Follow your intuition

Make better hiring decisions by asking the right questions and listening to your gut.


A new business owner recently told me, “We didn’t hire the best people, and it’s been a bit rough.” He went on to share that they consciously hired people less skilled than themselves so that they would look better.

The co-mingling of ego and low self-esteem creates a toxic brew, and without change, their business will either limp along or quickly go under. How tragic. Another business owner said that people can give great interviews, but you don’t really know who they are until they start to show their true characters after several months have passed.

While interviewing candidates, assess their interpersonal skills as well as their job qualifications.

Hiring the right person for the right job directly impacts your success, customer and employee satisfaction, and the bottom line.

But how do you really know who you’re getting when you hire someone? While you can never be entirely certain, you can increase your likelihood of consistently making great hires by implementing the following:

1. Clearly define the skillsets needed in the position. The clearer you are on what they will be doing, the easier it is to identify a good match.

2. Determine your company and/or department’s culture and essential personality characteristics. I personally have neither the time nor the patience to work with people who pout, complain or stir the pot.

3. Ask for five references and listen to what is and isn’t said when you contact them. “She has my highest recommendation, and I would hire her in a heartbeat” is very different than, “She showed up and completed assigned tasks.”

4. Ask probing questions. In addition to figuring out if they have or can quickly develop the necessary skillsets, ask the following questions to learn more about their character, work habits and interpersonal skills:

  • Give me an example of how you typically deal with conflict.
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how do you rate your flexibility? Tell me about a time you demonstrated being flexible.
  • How would you rate your self-motivation skills? Can you give me an example?
  • Which sounds better to you, interacting and working with others or working alone to complete tasks?
  • Are you a “get a job and get it done immediately” person, or do deadlines motivate and energize you?
  • What type of leadership brings out the best in you?
  • What brings out the worst in you?
  • How will you handle differences of opinion with your supervisor? Co-workers?

5. Listen to what they say about others. I once hired someone who talked poorly about his previous boss. Through him, I learned that assuming someone will treat me differently than they treat others is the height of egotism. He remains the single worst hire I’ve ever made due to his tendencies to create conflict, plant seeds of distrust and throw me under the bus all while being polite to my face.

6. Follow your intuition. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong, listen to your gut if you’re getting red flags or are uncertain. “Unless it’s an absolute yes, it’s a no” is a good premise to follow when making a new hire.

7. Consider hiring on a temp-to-permanent or probationary period. Doing so allows both parties to see if the fit is right. Set them up for success by providing clear expectations, on-going feedback and great leadership.

While there isn’t a crystal ball to ensure every hire you make will be great, you can stack the deck in your favor by being proactive and deliberate throughout the interviewing process. While it takes more work and courage on the front end, it’s ultimately the people who make or break a business.

Dr. Sherene McHenry works with organizations that want to boost their Leadership IQ so they can enhance effectiveness, increase employee engagement and raise productivity. Learn more at

May 2016
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