Recruitment FAQ


How do I hire an excellent person?

We have all had experiences with hiring inferior employees. Many companies do not spend the proper time hiring people and their business and also other employees suffer as a result. Hiring the best person requires that you know in detail what you are looking for and then, just as importantly, how to interview to find the person who has those qualifications. Hiring effectively is one of the key drivers of Employee Engagement. Hiring an excellent person is what our Recruitment module is all about and it is now supplemented by the “Hiring Right the First Time” module in the Employee Engagement Certification Course. Signing up for our training is the best place to start.

Where do I find the right people?

Finding the right people is a key part of the hiring process and, very often, it is overlooked. Where you look depends largely on what you are looking for, but in general, it is important to look within your industry, particularly if the job requires industry experience. Industry searches can include job ads in industry newsletters and magazines or postings on industry association web sites. There is usually a posting fee that can range from $300 – 800.00 but this is a small price to pay for an excellent person. Word of mouth is far more important and helpful than most realize and talking to colleagues and associates can bring excellent results. Also, an employee referral program is an excellent candidate sourcing tool. Some companies report using employee referrals for more than 50% of their hiring needs.

Between newspaper advertising and internet posting, which is the more effective?

Many newspapers are now affiliated with popular job posting sites such as Monster Board and Workopolis and an internet job posting is often included with the cost of the newspaper ad. Newspaper ads are still effective, however, they can attract large numbers of applicants, resulting in time-consuming screening of resumes that do not meet the job requirements. Several internet posting services have built in screening tools so that you only receive qualified candidates depending on what screening filters you have selected.

Is there a fast, safe, inexpensive way to hire good people?

There sure is! Ask your employees to refer people they know and with whom they have worked previously. Remember, you are not looking for the employee’s friends, neighbors or relatives but rather good people with whom they have worked previously. In most cases, your employees will refer good people because to do otherwise would reflect poorly on them. Employee referrals from high performing employees generally tend to be better than those from average employees. Remember, you still need to follow the appropriate recruitment and selection steps to ensure that you are hiring the best.

Should I use an employment agency?

Employment agencies can be helpful, particularly if the skill sets required are hard to find. Employment agencies can appear to be expensive, but, if you provide the agency with detailed, accurate information on the competencies and technical skills sets you are looking for, a job description and some search parameters, the results can be worth the cost.

How much should I expect pay an employment agency?

Employment agencies are sometimes flexible in the cost of their services. Contingency agencies, by far the most common type, do not receive payment until you hire the right person. Fees are billed when employment begins and the bill rate can be anywhere from 12-25% of the first year’s annual salary, depending on the level of the job. (Jobs over $100K are generally in the 30% + range) Make certain you get a guarantee. The guarantee obligates the employment agency to recruit a replacement candidate if the original person hired decides to leave the company of their own volition. This is usually 3-6 months. Employment agencies will sometimes try to get out of their guarantees. This is why it is important to follow the HR Power Centre’s Preparing the Job Description section to develop a comprehensive job description to support the company’s case.

What should I know about using employment agencies?

It is critical that you choose an employment agency that employs qualified recruiters. It is not unusual for employment agencies to flood you with resumes they have on file in the hopes you will select one that they have sent you. In many instances, candidates referred have not been interviewed by the agency and in some cases, have not even been contacted. It is critical that the employment agency agrees to source candidates based on clearly outlined job specifications. Otherwise, you are going to pay a lot of money, often for a poorly qualified candidate.

What is a normal number of people to see for a job vacancy?

This is a good question. It really depends on the size of the candidate pool, how many meet the job qualifications on paper, and, of course, the time you have available for interviewing. In cases where it appears, on paper at least, that you have a large number of qualified candidates, you should be more selective in your resume screening process. You may then want to screen by where they live in relation to the company or level of education, technical training or number of years of qualified experience. As a general rule you should see no more than 8 qualified candidates for a given position.

What is the average time it takes to hire someone?

