29 HR Experts and Hiring Managers Reveal Their Interview Tips for Hiring Top Job Candidates

 

Finding top candidates is challenging, but finding the top talent that's the right fit for your company can seem like an insurmountable challenge. The standard interview process seems insufficient to truly gauge a candidate's skills, talents, and personality traits, leading many hiring managers to hire candidates that seem like a treasure only to find out that they don't mesh with their team...or worse, that their expertise isn't quite as it appeared. 

Too often, this becomes a vicious cycle with candidates not working out, sending hiring managers back to square one again and again. Over time, it starts to feel like you're playing the lottery, hoping that one day your numbers are drawn and you find the candidate who is as perfect in the real world as they seem to be on paper. 

Of course, everyone knows the odds of winning the lottery are slim to none. Your odds of finding the ideal candidate on your first or second round of interviews is probably better than that, but regardless, no one wants to waste time running in circles. So, to find out what tricks and tactics you should be using to get the best job candidates and top talent through the interviewing process, we reached out to a panel of HR professionals and hiring managers and asked them to weigh in on this question: 

What's your #1 tip for getting the best candidates and talent when conducting a job interview?

Meet Our Panel of HR Experts and Hiring Managers:

Find out what our experts reveal about their strategies for getting the best candidates and top talent when conducting job interviews by reading their responses below.


Fraser SutherlandFraser Sutherland

@storagevault

After co-founding student travel app, iSpye, and dabbling in architecture, Fraser joined new Scottish startup Storage Vault in 2014. Since then Fraser has helped maintain an energetic startup culture during rapid expansion. 

I believe the single toughest threat to a business’ culture is staffing. If you have a small team, a single bad hire can…

Instantly destroy a culture that’s taken years to develop. 

While you should never compromise on the quality of your hires, there’s one small change I recommend people make to their hiring process: Prioritize passion, culture and talent over experience. 

It’s really easy to chase candidates who are equipped to do the role right now. However, picking up an experienced person with the wrong personality risks tainting the rest of your staff and disrupting your culture. 

However, if you hire the right personality, you can always train and develop their skillset. 

In short, make sure you pick the right person, not just the right CV. 


Christy HopkinsChristy Hopkins

@FitSmallBiz

Christy Hopkins, PHR, is a Human Resources consultant and writer at Fit Small Business. Her areas of expertise include full spectrum talent management (including recruiting & performance management), organizational change, and implementing HR systems. While being a part of Fit Small Business, Christy still maintains her HR consulting and recruiting firm that boasts over 30 small business clients spanning the U.S. from Vermont to Seattle.

As an HR expert and recruiter, here are my top tips to get the best candidates in the door…

1. Cast a wide net: Don't just post a job on job board and expect great candidates (although sometimes they do come from there!). Source (a.k.a. find) candidates using resume databases like Indeed, Ladders, and ZipRecruiter, or try using LinkedIn Premium or LinkedIn Recruiter Lite to do searches and reach out to candidates who fit what you are looking for. Also, post your roles to your social media at least once per week, and ask employees to send the links to their friends and post it on their social media. 

2. Make it simple for referrals: Linking to the end of point #1, don't expect employees to do your work for you. Write the social media blurb & link you want posted, and create an email template for them to send to their friends. They are more likely to do it with the less work they need to put into it! 

3. Ask your own network: Some business owners and managers think their network can't help them when looking for a new grad or other role. Not so. Everyone knows someone. Maybe your old boss's kid just graduated college, or something like that. Use your own powers as well! 

4. Use local colleges, universities, and community college job boards: Many of these allow you to post roles for free, as long as you are a credible employer. Graduation time is coming - get posting already!  


Pamela ShandPamela Shand 

@OfferStage

Pamela Shand is the Founder & CEO of Offer Stage Consulting.

To hire top talent, I focus on…

Job specific core competencies and a structured interview process to ensure fairness in the interview and identifying the things that cannot be taught, like attitude and passion.

 


Todd MitchemTodd Mitchem

@ToddMitchem

Known as the “thought leader in disruption,” Todd Mitchem teaches leaders and organizations how to lead through any challenge by redefining risk, obliterating crisis, and challenging the norm. He achieves this through a detailed look into personal ownership called YOU, DISRUPTED. 

