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As you (prepare to) interview potential new hires, what new interview questions are you asking today that you didn’t ask prior to the recession?

What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?

If you are a reader, what are you currently reading and why did you pick that book? Describe your musical tastes. Do you play any instruments? What weekend activities do you typically schedule with family and friends?

—Mike Chambers,

J&B Acoustical,

Mansfield, Ohio

Do you have any pending workers’ comp claims?

Do you now or have you ever work for NSA, CIA, FBI or one or more of the myriad other agencies or corporations or individuals spying on the “privacy” of Americans?

It doesn’t make a difference what questions are asked, everyone is already conditioned to tell you what you want to hear. Ironically though, they’re not concerned about your line of questions, they’re only concerned that you answer correctly to their line of questioning, namely, “How much do you pay?” What time is coffee break and how many do I get a day?” “You know—I don’t load materials?” “Do you reimburse for travel expenses?” Now, if you answer these questions (and a few others) satisfactory enough, then they will agree to work for you.

“Oh by the way,” they exclaim, “I don’t have any framing and drywall experience. That won’t be a problem, right?” Now, if you think this is the exception, then you are seriously misinformed; this is the norm for us, overwhelmingly. Recession or not, it has not changed the apathy and laziness of America’s “new” work force. We’re all in big trouble. We live in a day and age where everyone says they want a job, but no one really wants to WORK.

Do you have any of your hand tools left?

Are you on Facebook?

What do you do on your own, on a daily basis, to ensure you leave the job safely?

Do you have any field time?

Have you ever worked for a competitor of this company?

Have you ever walked off a job?

Have you ever been injured on the job? If the answer is yes, I ask them, “What have you changed about your work habits to make sure you won’t be injured in the same way again?”

If you didn’t have a job in construction, what would you be doing?

Historically, we’d ask if the individual had experience in construction, ideally in the trowel trades. It is difficult to determine whether they actually had or not in a personal interview in the office. So now, we ask specific questions about materials and processes of our work. If they give the right answers, we have a better sense of their capabilities.

Typical responses suggest that they know everything about what we do and are “quick learners” for whatever else we might want.

The proof of the pudding is when they get to the job. We give them a week-long trial period during which time they show the job foreman and superintendent what they can do—including timeliness, sobriety, willingness to work with others, lack of fear of climbing scaffold and ladders, willingness to follow orders, etc. At the end of the first week they meet with the foreman and superintendent to determine whether we actually want them and if so, what rate of pay they will earn. Then on the first of the next week we submit their time, and the next Monday they get their first pay check. That week of trial period is valuable to see what they actually can and are willing to do.

—Robert Aird, President, Robert A. Aird, Inc., Frederick, Maryland

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