WELCOME to "Effective Hiring"

This program will help you develop the skills necessary to make good hiring decisions.

We'll look at the process overall, but will mainly focus on interview techniques and tips.

Your agency's HR office can provide you with information specific to your agency's practices for posting, screening and documenting your selection.

Ready? Let's begin with "The Case of the Bad Hiring Decision".

The Basics

Introductory information: the case of the bad hiring decision:

But He Interviewed So Well!”



The Case of the Bad Hiring Decision

Manager:   Susan

Photo of Susan


Susan’s assistant is GREAT.  She can work independently, can handle difficult callers, and is good at composing documents.


This morning Susan’s assistant resigned to take a promotion with another agency. 


Susan went to her files and pulled the vacancy announcement she kept from the last time the position was advertised—6 years ago.


She copied it and gave it to her agency’s HR office so the vacancy could be announced.


Susan didn’t really think about how the duties of the position had changed in the last 6 years.

The announcement didn’t mention the need for Word and Excel, the ability to compose independently, and the ability to deal with angry or upset callers.

70 people applied for the position.


Susan’s HR office sent her the applications from those who were qualified for the position.


She drafted good interview questions and arranged for several other employees to serve with her on an interview panel. Then she chose the applicants she wanted to interview.

Applicant: Jerome

Susan was overwhelmed by the number of applications and had a hard time deciding who to interview.

In choosing applicants to interview she chose Jerome partly because of his especially neat application and cover letter. He has 2 years’ experience with the State.

Jerome’s Interview

At his interview Jerome was so personable and likeable that the panel didn’t really stick to their list of questions.


Cynthia said, “I can see from your application that you have good computer skills” and Jerome didn’t contradict her.

3 weeks later….

Jerome started  3 weeks ago and has been a disaster. Typing a letter takes him hours and the final product is full of errors. His files are a mess, he misplaces important documents, and several callers have complained about his rudeness.


Today Susan received his Personnel file from the last agency that employed him. He had an overall performance rating of ‘below good’ and an active warning in his file, both referring to his lack of skill, carelessness, and unwillingness to attend training.

What mistakes did Susan make?

a. She did not re-examine the position before asking HR to announce the vacancy

b. She did not utilize a structured interview process

c. She assumed Jerome had typed the application and cover letter himself and didn’t ask him to demonstrate his skills.

d. She didn’t check references or even ask Jerome for a copy of his latest performance evaluation

e. All of the above


The correct answer is: all of the above

That’s right! Susan failed to:

Review the position before posting it

Utilize a structured interview process

Check references

Ask Jerome to demonstrate his skills


The result of Susan’s mistakes:

Susan has a long road ahead in working with Jerome to correct the problems or, if that fails, in pursuing disciplinary action

 Her credibility is affected . Morale of other staff in the unit will suffer. Many training dollars will probably be spent

Susan still doesn’t have the help she needs


Famous last words:


“But he interviewed so well!”


End of introductory ‘Case of the Bad Hiring Decision”


As a supervisor

YOU are responsible for hiring an effective workforce.

You are expected to use a systematic, structured, legally sound approach to hiring.

Your goal is to HIRE THE RIGHT PERSON for the job.


Each agency has specific processes in place for posting positions, screening applications, conducting interviews, and documenting decisions. You should contact your agency's Human Resources office for specific information.




It is YOUR responsibility to understand and specify what you want the new hire to do


In approaching hiring try to keep in mind that it is not an independent, isolated event but an interrelated part of a sound management system


Flash movie:

Activities like hiring, training, and managing performance should NOT be looked at as isolated, independent events, but rather


Interrelated elements of an effective management system:


Classification (image of green rectangle)


An accurate position description and understanding of duties are essential to ensuring that a position is classified correctly, that salary is equitable, and that the duties assigned to the position support the goals of the work unit and the organization.


Hiring (image of purple rectangle)


A thoughtful, careful hiring process can minimize performance management problems, training needs and employee relations issues.


Training (image of blue rectangle)


A good hiring process helps us identify training important to the position and plan for appropriate developmental opportunities as the person remains employed.


