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Q: My manager is the worst interviewer in the world. He just chit-chats with candidates. He doesn’t really interview them. We end up hiring these new employees who are really not qualified and make everyone else miserable. They don’t show up for work, they annoy others because they don’t have basic work skills and they don’t care about our customers. The original team is very committed to our customers. What should we do?

A: Working with colleagues who are less committed can be de-motivating. It sounds like you have a core team who are very focused on delivering results to your customers. Your manager should be asking questions about customer service, after a few “chit-chat” questions.

Beginning an interview with a few non-interview questions is fine. Questions like “Did you find us ok?” or “When will spring really begin?” are all ways to warm up a candidate and set the tone for a friendly back and forth. However, it sounds like customer service skills are critical. Some questions that your manager might want to ask are:

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1. Tell me about your customer service experience.

2. Describe to me a time when you have had to interact with a very challenging customer.

3. What has been your favorite role of your career? If the candidate does not mention one with customer interaction, this might be a yellow flag. What has been the least favorite role of your career? Again, if the candidate includes a role with heavy customer interaction, this could be a concern.

4. How would you describe a strong co-worker?

5. How would your former co-workers describe you?

6. Describe to me the last piece of negative feedback a supervisor shared with you.

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Notice I shared questions where a simple yes or no wouldn’t suffice. I focused on customer service skills and how this candidate interacts with co-workers. We have all worked with colleagues who are helpful and will chip in when a co-workers is harried or overwhelmed. When they are able, they assist a colleague. Then, we have those that look the other way when a co-worker is struggling. Or they volunteer for a project and and you find them surfing the net picking out new shoes. It is frustrating and I have worked with both types.

Every hire is a risk. In a relatively short amount of time, an interviewer has to assess a number of factors, including skill (can the candidate do the job?), cultural fit (can they add to the work environment or will they detract from it?), and co-worker relations (can they work well with others on the team, if this is important). In our firm, we help clients terminate more employees for cultural fit and how well (or not well!) they work with others. If a colleague can contribute to your work environment or positive co-worker relations, they are usually a keeper!

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