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Ask the Expert—Hire Expectations

Join Clate and Dusey as the talk to Brad Owens, who says traditional behavioral interviewing is out, and Attributional Interviewing is in.  Brad brings 10 years of experience hiring for some of the most profitable companies out there, and shares his expertise so small businesses can have the same advantages as Fortune 500 companies.  Brad is the host of the Small Business Hiring podcast, where he was recently joined by our very own hiring partner Lauren Borgeson.

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Clate: We've been doing this podcast for a while now. We are growing and that is super exciting. We want to hone in on what you love about this podcast. We want it to be so good, that you will tell your friends all about it. In order to do that, we want you to take our listener survey so we can learn more about you. This is your opportunity to tell us what you want to hear in the podcast. You can always email us, [00:00:30] [email protected], with your ideas. We'd love to hear from you. This survey will really help us know what you love about the Small Business Success podcast and what you would like to hear in it, moving forward. Please take the survey at That's, as in Small Business Success Podcast, feedback. Or, you can go to our show notes at and find [00:01:00] the link there. Let's make this awesome together. Thanks.

Dusey: Hello listeners, this is Dusey V, host of the Small Business Success Podcast. I'm joined here Clate. Hey, Clate, how's it going?

Clate: Great. How are you doing, Dusey?

Dusey: Doing very well. Scott is out of town. The two of us are speaking to our guests today. We've got a great guest on for you, going to walk us through some tips [00:01:30] on how to interview when you're bringing people on to your small business. Today, we have Brad Owen, the host of the Small Business Hiring Podcast. How's it going, Brad?

Brad: Doing very well, gentlemen. Thanks so much for having me be a part.

Clate: Yes. You bet, Brad. Good to have you.

Dusey: Thanks for coming. Maybe you can tell us just a little bit about who you are and what you do to get us started.

Brad: Yes. Sure. My background is for an entire decade, I recruited for Fortune 500 companies. I recruited talent for them from straight down to out of college, all [00:02:00] the way up to C level executives. I did that for, as an external recruiter. I was working with hundreds of different companies. Through that time, I got to see exactly how these big companies do it. Meanwhile, I saw all of my friends running small businesses and businesses around here with Help Wanted signs out front, just struggling to get all these people in the door. I thought, "Well, I know how all the best companies in the world do it. Why wouldn't I share this information." Now, I call myself "the Robin Hood of Hiring." I take the strategies [00:02:30] from these big companies and I help small businesses implement them in their own day-to-day. I've done a lot of research into this, of exactly what types of questions, what types of attributes you can see from people to really guarantee you get a great hire. I love sharing that kind of information.

Clate: That's great.

Dusey: That's fantastic.

Clate: Thanks for sharing it with us. Over the years, I've watched our customers. Obviously, we've experienced the same thing. I think it's particularly true, when you're getting your business going, that first [00:03:00] hire, second hire, third hire, they're so critical. Especially with respect to the skillset that really compliments the business owner. The business owner can usually hire pretty well for people that are like him, or like her. It's really tough if, for example, if you don't, if you're not really good in sales, it's really tough to hire a salesperson. Or, if you need a software engineer and you're not a software engineer, it's really tough to do that. I see the mistakes [00:03:30] that are made. I see how it just completely hamstrings the business, and, a lot of times, kills the business. A hiring mistake is so costly and so preventative. In some cases, it does the worse thing of all, which is, it causes the business to just stagnate completely. It doesn't get better, it doesn't get worse. You're just kind of treading water.

I'm sure our listeners can relate to some of the things that I just described there and the pain [00:04:00] that it creates for them as they're trying to get their business going. Thank you for coming on and sharing some of your tips and observations and things that the best of the best do.

Brad: Yes. Absolutely. To that point, you mentioned people hiring people like them. I can't agree more, that it just completely stagnates the business. As you hire people who are just like yourself, people tend to get into that mode of, "I'm going to hire a clone of me, so I can hand off what I'm doing and can go do something else." If you hire in the exact same skillset, how are you growing? [00:04:30] You need to hire someone who's got these skills that are different from yours, or who has strengths where you have weaknesses. Yes. I couldn't agree more.

Dusey: Awesome. That's fantastic. I love this idea of let's get these amazing hiring practices that are from these great big companies and get them down, get that power down to some of our small business owner listeners that could really use some of these tips.

Brad: And, hopefully do it in an entrepreneurial way, devoid of all of the big company junk that goes on.

Dusey: Yes. Yes. Right.

Brad: Absolutely. [00:05:00] Fewer layers of HR policies and everything else.