People always underestimate the time it takes to hire qualified candidates. How many times have you heard – “We need someone tomorrow, or we need to hire someone right away?” Managers who insist on a quick solution to a staffing problem simply are not experienced or knowledgeable about the hiring process. Time to hire depends on many factors such as level of job, skill sets and competencies required, employment market, company attributes, pay levels, working conditions, etc. Let’s look at an example. You’ve posted a clerical position in a local newspaper. It will take two weeks to receive all the resumes and review them. Initial interviews can be completed in one day, second interviews in a half day and reference checks in one – two days. The Offer of Employment is prepared and presented and the offer is negotiated…two days…and then the new employee gives notice of two weeks or more. Get the picture? It doesn’t happen overnight. We can see from this example where it would take a minimum of five weeks, and that is assuming we have several qualified candidates from the job advertisement.

What pay differential does a bilingual person usually get?

You will hear quite a few different viewpoints on this, but based on TwoGreySuits experience, the pay differential could be 5-15% in clerical jobs. Certainly there is a premium for being bilingual, as long as it is necessary to the effective performance of the position.

Is it normal to do telephone interviews first?

Telephone interviews are a good way of screening candidates when there is a large talent pool available, or when the pay rate is within a narrow band. Telephone screening can be done in less than 10 minutes, and often in as little as five minutes for clerical and blue collar jobs. Telephone screening for management positions is less common but can be important. Spending 30-60 minutes interviewing a candidate only to find out that their salary expectations far exceed the range for the position is a waste of both the candidate’s and the interviewer’s time.

Will it look odd if the President/owner of a company is phoning to arrange an interview?

In some small businesses this is entirely acceptable, especially if the President/owner is conducting the interviews.

What questions should I ask in an interview?

You should review the Interviewing and Selection section in the HR Power Centre’s Recruitment module and refer to the Guides and Forms in the same section for comprehensive lists of behavioral interview questions.

What can I not ask legally in an interview?

Legal issues are covered in the Interviewing and Selection section of the Recruitment module.

Is there a certain interview script I should follow?

The Guides and Forms sections in the Interviewing and Selection section contain scripts for opening and closing the interview. Review the Interviewing and Selection section and the suggested questions lists as you prepare for your interview.

What is a behavioral interview as compared to a routine interview?

This is fully explained in the Interviewing and Selection Section under Behavioral Interview Overview, however, simply put, the behavioral interview is based on the premise that past behavior and performance is an accurate predictor of future behavior and performance.

How do I prepare for the interview?

This is fully covered in the Interviewing and Selection section. This is important, please go there, now!

How long is the average interview?

A screening interview is shorter than a full fledge employment interview. If an interview is properly planned with behavioral questions prepared in advance, a minimum one hour should do it. This includes building rapport, opening the interview, conducting the interview, answering any questions the candidate may have and closing the interview. While the hiring manager’s interview should be of the same length, additional interviews may be shorter as they are usually conducted to give the candidate and those he may be working with an opportunity to interact with each other. It also gives existing employees a sense of involvement in the selection process.

Is it a good idea to interview for a full day?

Interviewing, if taken seriously and done properly, is hard work. The interviewer must be constantly sifting through verbal information, picking up nonverbal clues, keeping the interview on track and taking meaningful notes. Practiced interviewers can handle a full day of interviews because they are totally familiar with the process. It is wise to work up to this level gradually. Also, you should leave at least 10-15 minutes between interviews so you can immediately record your observations, make any necessary extra notes and prepare for your next candidate.

Who should be conducting interviews in my company?

In small to medium sized organizations, the hiring manager will usually be responsible for the hiring process. This is easy to do following the HR Power Centre’s Interviewing and Selection section. It is common for the owner/manager to be involved in most hires above entry level and TwoGreySuits recommends this where practical.

Should we interview together or individually as managers?

