Mel Kleiman Making Interviewing Meaningful

In yesterday’s Advisor, consultant Mel Kleiman offered tips for hiring eagles and avoiding turkeys. Today, his take on interviewing, plus an introduction to the guide especially for small or even one-person HR departments.

Kleiman, from Humetrics, Inc., offered his tips on hiring the best at BLR’s Strategic HR Summit, held recently in Scottsdale, Arizona.

During the Interview

Behavioral interviewing doesn’t work anymore, says Kleiman. There are too many “How to Ace the Behavioral Interview” videos on YouTube.

Try this interview question, Kleiman suggests: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself (on skills … teamwork … whatever)? 8.5? What makes you an 8.5? What would it take to get you to rate a 9?

Never write down something negative at the time the applicants say it, says Kleiman. They are watching your body language, they will be unnerved, and they won’t share anything else. It’s a better tactic to wait until the applicant says something positive, and then write down the negative thing, Kleiman suggests.

“Tell me about your last job” is a good question, Kleiman says, but it’s for the phone screen. At the interview, ask, “Tell me about the first thing you did to earn money.” “And then you moved on …?” This will be much more interesting than what the person says about the most recent job.

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Kleiman, known for not mincing words, offers these tips to HR managers:

  • What’s the number one source of hourly employees other than referrrals? Craig’s List, says Kleiman. It’s cheap, it’s ugly, it works, he says.
  • Absolute number one source of great employees—those who have left the company and come back. Kleiman asks, Do you have a process for staying in touch with former employees?
  • Don’t hire for skills, hire for talent.
  • Kleiman’s formula for understanding how important it is to hire eagles, not turkeys:


    • 3 bad workers = 1 OK worker
    • 3 OK workers= 1 good worker
    • 3 good workers = 1 great worker

Hiring eagles and avoiding turkeys—certainly part of your job description these days, but equally certainly not your only challenging duty. From hiring to firing, HR’s never easy, and in a small department, it’s just that much tougher.

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  • Explanation of how HR supports organizational goals. This section explains how to probe for what your top management really wants and how to build credibility in your ability to deliver it.
  • Overview of compliance responsibilities, through a really useful,  2-page chart of 23 separate laws that HR needs to comply with. These range from the well-known Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and new healthcare reform legislation, to lesser-known, but equally critical rules, such as Executive Order 11246. Also included are examples of federal and state posting requirements. (Proper postings are among the first things a visiting inspector looks for—especially now that the minimum wage has been repeatedly changing.)

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  • Training guidelines. No matter the size of your company, expect to conduct training. Some of it is required by law; some of it just makes good business sense. Managing an HR Department of One walks you through how to train efficiently and effectively with a minimum of time and money.
  • Prewritten forms, policies, and checklists. These are enormous work savers! Managing an HR Department of One has 46 such forms, from job apps and background check sheets to performance appraisals and leave requests, in both paper and on CD. The CD lets you easily customize any form with your company’s name and specifics.

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3 thoughts on “Mel Kleiman Making Interviewing Meaningful”

  1. I love the tip about waiting until the candidate says something positive to take a negative note. I also like the question about the first thing the person did to make money–but does it have to be in lieu of asking about the last job? That’s important info, too, so I would ask both.

  2. I prefer using a ranking scale of 1-3 vs. 1-10. During phone screens I say to the appliant “On a scale of 1-3, three being the highest level of competency, how would you rate yourself in . . . ”

    I believe behaviorial questions need to be creative, such as “What do you think you owe your employer?” and “What do you think your employer ows you?”, “What motivates you to keep returning to work day after day, other than just to receive a paycheck?”

  3. I wouldn’t throw out Behavioral Interviewing just yet . . . the key is to ask questions that relate to the candidate’s experience that are relevant to the job they are applying for and ask additional questions in regards to their answers. It can be a very useful tool when trying to ascertain how someone behaves in certain or anticipated situations. A combination of identifying required skills and behavioral questions can result in a good understanding of the value any candidate brings to the table. From my 30+ yrs exp as a recruiter and from what my candidates tell me about their interviews, it would seem most hiring authorities could use some help in this area; more often than not they don’t ask the right questions to even know if this person is qualified other than reading a resume if they even do that. It takes time to thoroughly interview a candidate and unfortunately, in this day of “hurry up and get it done”, this is one of the areas that gets over looked. It is the difference between hiring a body and someone who will be there for a very long time.

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