As the leader, the first question in hiring employees should be: how do you formulate and implement a results-oriented approach to recruiting and hiring the BEST employees for your company? To be more successful, you will need to reach, attract, sort out the best candidate from the list, and ultimately capture that top-tier BEST candidate for your position. As the leader, you must own the selection process to help accomplish this goal. (Please Note: the “concepts” presented in this article relate to any size company. Not every example will be directly related to every company, but the basic concepts will apply universally across the full spectrum.)

The single most important concept in hiring is discussed in this article: how to sort out the best candidate from the list. (Part One provides ideas and concepts on how to be highly successful in reaching, attracting, (and then capturing) the best pool of top-tier candidates to select from.)

Employees, top to bottom, in many companies are the single most important resource they have. Therefore, as the leader, ask yourself:

  • Did you leave start-up planning and execution for your company to your co-founders to sort through and figure out on their own?
  • Did you leave securing of critical start-up funding to your accountant?
  • Did you leave direction for your company to be determined by your mid-level managers and supervisors once you were up and running?

If employees are a key resource your company depends upon, why as the leader would you leave hiring of employees to the discretion of your HR/Admin person? Delegating your recruiting and hiring decisions down and allowing HR to use their “top-10-steps” for hiring, found on the web, will result in a serious missed opportunity to increase the capabilities of your workforce and thus, bolster the success of your business venture.

If finding and recruiting the “best” available employees is essential to your company’s future, as the leader you must invest time into making the process meet your goals. Here are some criteria you need to consider:

  • What are the goals, objectives, and mission of your company?
  • What positions do you need to fill to meet those goals, objectives, and mission?
  • What knowledge, skills, and experience should candidates possess?
  • What characteristics in the candidates are CRITICAL to your positions in meeting the goals, objectives, and mission of the business?

The easy part of hiring employees is reviewing applications to determine knowledge, skill, and experience levels and then calling references to ask questions about past employment history. Resumes, references, standard interview questions, and background checks only tell part of the story. They are not the keys to finding stellar employees.

The hard part, after determining CRITICAL characteristics for your positions, is finding ways to ascertain the level of those attributes in your candidates. The role of CRITICAL attributes will change from position to position. You do not want the same level of detail orientation in your bookkeeper, who deals with figures all day long, as you want in your marketing person who needs to be creative and spontaneous!

The most important keys to hiring successful candidates are found in understanding and embracing four CRITICAL characteristics:

  • ATTITUDE: “is everything”.
  • ABILITY to: make decisions, focus, adjust, change, recover, overcome, solve, dig deeper, rise-up to meet a challenge, and adapt.
  • Intrinsic MOTIVATION: what drives the individual from inside.
  • POTENTIAL to: grow, learn, succeed, coach, motivate, survive, create, invent, innovate, re-invent, to raise the bar, be extrinsically motivated, and expand horizons.

As the leader, when you develop job descriptions for the positions you need to hire, you must raise the bar in your hiring process. Along with the job description, you must also determine for each job:

  • The attitude and approach needed in the position for the candidate to be successful in meeting your goals, objectives, and mission.
  • Abilities needed, intrinsic motivation required, and potential of the candidates, which are critical for their success in the position, and thus, critical for your success in your business venture.
  • The priorities of these characteristics, based upon the role of the position.
  • The type of TOUGH questions you need to formulate and then ask the candidates, their superiors, their peers, and their past subordinates to be able to judge these four attributes!

As the leader, based upon the position description and role, you must then:

  • Rank the priority of these four CRITICAL characteristics for each position.
  • Make the decisions on which TOUGH questions you will ultimately include when doing your interviews, based upon those priorities.

Your included questions must help you reach a CONCLUSION on who you believe is the BEST candidate from within your pool of top-tier applicants.

Here are a few selected “examples” of how tough questions delving into each CRITICAL characteristic “might” be phrased. They will provide you with ideas, for each characteristic, in developing specific questions to use for your positions, to help evaluate your candidates. They will also provide you with ideas to define your questions for the candidate’s supervisors, peers, past employers, references, or other sources of information.


