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10 Questions to Ask a New Employee Before You Hire Them

April 14, 2021 8 min. read
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One of the biggest hurdles home service business owners have to jump is hiring talent. Finding employees who will work hard, impress customers, stay organized, and stay with your business for a long time is no easy feat.

To find the best employees, you need to start asking the right interview questions.

Strong interview questions will help you get to the heart of what makes your candidate tick. Their answers will tell you if they’re a good fit for your business and if they’ll last.

Get started with our list of the best questions to ask a new employee, that go beyond “tell me about yourself” and clear your hiring and retention hurdles with ease.

Questions to ask a new employee

These interview questions are less about gauging skill and more about personality. As we heard from Katrina Teeple in the hiring and training employees panel at Jobber Professional Development Day 2021: “I hire people for their attitude first and their skillset second.”

You can teach a skill, whether that’s through training or a certification course. But you can’t teach attitude. We’re strong believers that one coachable and enthusiastic person is better for your business in the long run than a highly skilled bad fit.

Read through these questions to ask a new employee with that in mind.

READ MORE: How to hire your first employee

1. Why are you the best person for this job?

This is a great no-nonsense question for you to open the interview with. It works whether you found and recruited the candidate or they applied to your posting. It will show you how much time, if any, they’ve spent reviewing the job posting and your business.

More importantly, this question gives the candidate an opportunity to highlight their values and past achievements. They might emphasize their commitment to showing up every day, on time, or they might tell you about their past success leading an efficient team.

Whatever their answer, it will tell you a lot about what energy and experience they would bring to the team. This will give you an idea whether or not they’re a good fit.

2. What was one of your favorite jobs and why?

This question will reveal what motivates a candidate. They might describe a position where they ran their own crew, signalling that they value autonomy and can handle responsibility.

Maybe their favorite job involved working alone with minimal customer interaction, and the position you’re looking to fill requires a lot of customer face time. That might be a red flag.

Don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper if the response is minimal. Ask them why they feel they did a great job leading that crew, or if they have any other experience interacting with customers.

READ MOREAttract the best employees with these top tips from a hiring expert

3. Tell me about a time you experienced great customer service and horrible customer service.

Your ideal candidate should have a strong understanding of what good and bad customer service looks like. This is your chance to find out if that’s true.

The candidate might describe a time they’ve provided great customer service or been on the receiving end, and either way you’ll get a clear picture of what they value in these important interactions.

The answer to this question will tell you if the candidate’s own standards are a match for what you expect to see on the job.

READ MORE: Stan Genadek’s top 7 small business hiring tips

4. Explain what teamwork means to you.

The answer your candidate gives to this question can tell you a lot about how they work with others and how they might work with other employees on your team.

Whether you’re a team of 4 or a team of 14, teamwork is essential to the success of your company. Even if you’re hiring for an office manager who might be on their own at the office all day, they still have to communicate with your team in the field and problem-solve issues together on the fly.

Teams that work well together share accountability when things go wrong (or when things work out!). Teams also work towards the same goal and people generally work better together than they do on their own.

If the candidate struggles with answering this question or can’t give you an answer to what they think teamwork is, they might not be the right fit for you.

5. What would you need from the company to make sure you’re delivering quality work and making our customers happy?

In a job interview, you’re usually looking for someone that is the right fit for your company. So, it’s easy to forget that candidates are looking for a workplace that’s the right fit for them too. This question will help both you and your candidate figure that out.

In answering this question, your candidate may tell you they want to get paid on time because they’ve struggled with that in past jobs. Or, maybe they value effective internal communication, such as getting reasonable notice for newly scheduled or cancelled jobs.

It’s part of your job as a home service business owner to take care of your employees. When employees are taken care of, they do their best work and they stay with your business.

At Jobber Professional Development Day 2021, Kristen Hadeed said it best: “People would show up for work more if they knew that they were cared for.”

Understanding what your employees value not only makes your employees happier, it also makes you a better leader, and it improves employee retention. You work hard to find great employees—you want to make sure not to put your efforts to waste.

READ MORE9 customer retention strategies that work

6. Most of our customers hire us for the same reason. What do you think that reason is?

A candidate’s answer to this question can give you insight into how much research they’ve done on your company and why they want to work with you.

It can also show you what first impression your business gives potential employees (and customers!). You might discover that your current employees have said good things about your company in the community or maybe your many positive online reviews attracted your potential employee.

READ MOREHow to start a referral program for your business

This question might sound challenging on the surface but there isn’t really a right or wrong answer so, try to keep an open mind.

7. If there’s one reason I shouldn’t hire you, what would it be?

This question might sound confrontational but think of it this way: it’s another way of asking “what’s your greatest weakness?”

You might be surprised by how much candidates open up about what they struggle with as employees. It’s their chance to admit any shortcomings and demonstrate how they overcome them.

READ MOREShould I hire a subcontractor or an employee?

8. What are your pay expectations?

You want to be able to make a decision by the end of your interview, so confirm that they understand the pay if it’s set, or ask them about their expectations if there is flexibility.

With this question out of the way, you’ll have everything you need to make your decision and the next step can be an offer rather than spending more time negotiating.

10. Do you have any questions for me?

Save this interview question for the end, once you’ve asked all of your questions. A candidate might have some questions prepared. Or, they may have already asked their questions earlier in the interview.

Unless they’ve asked questions throughout the interview, the right candidate should have something to ask. It’s a sign they’re interested in the job and curious about the potential opportunity in front of them. It also means they’re trying to figure out if your company is the right place for them.

READ MORE: Learn how to build a business where employees want to work

Employee interview best practices

Keep these tips in mind for your next employee interview.

1. Add pre-screen interview questions to your interview process

According to CareerPlug, the home service industry has a low interview-to-hire rate of just 5%, compared to other industries. That means home service business owners are conducting a lot of interviews but not making a lot of hires.

What can you do to combat this? Be more selective early on. Add pre-screen questions to the first stage of your application process. That way you can screen candidates before you invite them to interview, saving you time and effort.

2. Pay attention to cues and red flags early in the interview process

Your candidate will give you plenty of hints about what type of employee and company representative they’ll be before the interview starts.

  • When you call them to arrange an interview do they answer the phone in a polite and professional manner? If you email them, are they professional in their response?
  • Do you get the sense that they’re confident and approachable when you meet in person?

These first impressions will most likely be the first impressions your clients’ experience. Don’t forget to write down your interactions with a candidate outside of the actual interview so that you can refer to them later.

3. A 15-minute initial phone screen can go a long way

Spending just 15 minutes, screening a candidate with the right interview questions will help you find and hire a good fit. After all, the cost of a bad hiring decision outweighs the 15 minutes spent learning more about the newest face of your business.

READ MORE: Hire better with an employee referral program

4. Get the paperwork out of the way

If you need to see any certification or need an application filled out with pre-screening information, ask the candidate to prepare ahead of time when possible.

This way you can spend that valuable face time actually discussing the role, rather than watching them fill out paperwork.

You also avoid realizing in person or after the interview that they don’t have the certification you require to hire them.

Want to go even deeper on this topic? Learn how to turn your employees into growth-driving leaders on the Masters of Home Service Podcast.

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