The big things count, too

I recently wrote about the importance, in my mind at least, of getting a job candidate away from the formal interview setting and taking him to dinner. This week, I wanted to step back into the interview itself and share a couple of things that always seem to work well for me. Once again, they won’t apply to all of your job openings, but perhaps some variation of them will fit nicely into the next interview you conduct.

If you’re in the water systems business, it’s likely that you are interviewing someone for a technical position. As a result, it’s critical to find out what he or she really knows. In my case, I’ve found that a pump sizing exercise is a great place to start. I provide him with the information needed to size a pump, along with the curves and catalogs. What makes this exercise especially good is that it’s a jumping off point to other topics. Would you recommend a VFD for this application? Why or why not? What kind and size of tank? And so forth.

At some point, drive your questions to where the candidate doesn’t know the answer. That happens in the field, and you need to know how the candidate will respond. Does he try and muddle through and make something up? Or, does he simply say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” This is a perfectly acceptable answer, but leads right to the follow-up question of, “how would you go about finding out?” A candidate once gave me the terrific answer of, “I would call the Franklin Electric Hotline.”

Of course, you’re not always going to be interviewing someone from the water systems industry. In this scenario, have the candidate present and explain something he or she already knows. For example, we once interviewed a candidate for the Hotline. He was new to the water systems industry, but in a previous life, he flew helicopters for a living. We ended up asking him to come back the next day with a 30-minute presentation on “How to Fly a Helicopter.” He nailed it, giving us the confidence to move forward and make the right decision.

A common interview question is “So, what do you know about our company?” Although it’s a routine question, it’s an important one, and far too many candidates squander it. Case in point … just the other day, I was asked to interview someone for another department, and I asked him that very question. He knew that Franklin Electric made fueling pumps. We do indeed, and initially, I was impressed. However, he’d run into that somewhat by accident, and his knowledge of Franklin stopped there. He had no idea that Franklin Electric manufactured groundwater pumps, or when the company was founded, what our annual revenue was, or the number of employees. Now, I’m not saying that he needed to be able to recite our annual report, but this information is just a click away on Franklin’s website. Not knowing any of it demonstrated that he haven’t taken the time to go there. I didn’t, but I was tempted to ask, “In your cover letter, you state that you’re very interested in a career at Franklin Electric. However, you haven’t taken any time to learn anything about the company. How do you reconcile the two of those?”

Finally, to balance your own opinion, have several of your colleagues interview the candidate. More often than not, you will gain additional perspectives you might not have considered. But, you need to be careful here. Some people are overly nice when it comes to interviewing and they love everyone you put in front of them. Others have never met a candidate they like. At the end of the day, it’s your decision, and as the business owner or manager, you have to live with that decision.

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