by Scott Tackett

Finding and hiring quality employees for cleaning or restoration companies is an ongoing challenge for business owners.

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Why can’t I get this hiring thing figured out?” or “Why can’t I find the right person for the job?” or maybe you have reached the point where you exclaimed: “I’ve had it! I hate interviewing!”

Do you look at your turnover rate of 100 percent, or even 200 percent, and ask yourself: “What is going on here?” or “What am I doing wrong?”

If any of these questions have crossed your mind lately, it may be time to rethink your interviewing strategy or process. While you may have been interviewing potential employees with the right education, certifications or experience, clearly something is missing. That missing link may reside in your questions and interviewing strategy.

Let’s review some “typical” interviewing questions:

  • “How well do you get along with people?”
  • “Where do you want to be five years from now?”
  • “Do you like to work in a team environment?”
  • “Do you mind working overtime when needed?”

With questions like these, I would be willing to bet I could tell you the answers you’re getting almost 100 percent of the time.

Employee success in the restoration world is not just about what the potential employee knows. It’s more about what they can and have done with that knowledge. As I was once told many years ago, the true indicator of the future success of a candidate is his/her past behavior.

Many companies today are moving to competency-based interviewing. Competency-based interviews feature questions designed specifically to gauge the ability of the candidate to handle the job by the way they handled specific situations in the past.

The main difference between a competency-based interview and a more general one is that, in a competency-based interview, most of the questions will relate to past situations. Instead of asking the candidate how well they get along with people, you ask the candidate to describe a time in the past when they had a conflict in the workplace and how they handled that conflict. The notion is that how they behaved then will give you an idea of how they will behave in the future. Please note that, in many cases, you may need to ask follow-up questions to probe for a complete picture of the candidate’s true past behavior. Many times it’s not the first question that is critical. It is the second and third questions that will really provide the information you need to make the best decision possible.

The key is that, as the interviewer, you are attempting to determine which candidates are truly capable of doing the work the position entails. That means you must ensure that you completely understand the requirements of the specific job for which you are interviewing that person. Consequently, you must have different questions for different positions. You will not ask the same questions of a field technician that you ask of an estimator or project manager.

A clearly defined, competency-based selection process can aid tremendously in finding the most qualified candidates for your openings. But please recognize that this selection process requires time and effort. The truth is that this system, done properly, is a lot of work. However, think of what your organization stands to gain by the efforts.

Last but not least, keep this simple phrase in mind when evaluating potential and current employees to help you stick to your interviewing process: Hire slow and fire fast! Don’t hire the first candidate you interview just to fill a vacancy, and don’t keep employees around who are not fulfilling the established requirements of the job.

Scott Tackett joined Violand Management Associates (VMA) with a 32-year background in manufacturing, human resource management and organizational leadership. He is currently a business development advisor for VMA where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA’s services and programs visit or call (330)966-0700.