Learning From Your 'Shoulda Saids'

Another tip from Bob Snelling, CEO of ROSS-HR

We had a highly qualified VP client who was asked on an interview, "What specific characteristics do you look for in people you hire?" 


She said she had stumbled around on this one and did not feel she answered it right. We explored some 'Shoulda Saids…'

 "What we'd all like to find are qualified candidates and then candidates who are honest, diligent, team players, leaders or potential leaders, morally upright and the list could go on.  However, just like resumes full of fluff, many of these characteristics we'd love to have in employees are hard to assess aside from their claims.  I think the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, on what's happened to the people I did hire. My retention rate is a high 84% are still with me after five years. In addition several of them, on my recommendation, have been promoted."

This statement would be followed up immediately with a probing management type question.  "I'm curious, what is your overall retention rate with your personnel?"  It's a fair question, they opened the door, so the candidate can ask it.  Our client also mentioned that the interviewer said they would not be making a decision for about 2 to 3 weeks. We decided that given such an opportune opening she could have added a comment such as this.

"One thing that may have led to my success in getting and keeping the best people was that if I saw someone really good, I didn't hesitate.  I made them an offer. I found that the really good people didn't stay around long since other employers recognized their worth and were making them offers."

As usual, she did close the interview with the statement we prescribe:

"I appreciate your time. The people I've met here are my kind of people and I'm very comfortable with them. Your position is of interest to me and I would like to have an offer from you that I could compare with the other things I'm looking at."

She was prepared with the names of several other firms that she had approached or had been interviewed by just in case she was asked what other things she was considering.


The moral to this story is learn from your mistakes. Keep a notebook of questions you've been asked and your responses to them. If you felt the responses were not up to par, then add your 'shoulda saids'. This should be done as soon as you leave an interview while all the information is still in your mind. Then these notes should be reviewed prior to the next interview. While you might not be asked the same questions, the thought process behind coming up with the answer will be the same. How can you turn this question around to benefit you and the individual who is seeking to hire you?  You don't have the benefit of the time to try to think about just what is it they are trying to find out by asking a question that to you has no real answer. So you have to go the benefit route which is a lot simpler to do.


Consider this, had she responded, "I look for people who are honest, diligent, hard working and morally upright."  They could have come back with the logical question,  "Wonderful, those are good characteristics. Just how do you go about ascertaining if they have them?"  Oh, oh, now she would have been in deep water, without a clue of how to answer that one. Should she try, she'd just be digging herself in deeper.


Trying to match wits with the witless, those interviewers who get their questions from a book or an article on interviewing, is not a good way to land job offers.  Honest, straightforward, "I haven't a clue" answers, followed by a probing question, are still the best way to deal with them. They may be a great boss when you finally get the offer, they just are unsure of themselves when it comes to interviewing and selecting people.


July, 2007


   ROSS-HR, Inc.

Rober O. Snellling, Sr., President