Performance Management (image of yellow rectangle)


Accurate classification and hiring practices help in developing useful, relevant work plans.  Additionally, hiring the right person minimizes the possibility of performance problems.



Employee relations (image of pink rectangle)


Employee relations and discipline problems can be minimized by careful hiring and placement of employees in appropriate positions.


Description of following graphics: Animation shows different colored rectangles falling into place and interlocking to form a unified bigger rectangle—like pieces of a puzzle coming together.






COMMON MISTAKES! Click and drag the bar, stopping at each mark:

Not analyzing the position before filling it


Not finding out whether the applicant has the skills needed for THIS job.


Going on a 'gut feeling' rather than facts


Failing to check references


Failing to document the hiring process.


Assuming that a person who is good at one job will be good at another.



When you are hiring, remember:

you aren't just a supervisor




It's your responsibility to find out whether THIS PERSON

can do THIS JOB.


There are several tools available to help you with your research. Using a combination of all the tools will help ensure you make a good hiring decision.
Click inside each box:


photo of job application form

Job applications really don't tell us very much. We can get a sense
of the kind of work the person has done, and learn about years of
experience and education completed, but otherwise we need to
question further before feeling that we have a clear picture of
the applicant.


Most of this course focuses on the interview process;
we'll be moving to that next.

While the interview is an important tool, it is not
the only one.

Realize that the information you get in an interview
consists entirely of verbal information the applicant
chooses to give you.

Be sure to back up interview data with work samples
and reference checks.

Work sample

Picture of artist painting on easel

A work sample asks the applicant to
perform a particular skill. Some ideas
for work samples:


Work sample

Composing letter

Attention to detail



Creating sample letter

Proofreading sample



Dealing with angry callers

Role play

Driving a truck

Driving truck on obstacle course

Training skills

Giving a short sample


Picture of man scouring dictionary


An excellent tool is the reference check, in which
someone with knowledge of the applicant's skills
and abilities provides you with information.

Talk with the applicant's current and past super-
visors about the individual's skills, abilities and

This is NOT meant to be the only means of making
a decision, but should be seen as a way of getting
information to supplement your interview and other

Your agency may have specific guidelines for
conducting reference checks. Always talk with
your HR office about information specific to
your workplace.


So far we've examined the basics of hiring and the problems caused by poor hiring decisions.



Let's look now at the steps in the hiring process:


Effective Hiring: Process


The hiring process:

1. Create/edit/revise vacancy announcement

2. Create interview questions and work samples

3. Screen applications/choose interview candidates

4. Conduct interviews

5. Conduct reference checks

6. Make decision

7. Retain documentation



Let's erase the whole Jerome episode and give Susan a chance to try again.

Her assistant resigned this morning. Susan needs someone who can produce documents independently, without a lot of supervision. As the office handles taxpayer money the assistant sometimes has to handle calls from upset or angry clients.

The current assistant does sometimes get overwhelmed and has trouble asserting herself and prioritizing her work.



Process: Announce vacancy



Susan goes to her file cabinet and pulls out the vacancy announcement from the last time the position was vacant--- 6 years ago


Description of Work

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

Training and Experience Requirements


In her updated announcement Susan added the following items:

In Description of Work, she added

Under Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Susan added



Process: Screen applications;choose interview candidates


Susan receives a packet of applications already screened (for training and experience requirements) by the HR office. (Your agency may do this differently. Talk with your HR office about procedures specific to your work place.)

Before seeing the applications Susan makes a list of the things she's looking for in interview candidates.

In addition to the minimum training and experience she especially wants candidates who have:

--Knowledge of Word and Excel
--Ability to independently compose
--Ability to prioritize work

Doing this in advance helps Susan stay focused on exactly what she's looking for in the interview candidates. It also helps to ensure that her process is objective, sound and legally defensible.

Susan chooses 5 people to interview.

Process: Interviewing

So: Susan has reviewed the position and carefully chosen applicants to talk with. Is she ready to interview them? Well...

Video clip 1: Susan interviews Leslie.  They sit facing each other.


Susan:  Do you enjoy your current position? Why are you looking for another job?