Successful behavioral interviews are based on building trust with the candidate. Once a level of trust has been achieved (and this can happen quickly), the candidate is far more likely to provide honest, straight forward answers to the interviewer’s questions. Panel interviews tend to add an element of stress to the process and, unless they are expertly handled, they don’t usually get the results desired. Group interviews can be useful if the objective is to have a short informal chat with the candidate with a view to determining general fit with the work group.

How can I start to make interviewing skills a key management practice in my company?

Without question, start by signing up for the TGS Employee Engagement Certification Course. The “Hiring Right the First Time” module deals with one of the most important drivers of Employee Engagement and ties in the materials from the HR Power Centre to bring the learning to life. The forms, tools and documents contained in the HR Power Centre’s Recruitment module will give you and your managers a comprehensive understanding of the interviewing and selection process. As people are very often the key competitive advantage and differentiator with customers, it stands to reason that a business with the capability to hire good people will, in the long term, outperform businesses that do not have this skill.

Now that I have interviewed several people, how do I compare them to each other to get the best?

The rating of candidates is fully covered in the HR Power Centre’s Interviewing and Selection section. A Summary Candidate Rating and an Overall Interview Rating Evaluation are included in the Interview Guide. Interviewers are encouraged to complete these evaluations immediately after each interview.

What differences should I expect to see in my business by hiring excellent vs. average people?

Excellent hires are generally likely to be more engaged in the business and therefore greater contributors to the company’s success. Hiring the best will result in your business achieving a competitive advantage. Studies show that there is a high correlation between high levels of employee engagement and profitability. Companies that command a premium price for their products and services can often do so by virtue of the high level of employee engagement.

How can I be sure that I’m hiring the best?

You have to know exactly what you are looking for, where to look, how to interview and assess candidates, and how to conduct detailed reference checks. The good news is that TwoGreySuits provides everything you need from education and training to tools and implementation direction.

How do I know beforehand if the person will be a good fit on the team?

Unless you are a highly skilled behavioral interviewer, it is almost impossible to be guaranteed beforehand that you’ve made a good hiring decision. You will have a much better success rate if you take the training and follow the prescribed hiring process in our Recruitment module.

How do I know if the interviewee is telling the truth?

We hear this question a lot. The answer is quite simple. If you are conducting an effective behavioral interview, you are asking for specific examples from the candidate’s past with details of person, place, time, etc. This information can be easily verified in a detailed reference check. Additionally, before you commence the behavioral interview, you may want to make the candidate aware that your company conducts detailed reference checks.

How do I calm down a nervous candidate?

Many candidates are nervous at the beginning of an interview and it is very important to create a relaxed environment before the interview starts. The Building Rapport segment of our Interviewing and Selection section covers the various tools and techniques you can use to build rapport and relax a nervous candidate.

What type of questions can be asked without making the person feel like we are getting too personal?

First, there are topics that you are simply not allowed to ask questions about and these are covered in detail in our Interviewing and Selection section. That being said, it is not uncommon for interviewers to feel that they should know more about a candidate than is really necessary to make an informed hiring decision. You can get into whatever detail you wish as long as you are not crossing legal boundaries but you should discipline yourself to limit your questioning to gathering information relevant to filling the position in question.

What questions do I ask to determine if the candidate will be a good fit?

By understanding what technical/experience qualifications you need and the behavioral competencies required, you can develop the appropriate set of interview questions that will get you the information you need to make an informed hiring decision. Preparing the job description and identifying the critical competencies are subjects covered in the “Clarity in the Job” module of the Employee Engagement Certification Course.

I’m looking at a large pile of resumes. How do I decide which individuals I should see?

All recruiters have a process for screening resumes. One method is to initially screen the resumes into three piles, A, B and C, A being promising, B being promising with some questions and C being not suitable. Once you have the three piles you should review the A’s in more detail, matching them to the job requirements that are in the job description. It is always a good idea to scan through the B list again, and do a B+ list, which, depending on circumstances, you may wish to interview. Remember, not all candidates are skilled at articulating their strengths and attributes on their resumes so don’t under-rate your intuition when screening resumes.

