Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2000   by Tim Norlin, MAAP and Chuck Udell, AAP

UNIVERSITY OF THE AFTERMARKET: Interviewing for Results: Getting A Great Return On Your Hiring Investment

Interview, n. formal meeting or conversation with a person to assess his merits or obtain information.

Hiring employees is a critical, if reluctantly accepted, task of the manager.

In June, we began discussing how you can increase your chances of hiring right the first time, and in doing so decrease your hiring and recruiting costs and increase the return on your hiring investment. We emphasized that without a good hiring and recruiting process, and with today’s low unemployment rates, the chances of recruiting and hiring good people is not good. Your employee turnover could increase and in turn the return on hiring investment will suffer.

To increase your chances of making good hiring decisions, we suggested that you follow the steps in the following hiring process:

1. Defining the job

2. Recruiting and obtaining applications

3. Application review

4. Reference checking

5. Interviewing

6. Evaluating & skill-testing the candidate

7. Selecting the candidate

8. Hiring and completing the paperwork

9. Orienting the new employee

Steps one to four consist of what we call the pre-interview phase. This process we addressed in our article two months ago. Now we want to focus on that next critical step –the interview.

As your final preparation for the interview, you should get the interview area ready and prepare the questions you want to ask your candidates. Reviewing the interview area should be an important part of a manager’s preparation for an interview. The interview location should afford you privacy so that you will not have to deal with interruptions such as the telephone, background noise or questions from store team members. Be sure that the place you have selected for the interview provides a non-intimidating atmosphere. A candidate should be put at ease during his visit. Try to arrange the chairs so that you and the candidate sit on the same side of the desk or as close to that scenario as possible. This will create an equality that can help put the candidate more at ease and allow you to gain more information about the person through more relaxed conversation.

To do a good job of interviewing, preparation of questions to ask applicants is critical to your success. In other words, you must have a game plan for the interview. Excellent organization is a must! You must be consistent in your approach to interviewing. This means asking applicants the same types of questions and consistently covering the same areas. Remember that the primary goal of an interview is for you to be able to assess if the applicant can do the job and how well they can do it. So, your questions must be able to help you determine this.

So how do you come up with the questions you should ask each candidate? A basic principle to remember is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. To best determine what this past performance has been, ask questions based upon what you want the candidate to do. What you want the candidate to do is found in the job description you prepared.

For example, for a counterperson, a critical duty would be to be able to work with wholesale and retail customers to provide needed parts in an accurate and timely manner. Questions you could ask are:

1Please describe your experience working with wholesale customers. What do you like about working with them? What do you not like?

2Describe for me a time when you did not have a part in stock. What did you tell your customer? How did he react?

3Please tell me about a time that you had an upset walk-in customer. What did you do? How did you react?

Note that these questions are all open-ended questions. Open-ended questions often begin with “why” or “how” or “what.” Closed-ended questions produce limited information. Try not to ask questions that can be answered with only “yes” or “no.” You will want to ask questions that get the applicant to open up and talk more in depth about their experience.

Other do’s and don’ts when interviewing are:

Take good notes. Invite the candidate to take notes if they wish;

Relate your small talk to the applicant and the job;

Avoid “telegraphing” what you want;

Show sincere interest in the applicant and his or her qualifications and praise accomplishments;

Listen carefully and try not to talk too much;

Control the interview and its direction;

Avoid questions that are unrelated to the job;

Do not prejudge or jump to conclusions;

Give the applicant information about your organization;

At the end of the interview, summarize and share with the applicant what happens next;

Write a brief summary of the interview right after it is finished.

Perhaps one of the most important points of hiring is to be diligent in interviewing qualified candidates properly, not taking the first subject who fits the experience requirement. Hiring new employees is one of the most important functions for a manager. The hiring decisions made can have a tremendous impact on the business.

Using a consistent approach will help you fairly assess each candidate, and helps ensure that the right decision is made the first time.