Finding and hiring the right people is a challenge. Many owners are resigned to hiring and firing four to five people before finding the right one for any particular position. This is expensive and stressful, and, according to many experts, unnecessary.

In his book, 45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart, author Dr. Pierre Mornell offers practical advice for gathering information from a prospective hire, getting past the veneer and into his or her personality.


  • Prepare up front. Create a job description that includes the critical skills your top candidate will need.
  • Call the candidate. If you leave a message, ask for a return call at a specific time, then monitor the results. Once you speak to the candidate, evaluate whether he or she is articulate, responsive, and relaxed.


  • Assume three things: Interviewing tests how well someone interviews and not how well they will do on the job; a good con artist will fool you every time; interviews in which you induce stress put the candidate on the defensive and show you only defensive behavior.
  • When you have five minutes remaining, let the candidate know. “With the end in sight,” Mornell says, “performance changes,” and you can expect to hear the most important thing the candidate will say — pay attention.
  • Group interviews are a fast way to get the opinions of key staff and a thorough way to evaluate a candidate.

Observing a candidate afterward will teach you about his or her behavior and track record. Ask the candidate for a return call a few days after the interview. You'll say, “I know we've talked about a lot of things today and I'm sure some questions will come up. Why don't you call me Tuesday morning to discuss them?” This shifts responsibility back to the candidate. Says Mornell: More than 15% of candidates miss this call! Not a good start if you're looking for someone who can follow through.

Mornell also suggests creative ways to contact references. For example, call references when you'll likely reach their voice mail, and leave a message like this: “John Jones is a candidate for [the position] in our company. Your name has been given as a reference. Please call me back if this candidate is outstanding.” If the candidate is excellent, Mornell says you'll hear from as many as eight out of 10 references. If just two or three respond, the message is loud and clear.

Then, once you've hired successfully, Mornell wraps up his book with an array of ideas on how to retain the superstars you bring to your team. — Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, a national consulting firm specializing in the challenges of running a remodeling company 301.490.5620;