I wish I had known… how to conduct an effective interview

By Elizabeth Gillam

When I became a franchisee I came from an accounting background. The only type of interview I knew was the formal type. You know, dressed in a suit, holding a folder with a very formal looking resume and a host of references stating your experience. You sit there sweating and nervous while the man in the suit interviews you and somehow you get the feeling he is really enjoying the whole situation of being in power before you. 
And, that probably works well for a formal accounting practice, but now that I was interviewing staff, did I really want to replicate this process?

Well the short answer was no, mainly because I didn’t have any interview rooms, the food court was my office. But secondly, because the type of workers I needed had to work in store beside me and had to reflect the brand I bought into with the product I was selling. I needed to see the real person I was interviewing, the one who was going to reflect the brand to customers. Over my ten years of interviewing I developed my 3 x 3 style – three must do’s and three questions I always asked.

My three “must dos”:

  1. Always meet the new potential employee at the store where they can watch what you do. They need to have an idea of what their position will be.
  2. Always interview close to the store, explain the product, process and what is required of employees. 
  3. Keep the interview short no more than 5 – 10 minutes. For me an interview was a conversation really. If the potential employee can’t engage you in the first minute or so, how are they going to engage customers at the register where they really only have 30 seconds to process a sale.

The three questions I always included in my interview:

  1.  Who is your favorite teacher at school and why? This question is so unexpected that they relax immediately to stop and think and wallah! You see the real person come through. I got to hear some of the most inspirational stories; I only wish I had recorded some to play back to the teacher involved, it would have made their day. By the way, this question works for all ages and the answer is not always a school teacher.
  2.  What’s your favorite thing on the menu? If they’re a raving fan of your product then they are an enthusiastic seller and keen to come to work each day. The answer to this question indicates whether they are a fit with your brand.
  3. What’s your forte? What is it you do better than anyone else? Again you get to see the real person, but more importantly you get an insight into their skill set.

Now for a tip, given to me by an experienced interviewer with a great team (this one is secret for the use of employers only). Accidentally drop your pen, if the person reaches down to pick it up then there is your worker right there. A little test to see if the person is a team worker and goes out of their way to help. Clever hey?

Trust your gut and trust your instincts. You’re a clever person and you know your brand and your team better than anyone else. Every time you meet someone you get an instant feeling, so trust it, it’s rarely wrong.

I have probably thrown out every traditional interviewing rule out there, but at the end of the day you need a team of people around you, people who you can work with. You are going to spend a lot of time with your employees so make sure you employ someone who you find interesting and engaging.

Look for your weaknesses and employ people who show your weakness as strength. An effective team is made up of many personality types.

Elizabeth GillamElizabeth Gillam founder and CEO of Franchisee Success creates High Performance Franchisees. Having owned and operated three franchised food businesses; Boost, Healthy Habits and Bucking Bull; she knows what it takes to operate a profitable food franchise. In her recent book, Upsize your PROFIT – 6 steps to running a profitable food franchise she outlines how franchisees can ACE their franchised business unit.

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