It’s a huge mistake to hire candidates based only on their promises. Don’t believe them when they say, “I’m a’gonna …” Skeptically validate their answers by gathering data through pre-employments tests and behavior-focused questions. I love this quote by e-commerce pioneer and start-up expert Jay Samit from his book Disrupt You!: “Data has no ego and makes an excellent co-pilot.”

At its core, the pre-employment process involves getting important information on the table, sorting through it, and making a decision. Some hiring managers think they need to gather a bucketful of information before hiring a candidate. Others think it’s more like two buckets. They’re all selling themselves short. In actuality, you need a wheelbarrow overflowing with data to draw a clear picture of any candidate. The more information you can uncover and the more skillfully you analyze it, the better your hiring decision will be.

Through my 25 years of hiring experience plus my work with ISV executives as a business advisor, I’ve uncovered several best practices how to uncover data during the pre-employment process. Here are some of the most impactful, divided into behavior-focused interviewing and pre-employment testing:

Behavior-focused interviewing centers on the belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future conduct. During your interviews, seek to uncover a pattern of recurring behaviors.

  • Ask open-ended, past-tense questions like: “What exactly did you say to him?”
  • Don’t use theoretical questions like: “How do you typically handle tough customers?” Instead, ask a behavior-focused question like: “Can you give me an example of how you handled a tough customer?
  • Don’t ask leading questions like: “Did you do that to motivate the group?” Ask the behavior-focused version: “Why did you do that?”
  • Don’t provide leading information like: “We look for candidates who are committed to working here for five years or more.” Candidates will ask you questions about the job. Be cordial, but don’t tip your hand by giving information that will coach them on how to answer your questions.
  • Don’t ask close-ended questions like: “Would you say you’re comfortable having hard conversations?” Use the behavior-focused approach: “How do you feel after having a hard conversation?”

Pre-employment tests can vary widely based on your company, budget, and the specific job duties. Your decision shouldn’t be whether or not you use pre-employment tests; your decision should be which pre-employment tests you use. Choose from these or create your own:

  • Wonderlic aptitude assessment
  • DISC personality test
  • Use pre-employment assessment software to compare the candidate’s ability vs. industry norms. A leading IT solutions provider recently recommended PXT Select to me.
  • Ask the candidate to write an essay. Be sure to give a specific word limit and deadline.
  • Ask the candidate to write a persuasive email.
  • Take the candidate to lunch or dinner. See how they behave in a more casual environment.
  • Ask the candidate to prepare and present a PowerPoint on themselves. You have the opportunity to learn about them, their organizational skills, their communication skills, their attention to detail, their critical thinking skills, and more.
  • Ask the candidate to visit your website, learn about a product, and then present/sell the product back to you. Alternatively, ask them to learn about your company (via the web, phone calls, etc.) and then present their version of a company overview to you.
  • Challenge the candidate with “mini-tests” during the interview process. For example, if they’re a long talker, challenge them to speak succinctly.
  • Have the candidate spend a half day with your team to test if they are a good fit for your culture and the job.

Three tremendous behavior-based interview questions:

  • Give an example of something you accomplished that others around you said couldn’t be done and how you got it done.
  • Walk me through a situation in which you asked numerous questions of several people to get the information you needed to make an effective decision.
  • Tell me about a time when your standard approach to problem-solving didn’t produce the desired solution. What did you do?


Jim Roddy is a Reseller & Software Developer Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services and he’s author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. Jim has been active in the IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak to software developer executives at conferences in the IT industry.