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Weed Out Those Bad Apples At The Interview

Furniture World Magazine


Let’s look at how to decipher “intervieweeze” and to weed out those candidates who interview well but don’t make good employees.

Special note to owners and managers: Hiring new team members is time consuming and difficult. It is also Job #1. You’ve worked long and hard to coach, support, and create your team. They are the frontline and the bottomline of your organization. Select new people to bring on board with care. Here are some tips for "deciphering" who these candidates REALLY are.

Here is the latest definition of "Intervieweeze" as defined in the "Newly Revised and Abridged Edition of the Finney Dictionary."

In-ter-view-eze / n. language of interviewee, used at time of interview in place of English.
Imagine that a "shining star" rockets into your office and tells you everything that you want to hear. They are "preaching to the choir," you are bonding, they are committed, you are excited, they are enthused, you can’t believe your luck, and they will be dedicated. You think it is English they are speaking. You KNOW you are hearing those words:

  • "Commission? I love working on commission. It’s the challenge!"
  • "Working weekends and evenings? No problem. My family is very supportive."
  • "Coming in early for sales meetings? I’m there! I want all the training I can get."
  • "I have to do housecalls?" That’s okay. I’m used to that."
  • "Doing follow-up phone calls, and handling irate customers? Piece of cake. It all comes with the territory. It’s all part of the job."

Upon hearing these words, YOU are sold. So you hire this person only to find out that their "evil twin" shows up for work on Monday morning. She shows up late and looks like she just fell out of bed… plus you now hear…

  • • "I don’t get a commission check until when? I can’t live on this!"
  • "Work weekends? You meant every weekend?”
  • “WHAT nights?"
  • "I have to come in at 9:00 A.M. for a sales meeting when I’m not scheduled till noon?"
  • "Handling customer complaints is not in my job description!"
  • "Dress code! What dress code?"

Does this sound familiar? You know that YOU spoke English at the initial interview. You even kept your sentences short and in words of two syllables. What didn’t they understand and why didn’t they apparently understand what you said?

Okay, let’s look at how to decipher the "intervieweeze." Let’s invite the "evil twin" to sneak out early and show themselves to you before they move in and claim your territory as their own! Let’s move up the date and time of their personal appearance. Let’s see what they really look like, and how they sound in their "native tongue!"

How do you do this? By remembering the First Law of Retail. No Surprises! Tell the candidate at time of the interview… not at the time of hire:

  • What you EXPECT.
  • What you’ll INSPECT.
  • What you’ll ACCEPT.
  • They or you do not need to be SURPRISED!

Don’t tell them they only have to work 35 hours a week and they can make a great living. Not on this planet, and not in the first six months. Don’t do that. Don’t set them up to fail. It’s not fair to them, to you, to the other members of your team, and to "Ethel." No, they don’t have to kill themselves and work long hours for the rest of their lives. But, until they build up their client base and learn the rules, which takes time, they must be ready, willing, and able to go the extra mile.
Let them know up front that you are not looking for someone who just wants a job. You are seeking that special individual who wants to commit to a career.

Give them the specifics, up-front at the interview:

1. Let them know what the minimum acceptable sales goals are for the first three months.

  • 2. Tell them the follow-up procedures that are part of their job description:
  • Follow-up filing system must be set-up and used.
  • Follow-up phone calls within three days.
  • Thank you notes (hand written) for stopping in.
  • Thank you notes (hand written) after purchase.
  • Follow-up phone calls after delivery.
  • Calls & notes sent for special events & promotions.

3. If you do housecalls, give them housecall goals/month. Monitor this. If they make house calls, they should close them.

4. The first 90 days are a probationary period to see how they like you, and you like them.

You invest lots of valuable time and effort to train new hires. Let’s also allocate some extra time to the interviewing process to find out who they really are.

You should conduct THREE Interviews. Why three?

Some people don’t want to be bothered with that many interviews. If they can’t be bothered ~ neither can you!
How did they put themselves together on these three different occasions?

Most candidates get real comfortable by the final interviewing phase. They get too comfortable. They think this job’s "in the bag." Guess what? They drop the "intervieweeze" and revert back to their "native tongue." Eureka! You get to meet "the twin" before you bring them on board.

Give them an assignment for the second and third interviews. Now you can analyze how well they prepare and present.
Have other team members present at additional interviews who will be part of the decision making process.

