Interviewing Prospective Employees Like a Pro - IE3: Indoor Environment & Energy Efficiency

Interviewing Prospective Employees Like a Pro

As an entrepreneur or small business owner you’re probably really good at what you do. Interviewing prospective employees? Maybe not so much. While each business has specific needs, what nearly all companies have in common is the desire to get the right personnel in place. The list below represents a good set of basic questions to ask prospective employees – as well as potential time bomb questions to avoid.

Standard Interview Questions

“Tell me about yourself” is a standard catch-all interview questions, often asked by interviewers who are uncomfortable with the entire process. While the question itself has limited usefulness, the principle behind the question is sound. One often overlooked element in hiring is ensuring that new personnel are a good fit with the existing company culture, as well as being qualified for the job. The questions listed below can help you find candidates that will work well with the people you already have on staff.

How do you approach personal and professional challenges? Even the best jobs have aspects that are frustrating. And everyone faces personal challenges and hardships at some point in their lives. This question addresses a prospective candidate’s ability to roll with the punches, as well as how he or she deals with serious setbacks.

How do you respond to constructive critique and evaluation? Nobody likes being constantly criticized. However, even the best workers can sometimes stand to make adjustments or improvement. This question is designed to uncover candidates who are coachable – who respond well to constructive criticism, while eliminating overly sensitive types who take every suggestion as a personal insult.

How does this position fit into your overall career plans? Whether you’re interviewing a new technician or hoping to hire a seasoned professional with multiple certifications, more than likely you’ll want someone who plans to stay with the company. This question targets whether a prospective candidate sees himself or herself as a long term member of your team – or intends to jump ship at the first opportunity.

What motivates you to come to work every day? Nearly everyone works for money. That’s a given, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But responses like “I have to pay my bills” may indicate that a prospective hire is inclined to put forth only minimal effort. On the other hand, an answer like “I really enjoy working with my hands and seeing the products of my work,” signal someone who will potentially draw satisfaction from the job, and work hard to produce the best possible results.

HVAC-Specific Interview Questions

Like many skilled trades, the HVAC industry has unique aspects that may not be addressed with standard interview questions. The questions listed below represent a starting point for addressing some of the specific needs an HVAC company may have.

What complex procedures do you know well enough to explain in simple terms? While it should be a given that prospective technicians have a basic understanding of how to use specific procedures and tools, that isn’t the case for your company’s customers. The ability to explain how a compressor works to nervous homeowners or anxious commercial clients can go a long way in reassuring customers that the work is being done right – and for a fair price.

What certifications do you hold? Which certifications would you like to learn? Depending on your company’s specialties, you may be seeking technicians with specific certifications – such as NATE – already in hand. On the other hand, if your company offers extensive training, it makes sense to recruit workers eager to obtain new skills.

Are you willing to make equipment suggestions to customers? Sometimes customers request equipment that isn’t right for their needs. For instance, a homeowner may insist on a central AC unit that is much too large, or a budget minded commercial client might push for a cheaper – but inadequate system. A conscientious technician would be willing to offer alternatives that better suit the client’s needs.

Questions to Avoid

Many duties involved with the HVAC industry require significant physical effort, as many positions demand working outside standard business hours. It’s understandable that you would want to recruit candidates who can handle those requirements. However, this is an area where it’s easy to get into legal hot water, especially when interviewees belong to one or more protected classes, as the examples listed below illustrate.

OK: Stating the physical requirements of a given position and asking interviewees if they are capable of handling them.

NOT OK: Telling an interviewee who is older, visibly pregnant or who has an obvious disability that he or she doesn’t appear to be capable of handling the job.

OK: Informing interviewees that a position requires evening and weekend hours and asking if they’re willing to comply.

NOT OK: Refusing to consider candidates with small children or who belong to particular religions because you’re worried that they’ll be unwilling to fill certain shifts.

Asking the Right Questions

This list above represents just a few suggestions for questions that you may or may not wish to incorporate into the interview process. It is not intended to be exhaustive. If you are unsure about a particular interview question, consult with an employment specialist or an attorney specializing in employment law prior to beginning the interview process.

Audrey Henderson

Audrey Henderson

Audrey Henderson is a Chicago-based independent writing and research consultant specializing in sustainability, affordable housing, popular culture and the arts, travel, mental health issues, interpersonal relationships and business. Her written work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, Sustainable Cities Collective, Scripps Natoinal Digital, JustMeans and tcrBLOG, the online outlet for The Chicago Reporter.
Audrey Henderson

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