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7 Interview Questions You Need to Ask
In the landscape and green industry, finding the right people who can communicate and share their enthusiasm with your staff and clients is hard enough. Finding the right people who can also help you build your business and company reputation, and drive your business to offer the best services possible is even harder.
Asking the right questions can often lead to hiring the right candidate.
The following 7 questions can help you learn about the candidate’s judgment and decision making skills, measure the fit between the candidate’s values and the culture of your company, illuminate the candidate’s thought processes, demonstrate the competencies and priorities that are important to the job, and provide a clear picture of their past performance.
1. How would you describe the differences between our company and our competitors?
The answers to this question will help you determine whether your applicant has done any research about your company. This is a relevant question at all levels, from the student intern/graduating student all the way through professional level potential employees. The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic about your company, will be able to make some differentiation between you and your competitors and hopefully you will learn something about what others are saying about your services.
2. How do you deal with change?
Unfortunately, clients come and go, weather patterns change unexpectedly, schedules get moved at the last minute and crews add or lose members. It is important to first assess how prone to these changes your business is and then select an applicant who will be challenged and rewarded by these business ups and downs, not frustrated, flustered and upset. The applicant should be able to give you examples of major changes that he or she has been subjected to as well as how he or she dealt with those changes. This question can be used for all level of applicants, although for more entry-level applicants or interns, examples might be shared about school and professors rather than specific work related topics.
3. How do you/would you familiarize yourself with our services and equipment?
Equipment and services can change seasonally, technology constantly, and you will need to match the amount of training that you might have available (and the availability of a mentor) with the skill level of the applicant. It is also important to gauge an applicant’s ability to learn new tasks, business software programs, or equipment and his or her willingness to learn.
4. Describe a time when you witnessed someone doing something wrong, what was the situation and how did you deal with the situation?
Unfortunately, theft, poor work etiquette and even actions resulting in unsafe environments occur and can be life threatening in our industry. For this reason, you want to make sure that you are hiring a person who is honest, not afraid to speak up and will consider the safety of themselves, their co-workers and the public.
5. Describe a time when a customer or manager was unhappy. What did you do to help them?
Sometimes employees at every level can encounter a disgruntled customer or a difficult manager, it is important to gauge whether your candidate knows how to hold in personal feelings, show empathy for others and represent the company and themselves well. Entry-level individuals should be able to share stories about either difficult students pared up with them on projects or difficult professors. A positive, healthy approach is important – watch out for individuals who provide stories where they are always the victim, where they feel helpless and express frustration about how “everyone is out to get them.”
6. What does great customer service mean to you?
This can be a good question to get more information about how enthusiastic and honest your applicant is when dealing with customers. He or she should be able to give you a good detailed description of great customer service and this question is appropriate for all levels of applicants and addresses both internal and external customers.
7. Why did you choose the landscape industry for a career?
This question will measure the fit between the candidate’s values and the culture of the industry or your company. This will help you check how the applicant thinks under pressure, how he or she puts together an answer describing how they got to this place in their careers and whether your applicant shares similar passions or interests as your employees and yourself.
Making it work: 4 Steps for an Effective Interview Process
1. Develop an interview plan and list that pertains to each position that you are hiring for (for instance, have a list of questions handy for sales reps/business developers, or branch managers/regional managers, administrative assistants/receptionists/office managers) and make sure to use the questions consistently. Not only will this help you compare candidates efficiently and effectively but will also serve as a great basis of comparison if you have multiple people interviewing the same applicant at different times.
2. Interview the person, not the resume. Just checking off what’s on the resume is not enough. Communicate with the candidate and use the interviewing process to learn about the person.
3. Go with your instincts, if you feel that something isn’t right during an interview, frame the question a different way a little bit later in the interview and see if you get a better feel for your applicant.
4. Begin and end well. The interview experience is not a closed loop. Remember that every person that you interview will tell the story of interviewing with you or your hiring managers, be sure to always treat the applicants with respect (don’t make them wait too long), shake their hands, give them a business card, thank them for coming in and make sure that they receive an answer in a timely manner. You never know who will be your client (or will turn down your quote) in the future.
About the author:
Christine Soderlund joins the Wilson-Oyler Group as a professional recruiter, sharing her passion for helping students, alumni and professionals find the best possible careers in the green industry. She brings 15 years of experience in staffing, and over 7 years leading recruiting for a national landscape service and contracting leader. She has an MBA, is an entrepreneur and small business owner, volunteers her time locally and works with students and alumni from her alma mater, California State University Northridge.