Interview #1

  • Were they on time?
  • What was your immediate first impression of them?
  • How did they present themselves?
  • What, if anything, did they bring with them?
  • Were they smiling?
  • Did they make eye contact or stare at their shoes?
  • How would you rate their communication skills?
  • Did they listen? What did they hear?
  • Would you trust this person enough to buy from them?
  • If you do housecalls ~ Would you let them in your home?

What types of questions do they ask? What are their main concerns about the position? Are they obsessed with their compensation package? Do they want to know how much vacation time they get and when it takes effect? Are these their priorities? What does that tell you? How do they answer the questions you ask them on this first interview?

Now, give them an assignment for the next interview. Ask them to outline:

  • How would they network to create their own client base?
  • In what ways would they contribute to bring in more business to your operation?

Interview #2

How do they look? How did they put themselves together? You are not being judgmental or small-minded when you consider their appearance. We are in the fashion industry. "Ethel" has no idea how a salesperson she just met will be able to help her coordinate fabrics and colors for her home. The only thing she has to go by is the way they put themselves together. Your people are literally a walking billboard for your operation! So ask yourself, would you want the person you are interviewing to be an ambassador for your company?

Ask them what questions or concerns they have based on issues discussed during your first meeting? Evaluate how they address the assignments that you gave them? What answers did they come up with and what were their solutions for networking themselves and your store? What public relation ideas did they plan to put in place to create their own traffic and to develop their own clients? Ask them:

  • "What is it that sets YOU apart from all the other candidates?"
  • "What are you bringing to the party?"

If you like their answers, and you’re feeling good enough about them to bring them in for the final interview… tell them to be prepared at the next interview to put a room together for you. They will select four fabrics to be used together in a room based on information that you give them about a hypothetical customer (family members, the room, their lifestyle, their needs or the "feeling" they want to create in this particular environment). Explain that you will take into account their level of experience and that they should feel free to spend time browsing in your showroom to put together their presentation.

Make sure that the manager they will be assigned to is at the third interview. Don’t hire someone and then send them to a store where they will be reporting to someone they’ve never met. It’s not fair to "Sally" the new employee or "Doris" the store manager. It’s awkward for everyone. "Sally" and "Doris" have no rapport. The coach needs to have bonded with her new team member on some level before she just "shows up" at the front door on her first day. There are too many potential surprises for both parties. Yes, you may think that they will be "great" together, but "Doris’" first impression of "Sally" may be that "twin" with fangs and horns in three-inch heels! So much for three interviews and ALL that time!
Interview #3

Okay, you know the drill. How do they look? Are you still impressed? Are they excited about the challenge of doing this presentation for you, or do they look like Bambi in the headlights? Are they breathing at regular intervals or hyperventilating?

Now it is time to look critically at their presentation. How would you rate the fabrics they coordinated for color flow, pattern mix, and their choice of textures? Does it make sense? Is it pleasing to the eye upon first inspection?

Did they select fabrics based on what you told them that you need and want in the room? Did they listen? Did they "capture" the look that you were after?

How would you describe their presentation skills? Do they justify why they’ve selected what they’ve selected? Are they excited about what they’re showing you? Do they get you excited about what you are seeing? Do they describe the setting so that you picture what it will look like? Do you feel that you have to own it? Do they ASK you to buy it?

At the end of their presentation ask yourself if you are still as impressed as you were initially? How did they do with their assignments? What does the manager think? (If you’re the manager, well... do they have the job?)

How would they work with the other members of your team? How did they define being a team member? What did it mean to them? Was it important to them? It only takes one person to create chaos and upset what you’ve worked so hard to create. Don’t let this person be the one!

Don’t bring this person on board because, "they were the only one I could find." They may have passed the "mirror test" (they were breathing), but that is no reason to settle for them. Don’t ever lower your standards by feeling you have to settle! Don’t do that to yourself, your people, or your customers.

If you are thinking, "I don’t have the time for three interviews." Well, let’s get you some time. Let’s take some of the "monkeys" off of your back. If you have a sales manager, or team captain, have them meet the candidate first. Let them narrow the field. You can be involved in the second or the third interview depending on their opinion of this candidate. The more time you spend with the "interviewee," the greater your chances of deciphering "Intervieweeze!" Break the "code" before they are hired. Let the evil twin go to work for someone else, preferably your competition.

You can’t afford not to take the extra time to recruit a new team member. You owe it to the interested candidate, yourself, your team, and "Ethel." That’s why it’s Job #1!

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.