Too many times employers and business leaders fail to adequately put an employee through the rigor necessary to determine…

Their real sustained value. Instead, a candidate's past experience, resume and some nonsense questions are utilized. This results in a low probability for success. We need to start looking at employees differently. Until we actually test their abilities we cannot adequately determine their true ability to accomplish breakthrough results. 

The TEST 

T - Talent Search - In this stage the employees sends out a notice through normal means but with a caveat that in the description of the job opportunity the dialogue states, "All potential candidates will be put through a test to determine their ability to accomplish and excel at the job. If you are selected be prepared to undergo a two - three hour non-paid 
interview and test." The employer also asked the potential applicants to send a description of why they would execute the job function brilliantly. This stage is to help the employer better assess if a potential new team member has the resilience, forward thinking, and energy to accomplish the actual job. 

E - Evaluate - In this stage the employer takes in all submissions and evaluates the candidate’s description, then determines which candidates should be invited in for an interview and test. In this stage, the employer is looking to see who complained about the test, who did not write an extra portion describing what they can actually offer and how they will accomplish the job at hand. 

S - Set Up - This key stage involves the selected candidates being prepped over a phone call by a leader in which the leader sets up the test protocols. This stage is not an interview; it is a set up stage to prepare the candidates for testing and interview. Leaders at this stage should, however, be evaluating, attitude, style, collaborative skills, and overall excitement around the test from the employee. By this time certain candidates will stand out more than others with a real positive excitement around the position. 

T - Test - When candidates are brought in, they are first interviewed then tested with an actual job project in which they have two hours to prepare and present. By the time this actual test is complete, the leader will be able to determine with certainty which top candidates are most equipped to have the position. 

Does it work? 

In every hiring situation where I have implemented the test I hire true disruptors who execute their job way above and beyond my expectations. In one recent case when hiring a person to develop e-learning curriculum we started with 50 potential candidates. Only 8 actually made it past the Set Up phase and went on to test. The test involved each candidate writing one complete module of learning for our project so we have an even comparison. In the end we hired a brilliant person who has performed perfectly, works fast, and never complains. I have never had this technique fail in over five years of utilizing it for all new hires. In fact in the two times I did not run the TEST due to my own impatience, both of those hires were a disaster and ultimately were let go. 

The bottom line is that this test works. 


Mara ShorrMara Shorr

@MaraShorr

Mara Shorr is a partner and vice president of marketing and business development with The Best Medical Business Solutions, bringing more than a decade of marketing and communications experience to her clients. Focusing on both internal and client business development, Mara brings her background in marketing and development from her time in public television, public radio and the Florida Film Festival into the mix. She was a nominee for the Orlando Business Journal’s 2013 “40 Under 40” and was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni from Central Michigan University. In addition, she regularly serves as a national speaker and published author.

We always tell our clients to ‘just say no’ if they run into these red flag situations anywhere in the recruitment process…

  • The candidate has no previous personal or professional experience in your industry, and can’t relate to your particular field.
  • The candidate skips around from job to job, spending less than a year at each past position. We find that in these situations, you’ll just be next on the list and looking for a replacement in no time.
  • The candidate didn’t proofread his/her resume prior to sending it to you. Attention to detail is key in most industries and roles, and this could lead to glaring mistakes in the future.
  • The candidate doesn’t pass/won’t agree to a background check or have reference checks that pass your inspection. Maybe they don’t have references to list, maybe the references have a few not-so-nice things to say, and maybe you need to read between the lines of what the reference isn’t saying at all. All of these are red flags.
  • The candidate shows up improperly dressed to an interview…with a potty mouth. Think of the interview as a first date, when s/he is on best behavior. If they don’t pass THAT test, they’ll be rolling out of bed and into your business in sweatpants before you know it. Trust me… we’ve seen it happen with clients!

Neil NapierNeil Napier

@jobrack1

Neil Napier is the founder of JobRack. He is a digital nomad and has created multiple SaaS solutions to help small and medium businesses with lead generation and funnel building. His current focus is helping companies create better growth systems. 

I’m lucky to have my team help me with the hiring process. The ways we’ve organized it is that…

Two of my employees handle the first two rounds (initial assessment and expert interview). After the first two rounds, I receive their top 3 choices. What has turned out to be great here is the balance between assessing expertise and culture of the future hires, and how my employees get to know the candidates that will be their future colleagues. This process also eliminates me solely creating the culture, without my team’s input. In the end, I have only three interviews with people I am confident will fit in and be an excellent addition to the team. My sole assessment comes down to: discuss their determination in working for us, negotiate the salary and help my team narrow down the choice to one. 


