Preparing to Conduct an Interview

April 1, 2013
Manager of Business Consulting Services Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes

With 35 years in the industry, Steven Feltovich, manager of business consulting services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, has consulted shops around the world. And whether it’s a body shop in the U.K., Central America, South America, Canada or the U.S., Feltovich says hiring top talent is a universal challenge.

“I think everyone’s concerned about it and few people do a really good job at it,” he says. “It’s unfortunate, because you don’t have to miss the target.”

Feltovich recently sat down with FenderBender to discuss how thorough preparation and an organized interview process can help owners hire first-rate employees.

What tends to be the biggest failure on behalf of shop owners during the hiring process?

People miss the target primarily for one reason: preparation. It’s the biggest failure when it comes to hiring. Without preparation, the hiring process simply becomes garbage in, garbage out.

If you don’t get the up front work done and take the time to do it before the candidate walks into your organization, the end result is you probably hire incorrectly or have a new hire that gets frustrated early on and leaves your shop in three to six months.

So what is the first step to properly prepare?

The thing that’s always at the top of my list is to figure out whether we are hiring people to fix broken processes or hiring people that we actually need. In other words, are we just throwing people, equipment or space at our broken processes because we’re so inefficient?

“Having exact scripted out questions allows you to probe for not only skills and knowledge, but for workplace behavior as well.”
—Steven Feltovich, manager of busines consulting services,
Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes

As a consultant, I always start out with evaluating the current processes in the shop, because those processes clearly determine to me the right amount of head count necessary to run the most efficient shop possible.

Another question in terms of preparation is can they afford to hire the right person? A lot of shops will say, “Well I’m going to hire someone, but they’ve got to be cheap enough for me to put them on.” So they hire an inexpensive person who becomes a very expensive person, because of errors, customer dissatisfaction, or perhaps behavior problems that affect the rest of the staff. A person who seems “cheap” in the beginning can cost an owner more in the long run, because of the liabilities associated with their work and behavior.

If you determine that you need to hire somebody and can afford to hire the right person, what’s next?

Something that is commonly overlooked is having a clear, well-defined job description for the position of hire. Take the time to update a job description if it’s outdated. Or if there is not a job description for the position, create one before the candidate walks through the door.

Position requirements [contain] everything that person would be required to do, laying out the framework for your expectations of the person’s job, duties and tasks. The job description is one of the most critical components because it eliminates surprises and sets expectations up front. 

A clear, well-defined job description sets the role, the duties and requirements and also creates a framework for the expectations, so both sides aren’t surprised by something totally different from what their expectations are.

A job description allows the candidate and the person doing the interviewing to be honest with each other, by getting everything out on the table up front.

How do you prepare for an interview?

Number one, you start with making sure you’re legally compliant. Most people that go into the mode of hiring don’t even know the latest laws that they’re legally constricted to when it comes to hiring.

If you haven’t hired in the last 12 to 24 months, you need to bone up on the legal and compliance side of interviewing and hiring people, because the laws change, they are different from state to state, and you have to remain compliant. It’s critical to keeping you outside of the courtroom.

I don’t think owners are versed on legal issues enough. I think that they need some third-party assistance today.

What is the next step to prepare for an interview?

The next thing is to design and develop your questions. Having exact scripted out questions allows you to probe for not only skills and knowledge, but for workplace behavior as well. 
Again in designing your questions, you must consider legal compliance. There are certain things that if referred to may be construed as illegal questioning techniques or tactics. For example, questions referring to age, gender or sexual orientation are illegal.

If you suspect that a candidate is disabled, you can’t really ask them, because that disability in their mind might not really prohibit them from doing the job. So you can’t even reference that disability.

What types of information do you want to obtain through your questions?

As far as skills and knowledge, the questions are more situational in our industry.

You’re going to want to put a technician into a specific situation and direct a question around the type of work you’re requiring him or her to do: Do they have the technical knowledge of the types of equipment that you have in your facility? The types of painting systems? The types of cars that you repair?

“You can almost tell from the tone of their voice and the general silence in between their answers that something may not be up to par.”
—Steven Feltovich, manager of business consulting services,
Sherwin-WilliamsAutomotive Finishes

The red flags are when they don’t have an attitude for detail, a high value of teamwork or customer regard. They turn the interviewing session into more of a questioning of you: How much are you going to pay me? How much money can I make here? How many jobs can you support me with?  How many hours are on a job? How am I paid? When it becomes them interviewing you and questioning you on compensation before they’ve proven their skill, I believe that’s a red flag.

Then there are those behavior questions that you’re going to have to ask. These questions are critical for hiring top performers, because you’re building a team, and you’re only as good as the players on your team. People are generally going to hide the dark chapters of their lives. The person doing the hiring, it is his or her responsibility to probe and ask the right questions in order to find out whether someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes early on.

One thing that I say, “Give me a reason or two why I should not hire you.” I think it has real merit.

If a person gets combative or is offended by this type of question, I would be wary. Because I think that this type of question offers the opportunity to self-promote. For instance, a candidate might say, “Well, I wouldn’t hire myself if I came in late every day. I wouldn’t hire myself if I didn’t have pride in my work. I wouldn’t hire myself if I wasn’t willing to work late to deliver a vehicle for a customer. But I do all of those things, so I think I’m the appropriate candidate. Now let me explain.”

Also, probing and asking the questions is one thing, but selling the job is important, too. Have a small presentation on why the candidate should work there.

But be careful. Often times in interviews, too much selling of the company on can take place versus asking the best questions to make sure the candidate has the right skills, knowledge and behavior requirements for the job. This needs to happen first.

Some people are really good interviewees. What can you do to dig deeper into their background?

I think the biggest mistake that is made after the interview process is over—bypassing the reference check. I would absolutely do some reference checks. In today’s world, previous employers are not allowed to really disclose very much information about the candidate based on their legal rights.

With that said, still ask them questions. You can almost tell from the tone of their voice and the general silence in between their answers that something may not be up to par.

If it’s a high-level position, like a shop manager who is in charge of money, checks and insurance relationships, I would hire a third-party company to do a background check. It’s worth whatever you spend—the $500 on a background check.

Then if they pass, I would get down to making my final decision on that person.