Leslie : I love what I’m doing, but I’m looking to be able to use some of my skills I haven’t been able to use at the Department of Labor.  I’d stay there if they had a suitable position for me so I could grow in my skills but they just don’t.  So I’m looking for an opportunity to afford me that growth.


Susan:  How would you rate your work?


Leslie,:   I don’t’ like to brag but I think I’m really good at my job.  I’m good at interacting with people, taking care of them, making sure that they’re happy, satisfied customers, and I feel that’s something I could do for you in this job.


Susan: What hobbies do you enjoy


Leslie:  I like to read and do crafts, and I’m really involved with activities in my church and my community.  And with activities that my daughter is involved in.


Susan;  Your desk will be out in the middle and can be quite hectic.  Will that be ok with you?


Leslie  Oh, that’s not a problem for me.  I enjoy being in the middle of things.

Susan: Tell me what you would consider to be your best quality?


Leslie:  Definitely that would be my people skills. I like working with people. Making sure they are happy and satisfied, and taken care of.


Susan: And what do you consider to be your worst quality?


Leslie: Well, my husband says I’m a workaholic.  I just look at it like I like to stay busy and make sure everything is taken care of.  I know I should learn to relax and that’s really good for you to do sometimes, but I really have a hard time doing that.   I like to just stay in the middle of things, I’m always looking for my next opportunity to help someone.

Can Leslie:

1. Deal with angry callers?
Don't Know

2. Compose independently?
Don't know

3. Prioritize her work?
Don't know

Can she do THIS job?
Don't know

We don't know much at all about Leslie's abilities.

Q: What was Susan's mistake?

Her questions were not job-related. Questions like "Tell me about yourself", "What hobbies do you enjoy?" and "Why are you leaving your current position?" don't tell us anything about the applicant's ability to do THIS job.

Before interviewing candidates Susan needs to draft a standard list of job-related questions to ask each one.

This will ensure an objective, legally sound interviewing process.




Before writing interview questions Susan needs to decide:

Which of the items below are necessary for success on THIS job?


Ability to compose independently
--Handling angry or upset callers
--Upbeat and outgoing personality
--Ability to prioritize
--Has no small children
--Speaks English as a first language
--Has basic office skills


ANSWER:  Handling angry callers, the ability to prioritize, and possessing basic office skills are related to this job.  There is nothing to indicate that the employee must have English as a first language of needs an upbeat personality.  It is ILLEGAL to use parenthood as a criteria for any job!

Which tools will help Susan determine whether
applicants have each skill?


Ability to compose independently



--work sample

--reference check

Answer:   Work sample and reference check


Ability to handle angry callers



--work sample

--reference check

Answer: Work sample, such as a role play, and reference check


Ability to prioritize



--work sample

--reference check

ANSWER: Work sample, interview and reference check


Has basic office skills



--work sample

--reference check

ANSWER: Any of these tools, including the application, should tell you whether the applicant possesses basic office skills.






Interview Questions:

Use questions that give you good information. Questions that can be answered with just a 'yes' or 'no' aren't very useful.

Use words like, "How", "Tell me", "Describe"




Tell me about a time...

Can you...

Describe how...

Do you know how...

What would you do if...

Did you...

How would you...

Are you...



Past action is a good indicator of future performance.
The "S/T A R” (STAR)  question format is useful:


"Tell me what happened (situation), what you did about it (action), and what the outcome was (result)."
"Tell me about a time you had to handle an upset visitor. What was the situation, what did you do, and how did it turn out

*From Development Dimensions International (DDI)




S/T A R (STAR) questions can get you
excellent data:

Video clip:

Susan, the interviewer, sits facing Darryl.



Susan:  I’m looking for a 3-part answer: what the situation is, what you did, and what happened.  It’s extremely important to make a first impression. Tell me about a time you made a positive first impression on a client or customer.


Darryl: Yes, while working at the Department of Youth Services I had a caller who was very irate.  Her son had gotten into trouble and she did not know where he was. At this time, with trying all of her means, she had begun to cry.  In dealing with other agencies and calling this place and that place she hadn’t received any answers.  She called us and my heart went out to her and I felt compassionate with her.  So I asked her if she could hold on and I would find someone who could perhaps give her the answers that she needed. 