Alexis ChateauAlexis Chateau

@AlexisChateauPR

Alexis Chateau is the founder and managing partner at Alexis Chateau PR. She enjoys traveling, writing, and hanging out with Shadow the PR Cat. 

My number one tip for choosing the best candidate is…

To pick the one whose skills and qualifications you can verify and vouch for. I was really 
surprised to learn that a lot of people lie - or at least exaggerate - on their resumes. 

Most of my workers are people I know personally, or who demonstrated their skills in other ways. For instance, the key adviser wrote the first PR book I read after launching my firm. And my Senior Designer has been best friends with me for 15 years, and worked with me on creative projects for 14 of those. 

When selecting candidates, I also check their portfolios, and may request referrals from former clients. Checking their websites and social media pages can also be helpful, as far as a background check. It can also give you an idea of what other people are saying about the quality of their work, and their work ethic.


Mary Grace GardnerMary Grace Gardner

@aProfessionista

Mary Grace Gardner is a career strategist and founder of The Young Professionista. 

After interviewing hundreds of candidates, the best candidates almost always are those…

Referred to me by a trusted colleague.

I constantly get tons of referrals, but when a referral comes from someone who understands the specific workstyle, behaviors and capabilities I'm looking for, I pay extra close attention. And typically, those candidates are the ones who excel against the competition. 


Ted SullivanTed Sullivan

@GCsports

Edward Ted Sullivan is the co-founder and CEO of GameChanger Media, Inc., the software company behind the leading digital scorekeeping mobile application for amateur baseball and softball teams. He is also a co-founder of the Headfirst Companies, which offers a variety summer camps for children nationwide. Prior to GameChanger, Sullivan led marketing efforts for Rave Wireless, Inc. He earned his BA in Economics from Duke University and MBA from Harvard Business School. As a former baseball pitcher, Sullivan was a four-time ACC All-Academic selection at Duke and played two seasons in the minor league system for the Cleveland Indians. 

When I was fifteen, my baseball coach told me the five most important words in the world and I take them into every interview at GameChanger…

How. Can. I. Help. You. This is why GameChanger exists. We're here to return a favor. We're here to give back to the coaches, volunteers and parents who dedicate so much to amateur sports. At GameChanger, hiring top talent, those passionate individuals who are intolerant of the status quo, starts with identifying candidates who ask, "How can I help you?" 


Ron HamiltonRon Hamilton

Ron Hamilton owns his own HR Consulting practice and was VP of HR for a Fortune 500 company. He also teaches HR and Management at the Graduate level. He has major clients that utilize his hiring process around the world.

The best way to make a hiring decision in order to get the best candidate is…

To ask questions that provide the most predictive data. The best way to predict success on the job is to understand how the candidate behaved in similar situations in the past. I teach hiring managers around the world this process, and the results are better than any other process. 


Tanner St. JamesTanner St. James

@thescottresort

Tanner St. James is the Hiring Manager for The Scott Resort & Spa, located in beautiful downtown Scottsdale, Arizona. 

When it comes to finding and hiring great employees…

The new jobs feature on Facebook is a perfect opportunity. This feature will make the hiring landscape more competitive, both for recruiters and candidates, as the pool of talent will vastly increase. Employers and recruiters will become more selective as they have a bigger pond to fish from, and candidates will have more to prove in order to stand out enough to be interviewed or accepted for a position. A great feature that will be included is that when a candidate applies for a position, the application will be pre-populated with information from the candidate's profile. This will be a big time saver and an incentive for candidates to apply for multiple jobs without having to type in the same information over and over again.


Brad StultzBrad Stultz 

@BradStultz82

Brad Stultz oversees a wide range of personnel issues for approximately 200 employees of Totally Promotional, an online retailer and manufacturer of custom-printed promotional products. They work with both large and small businesses to create professional branded products for advertising, resale or gifts. 

Prior to scheduling an interview…

We conduct an aggressive background search that includes a review of all social media platforms. This allows us to get a good feel for who a potential hire really is outside the workplace. During the interview, we have formulated questions that help us determine if a candidate is confident, adaptable and driven to succeed. With these three traits, a candidate can easily become an integral part of any organization.


