going. Find out how to properly screen your candidates in the latest Work / Life Balance blog by Sue Drummond. Then sign up for our webinar on recruiting talent here.

My 12 year old preteen lives an incredibly boring life. How are you? Fine. What did you do at school today? Nothing. What are you up to this weekend? I dunno. Do you have any homework? No. He acts as if I am the enemy, holding him hostage in an attempt to extract critical information, and he doesn’t break easily.
Interviewing for a job can be just as painful, I know, I’ve been on my share of bad ones. These tend to involve an hours worth of answers focused solely on skill sets, and leave both parties feeling unsure of what happens next. They are about as informative as asking a teenager to open up to you.

It doesn’t have to be like that. If you structure a question properly, you can extract the information you require. But before we get to that, you first need to know, what you need to know. Spend a few minutes jotting down the attributes of what an ideal candidate looks like. These will differ based on the role you are hiring for which are not the same as skill sets. These are qualities that are ingrained in the candidate already, not something you can teach, like how to use a torch or excel. For someone in the office, you may be looking for leadership, a risk taker or results driven; whereas someone in the field may be accountable, driven and follows directions.

Once you know the type of person you are looking for, you can frame your questions in an insightful way. Asking what their strongest qualities are is sure to provide you with a list of adjectives that make your eyes gloss over. Instead, asking someone to describe their ideal co-worker will provide you with qualities they value, and therefore likely possess. Similarly, asking them to tell you about the biggest adventure they have been on will get you a glimpse into their level of risk taking, their ability to plan ahead and determination to follow through. It should be made clear to the candidate that they may provide answers to these questions with either personal or professional examples, as you are trying to get to know them, and what they are capable of, not what they already know. Here are some other questions that will help you gain a better understanding of the candidate, but feel free to craft your own.

  • What do you attribute your current level of success to?
  • What is a lesson you have learned through failure?
  • When you disagree with something someone else has said, what do you do?
  • What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What is your biggest fear?

While an interviewee should be fairly forthcoming, we know from experience that kids generally are not. So with kids, it’s important to provide more context, and less open-endedness. For example, replace “How was your day?” with ‘What was the best part of your day?” and “What happened today that made you feel stressed, upset or angry?”

I also encourage you to provide your child and interviewee time with questions in advance. Knowing some or all of the questions before you walk into an interview helps to build confidence and provides stronger, clearer answers. The same goes with your children. Mine know that every Sunday they will be asked about their favorite part of the weekend. You can also try “I’d like to hear about something that surprised you recently, I’ll start.” By going first you are giving them time to think, while also providing an example of the type of story they may wish to share.

I use the going first thought process when writing my interview questions as well. I never ask a question that I’m not prepared to answer myself. There used to be a mentality about interviews that was designed to trick or catch someone up. This is not only unhelpful, it’s disrespectful. An interview is about determining the success of a future relationship and relationships require two people. I like my interviews to flow more like a conversation than a question and answer period; showing respect and an openness to share is one of the ways I achieve that.

Then there’s the issue of finding the time in our busy schedules. Between work, the kids school, extracurricular activities, not to mention a shared access schedule for my step son, it sometimes feels like we never sit down together. That shouldn’t stop you from connecting. Instead of listening to music, use the time spent travelling to ask your kids questions. For older kids, use their addictions to their phones in your favor and text them your questions. You may be shocked at the response rate!

Using technology can prove successful when scheduling an interview too. By using a calendar app like ‘Calendy’ that allows your interviewee access to your calendar to choose an available time slot, eliminates a lot of the back and forth awkward set up emails. It also shows that you respect their time and busy life, whether they need to schedule around another job, arrange child care or allow time for laundering their lucky shirt.

In the end, you should be looking for candidates with the attributes that you outlined as important to the role, rather than candidates with a lot of experience. If you hire people with drive and a willingness to learn, the rest of your team should be able to train them. That way you also get to train them the way you want and don’t have to worry about bad habits that are already ingrained. Someone with less experience is also more likely to stick with the company who trained them than another who bounces from job to job.

So, while questions such as “what’s one of your strengths” should be deleted from all interviews, don’t let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction either. Ask me in an interview “if you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why” and I’m getting up and walking out. Try and find a happy medium in the office and save the ice cream questions for the kids.

Sue Drummond is a Customer Success Manager at Harness, an app focused on helping contractors better manage their health and safety program. She is also a mom, blogger, and past roofing small business owner.