Should the candidate be interviewed more than once before making an offer?

Yes. Why not have at least one or two other key employees interview the candidate to corroborate or otherwise your assessment? It’s not unusual for a candidate on the short list to be asked out for a “casual” lunch with the hiring manager and a few others. This allows you to see the person in a different setting, to gain more insight into who they really are as a person, their values, manners and views on non-work related issues, all of which are important. Many hiring managers use the “dinner test”. The question, simply stated, is “Would I invite this person to my home for dinner?” Of course, you would never extend an offer of employment prior to checking references. Seeing a person only once before making an offer is a mistake, regardless of how adept you are at interviewing. It is always advisable for the company to see a person at least a few times before hiring. It is not uncommon to see a person applying for relatively junior positions 2 or 3 times before extending an employment offer. For more senior jobs, it is not uncommon to have 3 – 5 different meetings before an employment offer is extended. Remember, hiring the best is one of the most important functions you will perform as a manager.

How long should the probation period be?

TwoGreySuits recommends a three month probation period. This period gives the employee an opportunity to assess whether he/she made the right choice and allows the company to do the same. Employment legislation in your province or state will generally determine the length of the probationary period, if you choose to have one. If you follow the advice, tools and techniques outlined in our Recruitment module, the probationary period will, in most cases, be a formality.

Do I really need to have a probation period in the first place?

We think a three month probation period has value in that it allows both the employee and the employer to assess whether they made the right decision. Probationary periods should not, however, take the place of sound recruitment and selection practices.

What is the normal notice period for an employee to give his employer before joining my company?

Two weeks is standard notice. Specific circumstances may lengthen the notice period.

I am in a real predicament. How do I get my “new hire” to start employment with me without giving the basic two weeks’ notice?

We suggest that you not force this, as the employee likely will want to leave their previous employer on good terms. As an alternative, you may arrange to have your new employee attend some “after hours” training sessions so they can hit the ground running when they do start employment.

I interviewed an excellent candidate who has been unemployed for some time. Should I have concerns? Why hasn’t another company hired her by now?

Unemployment doesn’t carry the same stigma it did in the past. People are quite often unemployed for reasons other than poor performance. Additionally, some individuals take longer to sort out their job search objectives while others decide to take some time off between jobs to regroup. However, if the person has been unemployed for an extended period of time, say, longer than six months, and has been actively involved in his job search, this could be a sign there is something amiss. This is a signal to probe more deeply particularly when taking up references.

How do I get one of my key employee’s buy-in on a potential hire if that person has no experience interviewing?

This issue can be overcome by having all your Managers and Supervisors enroll in the TGS Employee Engagement Certification Course. They can parlay that education and exposure into using the HR Power Centre recruitment tools and direction much more effectively. And, they receive the added benefit of better understanding how to implement the key drivers of employee engagement, one of the most important being “hiring Right the First Time”.

Is reference checking really necessary?

There is no valid reason for not thoroughly checking references. How the reference check is handled is very important. You must be well prepared and follow a structured format. See our Forms listing in the Reference Checking Section for a selection of forms you can use.

How long should it take to do a proper reference check?

A proper reference check using the form provided will take about 20 minutes, longer for more senior positions.

How many references should I check?

Where practical, use the 2-2-2 rule. This means you would obtain references from 2 of the candidate’s former subordinates, peers, and superiors. If the candidate was not a manager, references from 2 or 3 previous superiors will usually be sufficient to get a solid understanding of the candidate, their successes and past behaviors.

If I really want to hire the person but have a negative reference among other good ones, what do I do?

This happens more often than you would think. A rule of thumb is to delve more deeply into the reasons for the negative reference and, where possible, try to verify this information with other references you take up. Try to ascertain if the negative reference is the result of personal biases, and try to get the exact specifics of the situation so you can judge for yourself if in fact it is a negative reference. If the focus of the negative reference is something that doesn’t surface in the other references, do not discount it, but rather weigh it carefully to determine to what extent this would affect job performance in the future. If it is an issue of character, be very careful. You might want to re-interview the candidate to get to understand them better. Never reveal to the candidate what was said in a confidential reference, positive or negative. This is unprofessional.