Deborah SweeneyDeborah Sweeney

@deborahsweeney

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. Based out of Calabasas, CA, MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, trademark, & copyright filing services. 

We like hiring team players and screen for 'team player-ness' by…

Asking questions about their work ethic, examples of how they contributed to their prior companies, and willingness to go above and beyond. Sometimes we are able to identify people who we believe could be team players with a little nurturing, and then we pair them with other established team players in our company. If someone has the right attitude, you can further evolve their 'team player' status by setting expectations, setting a good example with leadership, and rewarding behavior that shows a can-do attitude. Team players beget more team players, which leads to getting the most out of your team! We look to hire people who engage, who 'get it' when we explain the way our company works and who earnestly show their ability to offer that approach to work. 


Sara HetyonkSara Hetyonk

@ONTRAPORT

With an education from UCSB and Harvard Extension School, Sara Hetyonk manages all recruitment efforts at ONTRAPORT, including attracting top talent, screening all applicants, coordinating recruiting and onboarding processes, and proactively improving all systems and processes on a continual basis. 

To hire the best candidates, I search for…

Passion. In my first conversations with candidates, I always what them what their dream job would be. This may seem like an elementary or even irrelevant question at times, but if a candidate isn’t passionate about their dreams, then how can they be passionate about a role I am hiring for? I will also ask about what their past favorite projects have been and why, which indicates a lot about their passion for their career. Plus, answers will often reveal details about the individual’s problem-solving abilities. To get the best candidates, screen your applicants for passion, and only hire those who are genuinely excited about what they do. 


Bryan ClaytonBryan Clayton

@YourGreenPal

Bryan Clayton is the CEO of GreenPal which is best described as Uber for Lawn Care. 

The best recruiting strategy to get top talent to our interview table I have found through experience is selling potential teammates on…

The Why. I've been in the landscaping industry for 15 years. I started cutting grass in high school. Over the 15 years I grew that business to over 100 people and sold that company last year. 

Why does our company exist? Why do we get out of bed every morning, and if we didn't, why would anybody care? 

When I was running an organization of that size, it was daunting, however, creating something bigger than myself was a fulfilling experience. Our company created prosperity for our people, and that’s why we did what we did. Much of our operating core was comprised of Guatemalan immigrants, and these were the finest people I have ever known. Typically, they would come to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons, saving as much money as they could to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches, and setting up farms stocked with cattle. 

This became our company’s purpose, our Why. In weekly meetings, we would get progress reports from our men on how projects “back home” were coming along. In the halls of our office and in the shop we displayed picture collages of all the homes, farms, and business that had been established by our people in Guatemala. Celebrating these victories gave us fuel to get through the tough times, particularly when economic recession that began in 2009. 


Jana TullochJana Tulloch

@DevIntelligence

Jana Tulloch is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources with over 20 years of management and HR experience. She currently works for Develop Intelligence.

My number one tip for hiring top job candidates is…

To use behavior-based questions during the interview that give insight into what the actual competencies of the individual are. For example, someone may say they are great at resolving conflict, but ask them to tell you about a time they successfully resolved a conflict with a customer and the answer they provide shows you they weren't that great at it - they may have resolved it from their perspective, but the customer may not have been that pleased. 


Caroline StokesCaroline Stokes

@oCarolineStokes

Caroline Stokes is the Founder of FORWARD.

The best way to get the best talent and top candidates is to…

Make sure everyone interviewing is on the same page with regards to vision and job expectations.

This is a major investment requiring the entire company to be involved in company leadership, vision and messaging to ensure the goals are all clearly understood and demonstrated in performance and communication. If there’s any misalignment, the talent you want will detect it and get mixed messages which can derail the candidate experience, which can result in the target candidate withdrawing from the interview process. 


Hannah SpruceHannah Spruce

@hst

Hannah Spruce is a HR Specialist at High Speed Training - one of the UK's leading e-Learning providers.

To gauge what kind of candidate I have in front of me, I listen to…

The words they're using. A key indicator is their tense use. So, the best candidates are going to tell you stories with loads of actual content in them, and they’ll use the past tense. Whereas, your bad candidates are either going to give you awkward silences or big themselves up using the future tense. I also think positivity is a really good sign. If a candidate starts moaning about their old job, colleagues or boss – well, that’s a no from me. 