Dusey: Exactly. Yes. Why don't you go ahead and walk us through your attributional interviewing? I've been looking through some of this. It looks like you've got a great plan here for something you can apply to every interview. Just go ahead and walk us through it.

Brad: Sure. Absolutely. This whole attributional interviewing thing came to be because I saw, even Fortune 30 companies, I swear to you, I saw this happen. Behavioral [00:05:30] interviewing is the big rage out there. Everyone says, "Situational based questions. You need to ask these things." The interviewee will use this star format where they go through the situation, the tasks, the actions that they had and the results that came out of it. This star format has been created for the interviewee to be able to make sure they're addressing the right points in their answer and make them less nervous when they walk into an interview. I'm not kidding you, I saw a Fortune 30 company with their [00:06:00] interviewers sitting down at the table with someone across from them answering questions to be a part of their team, checking off a list of "Did they mention the S? Did they mention the T? Did they mention the A?" They're completely using it wrong.

I find the problem, when people start getting to this mode of, "What questions do I ask," you're not hitting the right things here. They're mostly focused on ;do they have that skillset that's on their resume?, can they do this job?, then, can they handle themselves in an interview, then turn [00:06:30] them loose? Time and time again, there have been certain attributes that you can find from one of your candidates, from anyone who's sitting across the table from you, that will ensure their success in your organization, whether or not they have a deep skillset in what you're hiring them for. The big thing here is, if you're hiring for skillset, you're hiring for a current need. If you hire for a culture fit, you've got someone who can grow with your company from now into the future. I'll challenge everyone listening right now. Raise your hand if you knew what you know now about your job [00:07:00] 10 years ago? It's completely different.

If you're hiring someone in right now that can only do that one thing, you're hiring a very temporary employee. I came up with this attributional interviewing tip ...

Clate: Hey, Brad. Let me jump in there real quick. I appreciate you sharing that. We talk all the time about, "Hire first for culture, and second for skill." That doesn't mean that you can blank on the skill. Obviously, the person's got to have the skill to do the job now, or you're going to be very frustrated as you're trying to grow this person into the skillset. [00:07:30] Far too many companies and far too many individuals, business owners, as they go to hire, even that first person, they're just looking for can the person do the skills. Does the person have the skills and can they do the task that I need right now? You know, 9 times out of 10, the person that can do the tasks isn't a good culture fit. I mean, that's just the reality.

Culture fits are harder to find than your skill match. If you start with the, we always teach if you start [00:08:00] with the culture first, you're going to save yourself a ton of time because you're not going to go deep down in the process with somebody who has the skill that you're getting excited about and you're trying to convince yourself, "Yes. I think this person is going to be really great." There's something in your gut saying, "Eh, this doesn't quite fit." We say, get the culture fit screen first. If that's right, then see if they have the skills. You'll save yourself a ton of time. The way you described it is a version of that. I think it makes a lot of sense. I look forward to hearing a little bit more about the specifics of how [00:08:30] you do the attributional interviewing.

Brad: I really like your point about, it really is easy to trick ourselves into like, "Yes. We can make this guy work. We can make this person work." You see whatever, some amazing work they've done, or their skillset is even a little above what you're looking for. It's just so easy to talk yourself into that.

Clate: Yes. One last comment on this. We like to say that you can hire tools or you can hire growers. The tools just do the job for right now. We will say that it's much, much [00:09:00] better to hire a grower, someone who has that mindset that can continually grow with your company and take on new tasks. Plus, who wants a tool?

Brad: Absolutely. You guys are on point there for sure. What this whole attributional interviewing thing does is provides some structure for people to understand what they should be asking to get at, "What is a cultural fit for me? What truly ties in with my core values? What really does fit here?" I came up with 6 different things that I'm seeing time and time again, really [00:09:30] prove to be a good fit for the organizations that are hiring people, and that's their attitude. At a very basic level, are they upbeat? Are they positive, outgoing, whatever really fits in with your corporate culture. Their aptitude. What's their ability to really learn new things quickly, to come up to speed on something new? If some new piece of technology comes their way, are they going to be able to learn that, or are they just going to have a really hard time struggling to keep up? Accomplishments. Now, we mentioned skillset, but having a skillset and having done something with it are two completely different things. [00:10:00] If you try and ask them question around what their accomplishments have been, they'll prove to you that they can do something with their skillset.

