Beyond the interview

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

When interviewing job candidates and selecting a new employee, employers hope the new hire will be productive for a long time.

Poor hiring decisions can hurt a business. But how can employers be sure they are making the right choice when they choose a new employee? How do they know the person they are interviewing can do the job and not just talk a good game during the job interview?

To find out what job candidates

are really like, more companies are using assessment tools to assist in the hiring process.

Assessment tools are designed to aid employers during the interview process and to provide objectivity when all employers have to work with is a resume, some references and a first impression.

"When I first started in this business 16 years ago, maybe 7 percent of

companies were using assessment tools, and now 20 percent are using them, because employers see that they need help," said Jeff Percival, owner of Milwaukee-based Percival Enterprises. "They have tried to work off of gut feelings, and it has hurt them."

However, pre-employment assessment tools cannot be treated as a magic eight ball by the employer, some business consultants say.

Employers need to know the criteria that a job candidate must have to handle the job, be cautious that they are not selling the job to the candidate and use the assessment tools as a starting point for asking behavior intelligence questions during the interview.

"During an interview, employers need to ask themselves whether (the candidate) will be a liability or an asset to the company," Percival said. "They need to ask as many questions as possible."

When buying a used car, consumers ask about mileage, accident history and warranty. Employers need to do the same when interviewing a potential employee by asking candidates about their past, situations they have handled and if they will be able to do what the job requires, Percival said.

There are three steps an employer should take when filling a position, said Anthony Quartaro, president of Delafield-based QCI Inc.

1. Employers need to know what they are looking for in a person to fill a specific position. "Typically, employers don’t think about whether a person needs to be assertive, and that can be important," Quartaro said.

2. After an interview, employers should consider who the candidate is upon a first impression and short conversation. If the person is highly sociable, then the individual can be convincing and make employers think they know who that person is, Quartaro said. However, that impression can be deceiving if the interviewee knows how to tell you what you want to hear, but might not really be qualified for the job. "A resume and meeting a person can fool you," Quartaro said. "Six months (after hiring the person), you may be dealing with someone you did not interview."

3. Use an assessment tool as another assurance and filter.

"We tell you who (the candidates) really are and how much they will conform, if they are nonconformists, if they work well in a fast-paced environment," Quartaro said. "Anyone can modify themselves, but the question is for how long."

"The interview process is the best you see of someone, and for the next 30 to 90 days they will maintain that because of probation," Percival said. "It is like a honeymoon, and when the honeymoon is over, you get to see the real person. The tool is there to show employers what this person will look like when the honeymoon is over."

An assessment can outline important issues an employer needs to know about the candidate’s character traits, willingness to work and ability to work with a team, Quartaro said.

Quartaro has licensed rights in Wisconsin to work with an assessment product called the Culture Index Survey, a Web-based tool made up of a series of descriptive words.

In the first section of the survey, the user checks words that apply to his or her personality, and in the second section, the user checks words that coincide with his or her job behaviors.

Once the individual has completed the survey, the Culture Index Survey technology creates a statistical analysis of the individual in a chart form. The results tell Quartaro and his clients whether the individual is highly aggressive by nature, if they are assertive, the individual’s level of social ability and communication skills, if the individual is meticulous, tactful, and if the individual is willing to conform.

By surveying the individual’s personal traits and job behaviors, employers can see how much an individual modifies their natural behavior at work or is naturally fit for a specific position.

Traits including the level of autonomy, assertiveness and willingness to confront others cannot be seen in an interview, Quartaro said.

Quartaro recently used the Culture Index Survey to help a client who owns a local pizza company choose a chief financial officer. Quartaro was given the survey results of six candidates without viewing their personal data, resumes or meeting them in person.

The client knew that the company needed a strategic thinker, a person who would present the story of the company to the community, would have to work well with bankers and be a take-charge leader.

Five of the candidates had survey results typical of accountants and would be a great fit for a chief financial officer position if the company was not seeking a results-oriented, high-energy executive, Quartaro said.

One candidate’s results showed traits that valued a sense of urgency, effective communication and was highly autonomous. Quartaro said that candidate was the company’s only choice. The candidate was hired, and six months later, the client is still satisfied with the decision, he said.