Laura MacLeodLaura MacLeod

@FTIOProject

Laura MacLeod, LMSW is the founder of From The Inside Out Project®. Laura combines two decades as a union employee with her social work and graduate level teaching skills to weave a remarkably effective technique of improving staff communication. She understands that—though management guides the thrust of a business—hourly employees are the dynamic link in the chain of any marketing strategy.

The best way to get the best candidates and talent when conducting interviews is to…

Make the candidate feel comfortable and welcomed.

When candidates feel at ease, they will show you their personality, values and sensibilities. You need this to find the best fit for the position and the culture of your organization. Welcome candidates by showing authentic interest in them – as people, not just workers. Use your sense of humor to lighten the mood and ease anxiety. Model ease and comfort in yourself and the candidate will follow suit. You'll have a great conversation that will tell you what you need to know.


Mickey SwortzelMickey Swortzel

Mickey is the co-founder and CFO of an Ann Arbor based tech company. She is the primary person responsible for hiring in the organization. 

I have two tips for getting the top talent and the best candidates…

I ask all candidates to describe their ideal job, not bound by any constraints (i.e., work at the beach and not get sand in their laptop). The answer to this question should tie somewhat to the characteristics of the job they are applying for, while also providing an honest, non-suck up answer. 

I also use a psychometric tool called Acumax for all interview candidates. This very simple tool reveals some tendencies that are difficult to uncover in a normal interview and provides a list of targeted questions to help both the interviewer and candidate to assess whether the position is a good fit.


Alex ReichmannAlex Reichmann

@iTestCash

Alex Reichmann is the CEO of iTestCash and provides businesses around the U.S. with money handling and security products. 

I think it's important when interviewing people for jobs to make sure that they have…

The right skills and self-motivation for the job.

In some industries, high leveled skills are vital for doing a good job. An obvious example of this would be for something more technical such as programming or engineering. 

In the case of a job that may seem simple on the surface, like being a cashier, you still want an employee who's sociable and has no problem interacting with many customers throughout the day. 

On the motivation side, it always helps to hire people that have the drive to show up to work on time and do what needs to be done without needing to be motivated by their employee constantly. Whether their motivation is to change the world or to simply make money, I think this is vital. You can always ask during the interview process what your interviewees motivation is for working and why they want the job. 


Shilonda DowningShilonda Downing

@VirtualWorkTeam

Shilonda is the Founder of Virtual Work Team LLC.

To get the top talent and the best candidates, I think you must start with…

Skill set. If the person has the skill set you're looking for, that's the first step. The next step, which is just as important, is cultural fit. You'll want someone to stay with you long term, as turn-over is very costly. Ensure that this person fits the cultural by asking behavioral questions during the interview. Make sure you check references. Neglecting due diligence is a no-no for any business. These are three important steps to hiring the best candidate.


Will BachmanWill Bachman

Will Bachman, a former submarine officer, is a McKinsey-trained independent management consultant and a co-founder of Umbrex, the first global community of top-tier independent management consultants. 

Hire job candidates as you would a consulting firm

The best way to evaluate how a candidate will perform on the job is to use the interview process to get real work done. 

Tell the candidate that in the first-round discussion, you will not be asking traditional resume questions. Instead, the candidate will have the opportunity to ask questions of the company, just as a consultant would do in a first meeting. 

Then at home, the candidate will be expected to write up a 'proposal' that should cover the company's situation including opportunities and threats, the value that the role in question can generate, and her 30-, 90-, and 365-day plan if hired. 

In subsequent rounds of interviews, this plan can be challenged and refined. 

This approach provides a much closer simulation of the real work environment that traditional interview questions and allows the hiring firm to evaluate listening skills, writing skills, functional knowledge, and strategic thinking. A side benefit is that it weeds out candidates not serious about the role. And if hired, the candidate and the company have 
already agreed on a detailed road map for the role. 


Mack DudayevMack Dudayev

@InsureChance

Mack Dudayev is the founder and CEO at InsureChance Inc., an independent online insurance marketplace. 

The best thing to do when looking for top talent is…

To actually call listed references of previous employers and ask detailed questions. The best predictor of future performance is past performance, so be sure to go the extra step and do your due diligence. In addition to calling references, we like to set up 4 to 6 interviews with different people within our company since collective thought is much more accurate than an individual one.


Jacob DayanJacob Dayan

@communitytaxllc

Jacob Dayan is partner and co-founder of Chicago-based Community Tax, a national provider of tax resolution, tax preparation, bookkeeping and accounting services. He previously worked on Wall Street as an options analyst and as a foreign exchange trader. Jacob holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. 