Susan:  How did that turn out?


Darryl:  It turned out good.  I found one of our advisors; he did some footwork and found the information she needed so she could find her son.



Now it's your turn to try your questioning skills.
You will be presented with two scenarios and asked to choose the best interview questions.  Leslie is the applicant being interviewed.


Situation 1:


You need someone who can deal with angry telephone callers effectively, without taking it personally.


You especially want someone who is willing to take ownership of the caller’s problem and take responsibility for getting it solved.


What would you say?


Choice 1:  Have you dealt with angry callers? 


Choice 2: Tell me about your experience with angry callers.


Choice 3:  Tell me about a time you dealt with an angry caller. What was the situation, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?



If you chose answer 1:  Have you dealt with angry callers? 


Leslie answers: “Yes!”

Consequence: Closed-ended questions get yes or no answers. We need more information.


If you chose answer 2: Tell me about your experience with angry callers.


Leslie answers: “Oh, yes, I’ve done that lots. I get calls from people who are mad that they called the wrong place, or because they lost their PIN number, or sometimes they’re mad because…”

Consequence: We still don’t know how Leslie deals with angry callers. Try asking a question in the S/TAR (situation/task, action, result) format, as below.


If you chose answer 3:  Tell me about a time you dealt with an angry caller. What was the situation, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?


Leslie answers: “A client was very upset because she hadn’t received her child support check. She was so angry I knew I should just let her talk for a few moments until she calmed down.
   My supervisor was at lunch so I found the file myself and told the caller it looked like the check had been mailed on the 3rd.  When my supervisor got back he said that yes, the check had gone out and should get to her today or tomorrow.
   I then called the woman back.  She was very appreciative and I think she was really impressed that I followed up with a phone call.”

Consequence: Thorough answer.





The new hire will need to be proficient in Word and Excel.  You need someone who can ‘hit the ground running’ so want the new person to have these skills from day one.


What should you ask?  Choose an answer below.

Choice 1: Can you work a computer?


Choice 2: What software programs are you proficient in?


Choice 3: Do you know Word and Excel?



If you chose answer 1: Can you work a computer?


Leslie says:  “Oh, yes!”



Suppose I needed a spreadsheet showing our expenditures for the past quarter. What steps would you take to create this in Excel?



Choice 2: What software programs are you proficient in?


Leslie says: “I’m pretty good with all the Microsoft products.”

Consequence: This is not very specific.  We need more information.



Suppose I needed a spreadsheet showing our expenditures for the past quarter. What steps would you take to create this in Excel?




Choice 3: Do you know Word and Excel?


Leslie says: “Yes, I do.”

Closed-ended questions give us very little information.


Then follow up with a S/TAR:

Suppose I needed a spreadsheet showing our expenditures for the past quarter. What steps would you take to create this in Excel?



Following the S/TAR question Leslie answers:
“Well…I…uh…I really haven’t had that much experience with Excel. I did take a workshop in it a year ago. I’m sure I could pick it up pretty quickly.”



Aren’t you glad you asked?





DOCUMENT interview responses. After you have completed interviews it will help you remember who said what.

NO: "good answer"

Yes: "Said she had no experience with numerical files."

Yes: "Worked at Belk---shoe dept--had angry customer demanding money back. Had to go all over store to find manager but finally found somone to approve refund. Got approval--customer happy."

Recording and keeping adequate documentation is an important element of a sound, structured hiring process.




Before interviewing, establish 'benchmark' responses for answers (high, medium, low). For example:

Task: Answering the telephone/taking message. You are looking for someone who takes responsibility, makes sure information gets where it needs to go, etc.

Picture of happy face: Answers promptly, takes complete message and ensures that recipient receives message. Distinguishes urgent messages and relays appropriately. Refers caller to voice mail when appropriate.

Picure of thoughtful face:  Answers phone, refers caller to voice mail, when appropriate offers to take message, puts message in recipient's mailbox.

