The dictum, “hire slow, fire fast,” has always worked well for Vita and Jerry Burdi, co-owners of DJ’s Home Improvement, on Long Island, N.Y., which has very low turnover. Vita believes that’s due to their hiring process, which starts with her gauging a candidate’s emotional “tone level” and includes a “working interview.”

“I can get a sense over the phone of whether a person is interested in a position,” says Vita, who characterizes prospective hires using categories based on L. Ron Hubbard’s “tone scale.” A “3.5 has strong interest, a 2.5 boredom, 1.1 is covert hostility — someone who smiles at you but wants to wreck your files — and .05 is apathy,” she says. “I can drop 80% of the people who contact me just by having them answer questions about their interests, what they’re looking for in regard to a new job, and on their emotional tone.”

Work for a Day

Once they pass that hurdle, candidates work for a day, with pay. For an office position, for example, the candidate fills out an application — “the level of detail they put on that application tells me something about the person,” says Vita — gets a tour of each workstation, and learns about the company’s philosophy.

Vita expects a lot of varied knowledge from office staff and will have QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel, and other software open on the computer. She may ask the candidate to find a glass sink that might work in a customer’s bathroom or move photographs around in Photoshop for a brochure.

Vita gets to see how the candidate works and how he or she interacts with employees. “It’s time-consuming on my end, but I know within four hours if a person will make it. Sometimes [the lengthy process] hurts us because someone wants a job quickly and won’t wait out the process. But when we do get someone, we get them for life.”