Then, there's their adaptability. Can they change their work style to really suit the environment? They're coming from a place where they're very comfortable into your environment. Are they going to be able to thrive? Have they done that before? Have they shown they can do it? Then, I throw in appreciation. By appreciation, everyone knows that one person you ask the question of, "Tell me about a time you had a difficult manager," and they just trash the former employer. Then, [00:10:30] you think, "Oh no! Are they going to do that about me?" You think about this appreciation from not just a, do they truly understand what they've been given in their career till this point? Are they appreciative of the job you're giving them? Do they understand what that's going to do for them, their skillset, their career, that kind of thing. You can kind of think of it as humble, as well.

Then, there's amiable, which is probably the very easiest one and what gets that gut reaction that you were talking about, Clate. It's that, are they easy to get along with? Do you like them? Do you feel like they're actually [00:11:00] going to sit around? It's the, "will you have a beer with them" type question. Through all of this, these are the things that you should be looking for. Yes, I have some questions laid out in this guide that you can certainly ask people to get at those. You'll see, the questions are maybe 11 or 12 words. What you should be listening for is a few paragraphs. That's where I want to really make sure this separates from all the other interview styles out there. It's not the questions. It's what you're listening for.

Dusey: I just have to jump in and talk about my pet peeve. When you were [00:11:30] talking about the appreciation one of people trashing on other previous employers. For me, it's when I see somebody on Facebook talking about like, "Ew, you know, I can't believe this thing at my work that's going on," and they start to kind of dumb there. That is just like, ah! It bugs me so much. Go take care of it with that person. Go take care of it with your business. Why are you telling the world this? That definitely doesn't make me want to bring you on in my team.

Brad: Right. It filters out the passive-aggressive mentality for sure.

Clate: Couldn't agree more.

Dusey: [00:12:00] That's fantastic. Looking through these, like you said, it's about listening for those attributes, less about like, you have this question that's like the perfect question for everybody. Maybe you can talk a little bit about how somebody can consistently try to apply this and maybe whether it's kind of just building their interview skills or their experience. What advice would you give somebody going in to interviewing that either doesn't have a lot of experience for it, or maybe, they're just [00:12:30] looking to take it from a new angle?

Brad: You know, the easiest thing that I could say for someone who might be just getting used to this interview style, or getting used to asking questions to get the right answers, everyone talks about leading questions and confirmation bias. There's a whole lot of information out there about that. What I really want to give to people to simplify all of this is dig deeper. You really need to dig deeper, when they give you just a surface level answer. If you ask them, let's go [00:13:00] back to one of these situational based questions. "Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond to get an assignment completed." They're going to tell you kind of the basics of the story. The best question that you can possibly ask, not any one of these things that you thing is going to be a great story, the best question you can ask, "Tell me more about that."

Let them choose what's going to be the most important thing to dig deeper on. Let them choose what they feel is the most value they can add from that. Any other way you ask that question, I mean, there's a few ways I guess you can't, most of [00:13:30] the ways you can ask that follow-up question, you're going to be leading them in so that they can think, "Okay, this is what they want to hear more about." You truly want to listen to them and let them draw the answer out of themselves, almost, so that they tell you what's important. They'll show you much more about their character, much more about how they fit in, if you just allow them to expand on what they want. Dig deeper, dig deeper, dig deeper. Just ask them more and more question about what they're talking about so that you truly get a full picture of that situation they were in.

Dusey: [00:14:00] Yes. I think that also has a secondary effect of, sometimes, if you've come to an interview prepared with, like, specific stories like, "Oh, they'll probably ask this and that." You kind of put together this story. Well, if you start digging into it, you're going to see how much, is that something that they just assembled? How much of that is something that they really lived through or accomplished, or whatever the case may be.

Brad: It doesn't take too many levels once you get below the surface to really understand if this is a prepared, canned answer, or if this is something that truly happened [00:14:30] and they have all the great details around it. Going deeper has many, many, many benefits.

Dusey: Awesome. That's fantastic.

Clate: I want to ask you this one. You know, you talk about attitude, aptitude, accomplishments, adaptability, appreciations, amiable. Those 6 As make a lot of sense. I wanted to ask a little bit about the adaptability and the digging deeper there. You know, I think especially in, when you're running a small business you've got, you know, everybody's got to wear a bunch of different hats in order to [00:15:00] make it all work. You're not usually hiring a specialist who just does that thing and that's it. You need people who have a lot of adaptability, not just in the environment, what's going on, but actually in their role, their skills. How do you, I hear the point about dig deeper. When I think about our listeners and what they need, they need those versatile players. How would you recommend that they dig deeper to really find that versatility, [00:15:30] that role-player who can just be a utility player for the team and get a lot of stuff done, when maybe it doesn't look like that on the surface? What things do you find underneath adaptability that suggests this will be a great player on a small team?

