Want to Keep Employees for the Long Run? First, Ask Candidates These Questions

December 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM Kathleen de Lara

how to build employee engagement and retentionThough we refuse to swear by any secret recipe, special key, or magic formula to improve the chances employees at your company stick around for the long run, one thing we will stand behind is getting involved with team members’ engagement and retention before they officially come on board – that means asking the right questions to get the best fit candidate through each stage of the hiring process.

Is your company in high gear end-of-year hiring mode? Try these questions on for size to build and curate a more qualified talent funnel.

Tell me, what’s your story?

A great way to measure a candidate’s self-awareness, communication style, and attention to detail is to let ‘em talk. “If someone rambles for 45 minutes, it’s probably not going to work. If someone takes 30 seconds, it’s probably not going to work,” said Jon Bischke, Entelo’s CEO. Take a look for a candidate who’s skilled at telling a story – beginning, middle, end, good, and bad. Their technique can tell you a lot about their thought processes.

What does the candidate choose to share about their background? Is there a good, balanced, appropriate mix of personal and professional experiences? Do they go chronologically, or jump all over the place? Is the story concise? Is there a good flow to their story? Does the candidate decide to highlight the good or bad first? Do they choose to share negatives? If they do choose to share the negatives, does the candidate share what the lessons they learned to apply to their next opportunity or experience?

Where do you want to be in five years?

…which is another way to ask, “How do you expect to grow from this role?” Either question can gauge how a candidate expects the company will support their growth and expected career development. While some paths aren’t as formulaic or generic as other positions, hiring managers should get a sense of the skills a candidate wants to develop during their time with the company, and how you can help them expand their network through other team members’ networks.

Does the role fit into what they want, or can the company break some time to teach those skills? More importantly, will they enjoy the projects handed to them, and will they be able to work quickly, if necessary? Get a sense of how the role currently fits and will jive with what a candidate is looking for to measure how the opportunity attracts, keeps them around, and how the employee will grow in the role as the company scales.

What are you reading right now?

The list of expected answers will differ depending on the position and industry you’re recruiting for, but what you’re hoping to learn about a candidate from their answer is if the candidate is up to date with the latest news, tools, and trends in the space. Try to come up with a list of sources and pubs you and the rest of the team are reading. Then compare it to what candidates list off.

Where do they get their news? Are they naming off a variety of sources, some of which you’ve heard and maybe even a few you’re hearing for the first time? Ask them what publication or other news source is their favorite and why they like it. This can also be a good indicator of the level of quality of their work, or for what it’s worth, how left and/or right-brained they are. A candidate who stumbles on this question could be an example of someone who may not have enough experience, or who doesn’t have a suitable awareness of what’s going on in and outside of their space.

At your previous job, who didn’t you expect to work well with that you ended up working well with?

This question shows how candidates learn how to overcome differences to manage and work with colleagues and managers, outside and within their department. You’ll hardly come across who wants to work with a curmudgeon, a negative force on the team. It lowers employee morale, and puts a damper on any sort of team encouragement to boost the company during its low periods. Also – office politics. Need we say more? You’ve struck a bit of gold if you find a candidate who knows how to separate their personal gripes from the work place, and can remain levelheaded even when working with a less-than-deal coworker.

Keep an employee happy with your company by weighing out their engagement prior to their first day on the job. Communicate how you and the candidate will grow (or not) by taking on the opportunity, and you’ll be able to build a clearer definition of a qualified employee for the job. Want even more resources on improving employee engagement and retention? We recommend this webinar – watch “How to Set Up Candidates for Success” on demand here!

greenhouse entelo webinar

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