"It forces clients to think about the job description," Quartaro said. "In this case, it was what kind of accountant the client wanted. If they wanted a facts, information and analysis-oriented person or someone that would create strategy for the organization. How could they tell that from an interview?"

Assessment tools come in all sizes and prices, Percival said.

Percival is an independent contractor representative for six assessment tool vendors and will consult with employers to find the right tool for his clients.

"There are some tools out there that have very pretty reports but are hard to interpret," Percival said. "I am leery of tools that have to be interpreted. The tool is objective, and what you see is what you get."

Percival works with tools that range from about $20 to about $400, based on volume. When clients are looking at different options, Percival suggests that they look at the end result of the assessment and determine how much information they want to receive about a candidate from the tool. If the tool the company needs costs more money, it may be worth it, he said.

"If a company is simply looking for tools for pre-employment assessment, there are some tools where that is all you can use them for," Percival said. "Some tools can be used as a total management system. The tools can match people to the right job ad then to the right manager."

When tools fail, it is most likely because of a mistake made by the user or because the employer did not ask the candidate questions after reviewing his or her assessment, Percival said.

Some tools have distortion scales to stop candidates from trying to look as good on paper as they do in their suit, Percival said.

"The pre-employment tool that I really like addresses attitudes toward dependability, honesty, computer abuse, workplace aggression and sexual harassment," Percival said.

When an assessment tool decides that a candidate’s answer to a question raises a red flag, the employer is instructed by the tool about which follow-up questions to ask in regards to the flagged question, Percival said.

The tools help employers think of questions that will gather more information, Percival said.

"(Employers should) use the tools to augment information to make a well-informed decision," said Elizabeth Ferris, owner of Milwaukee-based Ferris Consulting. "Do not use the tools exclusively, but combine the tools with a subjective interview where (employers) actively listen to what and how a candidate says something."

Ferris said she focuses on assessment tools and customized questions for interviewing and managing salespeople and helping companies achieve their growth goals.

"Employers should ask the candidate how they feel about making phone calls, what the most successful call (the candidate) made was and why, and if (the candidate) had to make 20 calls a day, how would (he or she) feel," Ferris said. "If not, then ask what gets the candidate excited about sales. If the answer is freedom and getting to know people, it is not a good fit. Salespeople should be strategically growing the business."

Asking open-ended questions that are customized to the company or position can give an employer more of an idea about how the person will fit into the company’s culture and with the company’s clients, Ferris said.

"If the company has a client-focused and collaborative environment, and an employer hires an individualistic salesperson, it will not be a good fit and will affect the company culture," she said. "When an employer asks candidates what they like about leadership and how their performance can be affected in certain environments, the employer can get an intuitive sense about the person."

Ferris advises employers to ask why a candidate is looking to change jobs or careers and ask what skills helped the candidate in a previous job. Employers should be attentive and ask for details, she said.

"I stress the importance of knowing what information you want to gather and having the right tools to gather that information because you want the right person in the right job," Percival said. "Employees will then be an asset to the company, and the company will be a good place for them to work."

Hire the Right Salesperson

Elizabeth Ferris, owner of Milwaukee-based Ferris Consulting, offers a customized question service to clients. The following are examples of the questions Ferris believes can be crucial when interviewing a salesperson for a job opening:

Prospecting skills

  • How do you plan the effective use of your day?
  • How do you overcome difficult the periods everyone experiences in sales?
  • What kind of people do you not like to sell to? Why?
  • In your previous sales job, how long did it take you from initial contact to close the sale?

Pre-call preparation skills

  • How would you prepare for a sales call?
  • Give me an example of how you prepared for a call in your previous sales job.


  • Give me an example of your best sales call. Why was it good? What strategies did you use?
  • Give me an example of your worst sales call. Why was it bad? What  was the outcome?


  • Why do you think you can sell for this company?
  • What are the five most common objections you face in your current sales position and how do you deal with them?

Motivation for Sales

  • What do you dislike most about sales?
  • Why do you want to be a salesperson?
  • What different types of customers have you called on and what titles have you sold to in these companies?
  • Give me a description of your ideal work day. How did it start, what did you do during the day and how did it end

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