Six Traits To Look For When Interviewing (Along With The Questions You Should Be Asking)

What’s the biggest challenge in your small business today?

If I asked that question to a room full of entrepreneurs, the answers would vary. However, whether they realize it, I’ve found the biggest issue business owners face is people.

I’m the president of a company that works with independent contractors. One of my partners in this business is a contractor who owns one of the largest residential service contracting companies in North America. I posed the same question to him: “What’s the biggest challenge you face?”

He didn’t blink. He said, “It’s people. Get the right people on board, and almost all of your troubles go away.” It’s important to note that he has a superb team at his organization. It’s why the company has exploded from $500,000 in revenue to $85 million in 15 years. Still, when issues arise, the challenges typically originate from people. This is true for my company, as well as my clients’ companies.

If you’re a small-business owner trying to grow, the most important decisions you can make involve who you hire. We teach our clients they must spend 33% of their time recruiting, which shows you how important this task is to the success of your business.

Traditionally, employers seek candidates with the most experience when filling positions. Unfortunately, experience does not always translate into results. You are much better off hiring someone who matches your core values. Then, you can train that individual on how the job should be done.

When interviewing, our leadership team analyzes every candidate by asking themselves, “Does this person exhibit the three C’s and the three H’s?” These are six critical traits I believe everyone at my company must have to succeed and fit our culture. Let me share with you what those are. I also will share with you an interview question or two to help you get an appropriate response.


Is this a good person? You want to believe the person you bring aboard will do the right thing every time, even when others aren’t looking. They’re honest, responsible and will demonstrate a little courage. Get a glimpse at someone’s character by asking them questions in the interview such as:

• Can you tell me about a time you made a large sacrifice to put someone else’s needs before your own?

• How did you react when you experienced a loss for doing what is right?

• Tell me about a business situation when you felt the customer wasn’t being treated properly. What did you do?

Cultural Fit

Would this job prospect mesh well within your company? At my business, we’re a very social group; the office is energetic. Someone who wants to work alone in a dark room might find it distracting. You need to know that. Find out if a person is a cultural fit by asking them:

• What kind of work environment are you the most productive in?

• Do you prefer to work alone or in a group setting, and why?


At my company, we will hire for attitude and train for aptitude. Still, when interviewing, we need to know if the person is willing and able to learn. Determine someone’s competence in an interview by asking how they would react in different situations pertaining to the job:

• Can you talk about a time when you had to deal with a frustrated client? How did you turn that relationship around?

• Can you talk about a job where you were expected to learn new skills? What were they? What did you think about the experience?


Nothing can tear a company culture to shreds more than having a team full of self-centered braggarts. Find how people respond to success by asking:

• Talk about a time where you were working with someone and they received the bulk of the praise. How did you react?

• Share a success you had in a team environment. What was your role in that team?


I value competitive people. Not everyone wants to end up in senior leadership, but when given a task, I want our team members to attempt to complete it to the very best of their ability — every time. You can gauge people’s hunger by asking:

• What motivates you?

• How do you go about establishing goals for yourself?

High EQ (Emotional Quotient)

Intelligence or IQ (intellectual quotient) was once thought to be the only factor that mattered when hiring. But people with high emotional intelligence tend to be high achievers. They possess exceptional self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Some great questions to ask in an interview to gauge someone’s EQ would be:

• What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made in the past 10 years, and what have you learned from them?

• What is the most difficult criticism for you to accept?

Not all these interview questions will be easy for a person to answer. That’s a good thing, and it doesn’t immediately disqualify someone. The goal is for prospective employees to be introspective, open and honest. Force them to move away from the canned, practiced responses. Get to the heart of the individual. When you hire a company full of people who work and lead with their hearts, you will find limitless success.

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