Who should take up the references?

We suggest the hiring manager, in the absence of an HR professional. You may also want to consider using the services of a professional reference checking firm, particularly if you want certain areas of the candidate’s past explored that, if requested by a company representative, might be awkward to obtain.

At what stage should references be done?

References should be checked as a prelude to making a job offer. Normally, you would be seeking references for the 2-3 finalist candidates. We have heard of companies that check references before the interview. This is an unusual practice and would not allow for a verification of interview responses.

What do I do if the person I call will not give me a reference because it is not their company’s policy?

This has to be respected. There is a heightened sensitivity in providing references given the various privacy and confidentiality legislation nationally and in each province and state. One way to get at this potentially is to have the candidate request, in writing, that a confidential reference be provided. This may still not work. Often a reference policy will state that only job duration, title and responsibilities can be divulged, not any comments as to the person’s performance. Even with such a policy in place, there are always those willing to assist a former colleague with a reference.

If someone calls me for a reference, should I comply? What about privacy legislation?

In all cases confirm that the reference information is to be treated as confidential. This may still not be respected so be careful. Some company policies indicate that positive references can be offered, however, if the reference is less than positive, then the person enquiring is informed that the company policy is to not providing references of any sort. This is not quite an honorable way to do this, but it is practiced by many companies.

Should I check references for all final candidates?

Yes. The process should be handled consistently and thoroughly for all applicants who are under serious consideration in the interview process. Obtain several references for maximum objectivity. Plan and ask the same questions of each reference source. Documentation should be maintained on all reference checks as part of the selection process materials.

Who should I contact?

The most common reference sources are current or former supervisors, project colleagues, peers or customers. Use of personal references is less preferred because they probably won’t yield objective information.

How should I contact a reference?

The most effective approach is to contact a reference by phone or in person. The supervisor or a member of the search team should conduct the reference interview.

What should I consider when planning my questions?

Based on determined job competencies and information obtained during the interview, create a written reference guide to ensure consistent questioning and to target the issues you seek to clarify. Consider how current the referred position is and the similarity of duties to the position being filled.

Should I have a reference check completed before making a job offer?

Yes. The best practice is to check references before making a job offer. Otherwise, you should consider making a job offer contingent upon obtaining satisfactory references.

How do I get the person ready for the first day on the job?

Quite often care and attention is afforded to hiring the best person and then the new hire’s orientation or integration into the company is neglected. This is always a poor reflection on the company and the hiring manager. See the Forms listing in the New Employee Orientation section.

What are the pros and cons of hiring employees on contract vs. full time?

One of the obvious advantages is that you can release contract employees according to the terms of a contract without severance or termination pay or fear of legal reprisals. Quite often a contract arrangement is suitable for a project of a certain fixed duration and should be agreed to in writing. Employees on longer term, consistently renewed contracts may draw the attention of government agencies and require you to deduct tax at source as they are, in effect, full time contract employees. Contract employees often have a rate that is higher than full time employees.

How do I know the market value of the job for which I’m hiring? I don’t have salary surveys.

This is a very good question. Internal pay rates must be factored in. If current employees doing the same job seem generally satisfied with their salaries, you can reasonably assume that you are paying competitively in your marketplace. Additionally, in the absence of salary surveys, you can gauge appropriate pay levels by asking candidates their current earnings. Be careful of using salary surveys available on the internet to determine market competitiveness. There are far too many variables involved. For example, what is the market rate being used? Is it an average or a percentile of a group? How big was the sample size? How was the job defined in the survey? What tenure did the people have who were surveyed? What other benefits did the survey respondents have or not have? Is there a bonus accompanying the salary? etc, etc. You normally have to pay for surveys that tell the full story of how the data was attained and what it means.