  1. If you are hired in our position, explain why you think helping our company accomplish our goal of providing a service to customers would be important.
  2. When you run into an unexpected major problem in life, how do you approach it?
  3. Do you go to work every day because you want to, or because you “have to”? Explain why.
  4. How does your attitude help you in accomplishing your duties at work?
  5. In your current job, (or a past position) do you constantly find yourself at odds with your supervisor and/or upper management? If so, explain why this is happening.
  6. Who is responsible for morale at a company? Why?
  7. How well do you accept feedback? Give an example.
  8. When you are leading a team meeting to discuss or resolve issues, do you dominate the discussion or facilitate the meeting? Why?
  9. When you make a mistake at work, do you take ownership in the mistake? Give two examples.
  10. Have you ever spread rumors, or misinformation, in the workplace?


  1. Describe an unexpected change you had to deal with in a previous position.
  2. If faced with a “group think” situation, leading to a bad decision, how would you approach reversing this bad decision?
  3. Describe a situation where important questions you asked, helped to solve a critical problem impacting a previous employer.
  4. How are critical decisions made in your current work group? Describe why this is good or bad. Who makes these decisions? Why?
  5. Do you work better on a team, or alone, and why?
  6. Rate your verbal and written communication skill levels. Provide some examples.
  7. Provide an example of a situation where your work team was floundering or missed a critical point needed for their overall success and how you helped the team get back on track.
  8. Describe how you convinced your boss, a member of upper management, or a peer they had made an error in a decision and they willingly “changed” their decision based upon your input.
  9. Discuss a situation where you showed initiative at work and it helped the company to resolve an important issue or increased the company’s bottom line.
  10. Rate your ability to work under pressure and provide an example.


  1. What core values do you hold with the highest regards in your career? Why?
  2. During the second month you are here working as a supervisor for us, you have one of your direct employees who fails to shut down a piece of equipment, in a timely manner. This results in damage to the equipment and lost time on the production floor. Whose responsibility is it for the damage and the lost time?
  3. Describe how engaged you have been with the goals, objectives, and mission of at least two of your previous employers? Why is this important?
  4. Describe a management style you have worked underneath of, which was highly successful in extrinsically motivating you to do a great job for a company. Explain why you think this management style would, or would not, work for the position we are offering. (This type of question can be asked of either a supervisory or non-supervisory position.)
  5. When you are talking to upper management, your peers, or your subordinates do you tell them what they want to hear, or do you tell them what they need to hear? Why?
  6. Have you ever intentionally manipulated the truth at work to deflect responsibility?
  7. When a problem arises, is it more important to talk about it first or move forward and fix it? Why?
  8. What goals do you want to attain in your career?
  9. What motivates you each day at work and in your personal life?
  10. What work accomplishments provide you with a sense of pride and self-esteem?


  1. If you are trying to make changes in your safety program after an accident, will it be more successful if you dictate the changes or coach your employees and why?
  2. When another employee comes to you to express a work-related concern, initially is it more important to: listen, ask questions, or talk? Why?
  3. In general terms, give an example where you found an inefficiency in your current company’s process and how you resolved this situation effectively.
  4. Give an example of a time when a friend, coworker, parent, or supervisor offered you a piece of advice which you took too heart and it was an important juncture in your life.
  5. Do you consider yourself to be open-minded?
  6. Describe a situation where your current boss was dead wrong on an issue and how you dealt with it.
  7. Do you consider yourself to be a leader or a follower?
  8. Which is more important for me to take away from this interview: your past accomplishments or your future expectations? Why?
  9. Describe the goals, objectives, and mission of your current employer. Explain why this is important for you to know and understand in the position you are currently in.
  10. Would you consider yourself to be creative? Can you provide an example of when this helped you to solve a problem at work? How would this characteristic help you be effective in the position we have open?

After you make your candidate selection and have successfully captured that new top-tier employee, to meet your goals, objectives, and mission you must: EXPECT them to impart a positive ATTITUDE in the workplace; UTILIZE their ABILITIES; WATCH to make sure they remain intrinsically MOTIVATED; and TAP INTO their POTENIAL to help make your business venture MORE successful, well into the future!

Michael Roney has a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Montana and over thirty-three years of experience in a successful professional career. Nineteen of those years were spent in supervisory and managerial roles. He has been dedicated to studying the role of leadership and management in organizations for over 25 years, in relationship to how work is accomplished and how organizations adapt to change. The single greatest compliment he was given during his career was from an employee who stated he had a “Ph.D. in common sense”. He has worked since the fall of 2013, part-time, as a freelance business writer, providing services to clients from coast to coast. He has completed business related documents covering several areas including: safety management, human resources, driver’s education, agreements, contracts, product descriptions, insurance claim related documents, non-disclosure agreements, business plans, home and business security, resources management, non-profits, child protection, and education.