To get the top talent in your industry, pay close attention to…

Employer rating websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Today's savvy and informed candidates research you thoroughly before they even submit an application. You want to put forward the best impression possible with top talent, so encourage happy employees to complete reviews. You can't get rid of negative reviews, so be prepared to answer questions about them in interviews. An employer can't afford to ignore these platforms any more than a local restaurant would Yelp or Google reviews. 


Hannah SteffensenHannah Steffensen

@gpstrackit

Hannah Steffensen is the Media Relations Manager at GPS Trackit. 

Because we consider our customers' satisfaction to be a measurement of our success, we work hard to ensure that we're choosing the best talent when we hire our Fleet Advisors...

While it may be easier to recycle the same interview questions and structure for every candidate while conducting interviews, it's important to treat each interview as unique. 

Asking the same standard, questions in every interview will fail to expose the unique qualities you're looking for in your ideal candidate. To mix things up between interviews, try asking questions based on the organic direction of the conversation between you and each candidate. The best questions will be those that the candidate is prepared for during the course of the interview and is ready to answer honestly and in detail.


Tom FelthamTom Feltham

@ExporeWMS

Tom is the Head of Marketing Recruitment for Explore WMS.

It’s easy when conducting interviews with potential candidates to put much of the emphasis on…

Technical ability, when other factors such as personality and company fit also carry weight. If I can get a sense of a prospective candidate's communication skills, disposition and attitude to work, then I’m more able to achieve a complete picture before entering into the decision-making phase. 

I feel it’s necessary to hire someone I can realistically see working alongside our current employees, which is why I make a point to describe our office culture at the initial stages of the interview. I think it’s imperative to be transparent. As a business, we’ve worked on building a friendly work environment, and we’re a close-knit team who enjoys working together. 

In the later stages of the interview process, I will invite a candidate into our office and make arrangements for them to talk with a key colleague about what the role entails in more detail. While finding the right candidate for the job is my primary focus, I will also leave time to speak about the benefits of working with us as it’s important they have the opportunity to form a positive opinion of our company. 


Yolanda CrowleyYolanda Crowley

@CrowleyAsst

Yolanda Crowley works with online business owners to save them the time and frustration of finding their ideal virtual assistant and offers workable solutions to help them create more time and generate more revenue. She started her administrative career at Tiffany & Co. and worked for more than 16 years as an executive assistant in corporate America.

One indicator of a top-quality candidate is…

If the candidate thinks outside the box and does something to stand out.

I recently was hiring for a position that involved making graphics. I requested that people submit two graphics along with their website and rates. One candidate created a gorgeous graphic that said, Yolanda wants to hire (Candidate name). Yolanda's smart. Be like Yolanda. The graphic itself was awesome and she could have written any phrase on it. But she chose to be unique. That is the type of person who will not only do the job required, but will go above and beyond and come up with great ideas in the future. She definitely got a call back and an interview.


Daniel NyiriDaniel Nyiri

@NyiriDaniel

Daniel Nyiri is an entrepreneur with one goal: to revolutionize the fitness industry. And in just a few years he has already begun to make an impact. Daniel is the founder and CEO of 4U Fitness, a personal training studio franchise based in Tampa, Florida. Previously he was a professional hockey player, model, and certified personal trainer originating from Budapest, Hungary. In 2011, with $150 in his pocket and nothing else to his name, he moved to the U.S. after two events changed his life forever. Daniel lost his grandparents to obesity and suffered an injury severe enough to close the door to any potential future in hockey. Instead of letting it shatter his world, Daniel discovered a new purpose in life and decided to pursue a dream to change the world by reducing obesity, one person at a time. 

Success lies in the hands of…

Your trainers and staff. These individuals will be representing your business and brand on a daily basis. They are the face of your product. That is why it is of the upmost importance that an in-depth interview process be completed. This outline explains our interview process in greater detail. 

Interview process: 

  1. 1st interview: Candidate meets one of our trainers (Facetime or Skype if the individual lives out of town/state).
  2. 2nd interview: Conducted with another staff member.
  3. 3nd interview: Candidate meets the staff and is shown their future working environment.
  4. After the candidate has been chosen to move forward with the process, they will be issued a take- home assignment.
  5. After the completed home assignment, they are required to write a 1,000-word essay about why they should be hired.
  6. The last step is the meeting and interview with me.