Picture of shocked face:  Forwards calls to voice mail; does not offer to take message. Does not seek out recipient if call seems urgent.



YOUR TURN: How would you rate these responses?

Video clip

While thinking about the applicant responses,  practice DOCUMENTING the them. Take notes as you watch the video clips and assign a rating to each response.

 Video quiz:  how would you rate these responses on ‘answering the telephone’?


Clip one:  Leslie


Susan asks: An important part of this job is answering the telephone, taking complete messages and making sure they’re delivered. Can you tell me what you’ve done in previous jobs in regards to answering the telephone?

Leslie:  Right now at the Department of Labor I handle 6 or 7 lines, and 50 people that I work with and take messages for. So that’s something that I can do. Hollis Printing Company was a much smaller operation, so I was able to easily manage taking messages for everybody, and making sure they got delivered to them and special things like that.

It’s something I enjoy doing and I think that I could do it for you!


Susan: when you’re taking messages, what are you expected to do in terms of delivering messages to people?


Leslie: Over the years I’ve developed my own system.  Like, when a call comes in for a person who’s maybe not there I take down the  name, the telephone number, the date, and some highlights…


Clip 2: Darryl


Susan asks the same question of Darryl.


Darryl: At the Division of Youth Services we had 13 incoming lines.  I always suggested voice mail. This way if someone was out of the office or was not planning to return they could retrieve their messages from anywhere.  If voice mail was not accessible I’d take a handwritten message with the date, time, person calling, phone number, and the message, and with my convenience of the day would tape the message to the person’s chair or phone.

ANSWER: Both of these responses are about ‘medium’.  Neither applicant indicates a sense of urgency or ownership in getting important messages to the right people.


Effective Hiring



A crucial issue in interviewing is the use of

LEGAL questions. Rule of thumb: stick with questions that are

entirely job-related



Interviewing: Legal questions


You CANNOT ask questions about an applicant's
race, religion, sex, marital status, or national origin, or questions that might prompt answers regarding these issues.

For example:

"How do you spend your free time?" might prompt an applicant to say she's involved in activities at her daughter's preschool.

If she does not get the job she could later claim that she wasn't hired because she has a small child.

Also: Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines prevent you from asking about time missed from work due to illness, use of sick leave, or history of workers' compensation claims.

Stick to questions related to the applicant's ability to perform this job.











Are you a US Citizen?

Are you authorized to work in the US?


How old are you?

Are you over the age of 18?

or family

Are you married?
How many children do you have?

Are you able to work overtime if necessary?


What clubs do you belong to?
Where do you go to church?

List memberships in any professional organizations you feel are relevant to this job.


How tall are you?
How much do you weigh?

This job requires you to lift 50 pound boxes. Are you able to do that?


Do you have any disabilities?

Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job?


Were you dishonorably discharged?

In which branch of the military did you serve?


Have you ever been arrested?

Have you ever been convicted?




Legal and Illegal Questions

Quiz: Decide whether each question below is legal or illegal:

What clubs or social organizations do you belong to? ILLEGAL

In what languages are you fluent?  LEGAL

This job requires occasionally lifting 50-pound boxes. Can you do that? LEGAL

Have you ever filed a worker’s compensation claim?  ILLEGAL

Have you ever been convicted of a crime?  LEGAL

Are you authorized to work in the United States? LEGAL

Are you willing to travel? LEGAL

Is there any health-realted reason that you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?

What professional or trade organizations do you belong to?

Where were you born?

That’s an unusual last name. What nationality is that?

Whagt arrangements have you made for daycare?

Have you ever been arrested?

Are you occasionally able to work overtime?

How many days last year were you absent from work because of illness?
Effective Hiring



While the interview itself is important, it is not the only tool available. Be sure to follow up the verbal interview with work samples and reference checks:


Picture: artist working at easel

Do you know the expression, "A picture is worth a thousand words?"

 The proof of an applicant's ability is what he can demonstrate, not what he can say.

For really critical work skills it's important to use a work sample test (also known as an 'inbasket exercise') to assess the applicant's ability to perform that skill.