How far should I go to meet the person’s salary demands?

This quite often is a function of where you are currently paying, skill sets, current candidate earnings, market rates and past performance based on behavioral interviews and of course thorough reference checks. Be wary of candidates who seem to only be interested in a large pay raise. People who decide to join your company for financial reasons only will likely leave you for the same reasons. It is sometimes appropriate to pay over what you think you should, when the candidate is proven to be a high performer or if they have specific skills which are at a premium in the marketplace. Hiring a new employee at a salary higher than existing staff in the same job category can backfire on you. Be careful, because no matter how much you emphasize to people that their compensation is confidential, people do talk and in our experience this information becomes public over the course of time in about 80% of cases.

What do I do if a candidate insists on having his current vacation entitlement matched if it represents more than our policy provides?

This is a more common request than you might think. It is becoming more prevalent for companies to take this into consideration. TwoGreySuits’ general rule is to match existing vacation entitlement assuming that the candidate is bringing significant experience and expertise to the company. There are other approaches companies employ to tackle this issue. Some companies have a formula in their vacation policy that allows them to acknowledge at a 50% discount in time. For example, if your vacation policy allows for four weeks after ten years of service in your company, and you hire an employee with 20 years of work experience in the field, you would offer them four weeks’ vacation. (20 years X 50% = 10 years = four weeks’ vacation.) Another alternative is to offer time off without pay, in other words in the same example you would say, our company policy is for two weeks, but since you had four weeks at your last employer we will give you two additional weeks off without pay.

If I find out after the fact that a person lied to me in an interview, what can I do?

This doesn’t happen too often in our experience, but it does happen. It usually is in the form of exaggerated work experience and skill sets. Occasionally, education levels are misrepresented. This is sometimes the case in offshore education claims, where it is difficult to confirm. If education level is critically important, ask to see a transcript of marks or a copy of the diploma, degree or certificate. There is a better likelihood of this happening when the proper interview and reference check procedures are not followed. Many companies, in their Code of Business Conduct (see our Administration module under “Code of Business Conduct”) mention that misrepresentation or falsification in the application form, resume or transcripts is grounds for immediate termination at any time during employment. If the employee has signed an acknowledgement card stating they have read and understand the Code of Business Conduct and a falsification is uncovered, you can terminate employment without fear of any legal repercussions. It gets more difficult to ascertain whether a person lied in the interview when it involves previous attained skill sets. References can really help in validating these claims before an offer of employment is extended.

Should I say anything in the employment letter about pay being confidential?

We recommend a sentence in the employment letter which states that all compensation details are confidential between the candidate and the signatory of the offer letter. Some companies even go further and state that a breach of this confidentiality is grounds for immediate “just cause” dismissal.

If I ask something I shouldn’t in an interview, what are the repercussions or consequences?

A person could file a claim with a government body that has jurisdiction over the area in question, and the remedy prescribed in the applicable and relevant legislation would apply. A legal claim could also be filed. The company could be assessed damages, or fined or in some cases even sued.

What does “employment at will” mean?

“Employment at will” means that an employee can be terminated at any time without cause. This is prevalent in most US States, but not in any provinces in Canada.

What is constructive dismissal?

People often use this term without really knowing what it means. A person is deemed to have been constructively dismissed when they have had to leave their jobs because their employer made material changes to the terms and conditions of employment from the original agreement without the employee’s consent. For example, an employee made clear during the hiring process that they were not transferable because their spouse had an occupation that was specific to the local community and the employer accepted this as a condition of employment. Subsequently, the employee was transferred to a different location, a move that would require the entire family to relocate. The employee would have to quit because they could not fulfill the new job responsibilities. This is constructive dismissal. The employee would see a lawyer who would file a constructive dismissal claim. In those US cases where employment at will is in play, you should seek legal advice. In all cases an employee has to actually quit before they can file a constructive dismissal claim.