Take-Home Assignment: Each candidate will be given three questions (see below). 

Upon the next scheduled meeting, candidates present their responses. Assemble your personal trainers who have been helping with the interviews and let them know that they should makes notes during candidate presentations. 

Candidates can present their responses in any format they choose (i.e., written, verbally, on a display board or in a PowerPoint presentation). There should be no set requirement for presentations. 

During this in-person session, the top candidates will separate themselves from the pack. Top candidates will go above and beyond to show you their creative abilities. Remember, detailed presentations are not required, but we hope for the best and most creative! We are not looking for the right answers but rather how they think and where their focus lies! 

Question #1 - Strategic 

Example: How do you plan on growing your clientele base? 

Question #2 – Tactical 

Example: How would you overcome an overwhelming number of clients? If availability is limited and spots are getting tight, what would be your solution?

Questions #3 — Unconventional/Creativity:Example: How would you make your work environment engaging and enjoyable for your staff and clientele? 

Example: What would you do to ensure your business will stand out from the crowd? Specifically, how will you thrive against the stereotypical chain competitors? 

If the punishment for parking on double yellow lines were death, and therefore nobody did it, would that be a just and effective law? (They are not meant to give a right or wrong answer here. They need to demonstrate that they have recognized the various issues that arise. The answer to its effectiveness is already in question) 

These questions and their responses are the most important. At this point, a candidate should demonstrate his or her passion in what they believe in. What are their boundaries? Do they think “outside of the box”? 

Extra credit: Ask your candidates to come up with their own title that signifies their persona. 

This title should encompass their attitude and the uniqueness of who they are and who they want to be. This title demonstrates the flexibility that they will have at 4U Fitness, along with their ability to be inventive. 

Example: A former candidate dubbed himself as “Sales Master.” This name speaks volumes, especially if he lives up to his name. Unfortunately, it turned out that “sales” was actually his weakness and not his strength, but we liked the name and creativity. 

Candidate observations - What to look for throughout the hiring process and during presentations:

  1. Does the candidate seem well-prepared and confident?
  2. Are they interested in selling themselves or are they here to contribute to our core values and team?
  3. How do they respond to instruction and constructive criticism?
  4. Are they receptive to the idea of learning new training styles and methods?
  5. Do they demonstrate a friendly and outgoing personality?
  6. Do they demonstrate a true passion for helping others?
  7. Are they willing to go above and beyond their “job description”?
  8. Do they appear to be a creative thinker?
  9. Would they stand out in a crowd?
  10. Do they seem to be well-rounded and versatile in their strengths?
  11. Do they fit in to our culture?
  12. Do they have the ambition and drive to establish a career with 4U Fitness?

Check for Culture and Creativity 

Depending on your business, you will want to customize your questions to your culture. 

We adapted a great question from a company called MOMs. Since we need open-minded people, we need to ask the right questions and MOMs share some of their questions in the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. For example, we ask our potential candidates, “Do you discuss politics, religion or fitness beliefs with people?” “When was your last passionate debate?” “Who was it with? And what was it about? How did it turn out?” If they say that they will never respect the person they debated again, we know it is not the right person to hire since he or she is not open minded. 

MOMs has a great system for hiring. A great example of what they ask is, “What did you spend money on as a teenager and where did you get this money from?” You will definitely not impress a MOMs team member by saying by your parents gave it to you. 

We also like to ask creative questions to see how potential candidates solve problems. For example: How many gas stations are in the United States? Obviously, we are not looking for the correct answer. We are looking for creativity and to see how they solve problems, how they try to figure out things. If they simply say, “I don’t know,” and give up, then they are not the right person for you. 

One of my favorite creative questions to ask is also used by Apple in its interviewing process: You have 100 coins lying flat on a table, each with a head side and a tail side: 10 of them are heads up, 90 are tails up. You can’t feel, see or in any other way find out which side is up. Split the coins into two piles such that there are the same numbers of heads in each pile. How do you do that? Just think about it.  

The answer to the 100 coins again involves creative thinking and how to solve a problem. But it's simple: You divide them into two piles with 50 coins each, and that is it. There are an equal number of heads in each pile. Since we never asked you to have them facing up or anything, you will have two equal piles of heads simply by having two equal piles of coins! 