Ideas for work samples:


Work sample

Composing letter

Attention to detail



Creating sample letter

Proofreading sample



Dealing with angry callers

Role play

Driving a truck

Driving truck on obstacle course

Training skills

Giving a short sample presentation

As with interview questions, work samples must be clearly related to THIS job.












Work Samples


Do It To One, Do It To All.

Each applicant should complete the same work sample, with the same rules and instructions, within the same time limit.


Critical skill: Independently creating materials such as flyers and brochures.

Work sample: Create a flyer publicizing employee appreciation day.

Applicant 1

Applicant 2

Applicant seated in busy reception area, provided with old computer to use, and given no other help or information.

Applicant seated in quiet private office with good computer, supply of colored paper, instructions on how to find special clip art library.


Applicants should be tested under identical conditions.








Reference checking


It is also crucial to CHECK REFERENCES.

Picture of man scouring dictionary.

An excellent tool is the reference check, in which
someone with knowledge of the applicant's skills
and abilities provides you with information.

Talk with the applicant's current and past super-
visors about the individual's skills, abilities and

This is NOT meant to be the only means of making
a decision, but should be seen as a way of getting
information to supplement your interview and other

Your agency may have specific guidelines for
conducting reference checks. Always talk with
your HR office about information specific to
your workplace.







Most agencies require the hiring manager to submit a "Selection Decision Log" prior to offering a position to an applicant.


While agencies do this differently, most require the supervisor to document the hiring process, including copies of the interview questions, notes from the interviews, results of work samples, etc.

In most agencies this information is kept on file for no less than 3 years.

Again, communicate with your HR office about documentation required by your agency.

REMEMBER: Recording and keeping adequate documentation is an important element of a sound, structured hiring process.


More interviewing tips

Use a panel of interviewers. This will help you remain objective.


DO explain your hiring process to applicants: "We'll finish interviewing this week, and then we'll...".


DITO, DITA: "Do it to one, do it to all." Ask everyone the same questions, ask everyone to perform the same work sample under the same conditions.


DON'T ask 'leading' questions that give the answer away.


Video clip: Susan sits facing Leslie.

Susan:  We need a person who can see what needs to be done and takes the initiative to do it.  Are you like that?


Leslie:   Oh, absolutely! I need to stay busy so I like to look around, and if I get finished with everything I start looking around for my next new project.









DON'T note that a person doesn't 'fit'. Explain why you feel that way. If you can't explain it, then you can't justify or defend it.


DON'T make notes about vague behaviors: Not "she was too assertive" but "she argued with me".



  1. Your goal: to hire the right person for the job.
  2. It is your responsibility to understand the job and the skills needed to be successful in it. Utilize the position description, the work plan, samples of work and information from the exiting employee.
  3. Update old position descriptions and vacancy announcements as necessary.
  4. Prior to interviewing create a list of job-related questions and benchmarked answers. The S/TAR question format is useful.
  5. Follow up interviews with work samples and reference checks.
  6. Document your process.
  7. Communicate as necessary with your agency's HR office.



As the hiring manager there are 3 roles you can play:

1. The GAMBLER: Picture of hand rolling dice.
Making decisions based on very little real information, 'gut feelings', and lots of hope.

2. The ADVENTURER: Picture of man on tightrope.

You have some facts. You don't know everything, and you really haven't had time to check references, but you really need to get the position filled and think this is a pretty good decision.

3. The INVESTOR:  Picture of smiling, confident man flipping coin.  

Your choice has a solid track record and history of good performance. You've used a solid, structured hiring process which includes the application, the interview, work samples and reference checking. You are confident you've made the right decision.

Which role do YOU want to play?



Effective Hiring


You're done!

 This program covered the basics of

  • posting a position
  • creating interview items
  • utilizing other research tools such as work samples and reference checks
  • making a sound, legally defensible decision

 DO contact your agency's Human Resources office if you need more information or have questions.

Please contact your agency’s Training Coordinator and your supervisor to let them know you have completed the course.  

DO visit the 'TOOLS' link on the left side of this screen for additional information, worksheets, links back to selected portions of this course, etc.