Another creative approach is held by online apparel retailer Zappos; during their process, they ask a lower level employee to interview the potential candidate. If the candidate gets irritated by this, then he or she probably lacks one of Zappos’ core values, which is being humble. It also gives that employee a chance to contribute and shine. 

If you want to read a little more about our hiring process, we have been featured in several blogs and magazines; you can check out this one. 

It is most important to remember to use your core values during your hiring process! This way you can always determine if someone fits in with your culture or not. Later on in the hiring process, you can ask job candidates to talk more about what values resonated with them. If they are not as interested in our core values or they don’t feel motivated by this process, then they are not a good hire. 

Hire Your Weaknesses First 

Not every gym owner thinks about doing this, but you will build a stronger team when you hire your weaknesses first. If you are already good at most things, you need to cover that area where you aren’t as strong. For example, if you are bad with numbers, hire an accountant! If no one on your team speaks Spanish but you have many clients who do, focus on hiring someone who speaks several languages. 

Only hire A+ players and let your current players know that they are all A+ players and this company won’t hire B players. Build your team up and remind them of their strengths throughout the hiring process. 

Bring Out the Welcome Mat 

Once they’re hired, it’s time to celebrate these candidates! Have a welcome party! They should feel really special and that they have made the right decision. This will help every new hire become a raving fan of your business! At 4U Fitness, all of our new hires receive a special 4U Fitness cheesecake and a relaxing day at a local spa; we even pay for a friend/partner/spouse to join them. 

Even while you’re celebrating this new hire, you have to think of this as a test period; this is why we first give all of our new hires a 90-day contract to start. At the end of the contract period, we use a thorough evaluation process to make our ultimate hiring decision. If they meet everything on the list, they will be hired. If they don’t, they will either leave (on their own or at our decision) or they can focus on continual improvement until they are hired as a full employee. 

Once you have all agreed that this is a great fit, it is important to remember that you must invest in their ongoing education and culture. At 4U Fitness each trainer is required to spend at least 12 hours of continued education at our 4U Fitness University to able to renew their certification with us. When we hire someone, we move them though our schooling system and we give them an actual graduation and they receive an ID card and diploma, which they have to renew each year. 

In addition to general training, your new hires must learn more about your company culture and core values. If you operate a relatively small company, then your new employees will learn from this information from the start, just being around you and your team. I do not recommend handing new employees a long and overwhelming document to read and tell them they will find everything there. This is not inspirational and isn’t a good way to teach culture. 

Make sure that core values and culture are a part of everything that you do. This includes your employee handbook, ongoing training and even meetings with your staff. When you have brief meetings with your trainers, make sure that you refer back to all of your core values in anything that they do that is good or bad. 

In addition, all of your new hires should get a full walk-through and tour and sit down to talk with everyone on your staff. Everyone can share your core values and goals of the business and what it stands for. What does the future looks like for the company? Where did you start from? What is your story? Why did you do this? What does it mean to you? And where does your new employee fit into all of this? What is his or her role in the company and the message that he or she needs to deliver? 

This is the good time to start with their personal pitch. Yes, as we discussed earlier, all of your employees, even the receptionist, needs to have their own pitch. Have your new employee introduce him or herself and explain why they came to you and is doing this in their life. Find out what this job means and how this company can play a part in her goals. 

During the introduction and getting to know each other process, ask your employees to share their pitches with the new employee — and watch to see what the new employee’s reaction is in return. This experience will likely blow this new hire away! To be honest with you, I have yet to meet a gym or a personal trainer who has this part down right. Everyone thinks they know what they are doing and why they are special but every time I go into a gym and I ask that gym’s personal trainers what their company does, every single one of them will say something different. Something like: getting people fit, all about fat loss, personal training or whatever. No, they need to know what the company stands for, why they are here and why they are doing this. It all should be a consistent message. The only thing that should be different is each person’s title and the reason WHY they are in this business. That’s it. The rest should be exactly the same. By introducing your new hire to the company culture early, it will make a huge difference. Have the new hire spend time with your personal trainers. Shadow them all the time before you let her train anyone (or answer the phones or handle the books). Then have your new hire train you and all your trainers until you are all happy with her. Always give honest feedback, otherwise they won’t be able to improve! 


Angela Stringfellow

Angela Stringfellow is a writer with 10+ years of experience. She focuses on news, trends, and insights in marketing, business, and technology

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