Brad: You know, adaptability is one of those ones where you really want to understand what their, how they react when they're faced with a challenge, faced with a difficult [00:16:00] situation, faced with something different. You want to understand what the circumstances were about the change. Was it something they had control over? Was it something where they had to pick up the slack for someone else? Was it some permanent change about the environment? Was it just a speed bump they had to go over? Really, what you're looking for here is how long did it take them to get back on track and what sort of solutions did they use to get back [00:16:30] on track. Was this just a, everyone ran around like their hair was on fire for 3 days and then all of a sudden everything was fixed? Or, did they actually go about solving the problem? How long did they panic about it?

Clate: I hear two things there. One is, you're kind of looking for how easily they're knocked off kilter. When something happens, how do they react to it? How do they adjust? How do they kind of think about what's going on? Do they go into this mode of, "Oh, [00:17:00] crap. The sky is falling," or, do they go into this mode of, "Well, that's not what I was hired to do." You're looking for their sort of, I think the way, maybe the way I would think about it is you're talking about it as you're looking at extreme reactions versus taking it in stride. "Hey, that's what it is? Okay. No problem," and then quickly being able to adjust and get back into a productive mode. When I think about people who have struggled, who [00:17:30] don't have high adaptability at Infusion Soft, they do tend to have these high swings, where it's like something changes and now it's in crisis mode. They're running around going nuts. It takes a while before they adjust and get into, "Oh, you're just asking me to do this other thing for 15 minutes a day? I think I can do that."

Brad: Right. Yes. Exactly. From the team approach, like you were thinking about, the small team approach, if you've got someone on your team that [00:18:00] may look at something and say, "Oh, this huge thing changed, let me go bug this person for the next two days until they fix it. Then, I'll go back about my normal business." The people who can, like you said, take it in stride, but take ownership of it. Look, I'm going to solve this problem. I'm going to make sure that I'm able to adapt to it and put things in place for myself so that I can make sure I'm making as much impact on this business as I possibly can.

Clate: Great. Well, I think all 6 of these attributes are really important. That one about adaptability just really strikes [00:18:30] me. I just think back in the days when we had, when we were bringing on our first, second, third employees. You need people that really can be a chameleon and handle lots of different things. The reality is, you don't have everything all figured out. You don't have everything all buttoned down. I mean, that's just coming at you really fast and furious. If you have people around you who can help manage those variables and those [00:19:00] dynamics as they come into the business, it takes so much pressure off the business owner. I want for our listeners to have people who are highly adaptable in the workplace because it lightens the load for the business owner and it also creates a lot less headaches in managing people and leading people because they aren't as prone to complain and be frustrated about how their world got turned upside down because a customer did this or another [00:19:30] employee did that, or the market changed in this way. Those are things that just happen and they happen a lot when you're running a small business.

Brad: Sure. Absolutely. You know, that might actually be some of the things that show why Infusion Soft is doing so well and how you guys approach hiring. The things I do for my clients when I have people come to me and say, "You know, I can't really find the right person. I can't really do this," is, I walk them through this and we really lay out what of these attributes are most important for this person in your organization? These 6 are a fantastic [00:20:00] baseline for most companies. Some companies might not need as much of an attitude that they're looking for from this person. Maybe there's a manager that's on staff that needs a certain attitude that's different than another company would. You've got to think about these and apply them to your organization. You guys at Infusion Soft obviously do a great job at this adaptability, because that's big for your environment. It could be different at some other organization. As long as people are using this as their baseline, I think it will be very successful for them.

Dusey: That's [00:20:30] fantastic. Thank you very much. If somebody wanted to really dig into this and start to hone their skills, where can they go to get some more information on this?

Brad: Yes. I've got a guide that will take you through all 6 of these, give you some great example questions and what you should be listening for from all of those answers. If you go to, you can just download it to pdf. I'll just send it straight to your email., you can get that and play around with it. If you have any further questions, you can certainly get in touch with me. That will have all contact information and everything else, [00:21:00] to get that.

Dusey: Fantastic. We'll make sure to put that in the show notes so everybody can find that easily. We also have a hiring guide that we wanted to point you guys to to try out. If you got to, this is Infusion Soft's hiring kit that's specifically focused to small businesses. This was written by Lauren Borgenson, who was recently on your podcast. Is that right, Brad?

Brad: Yes, indeed. A great interview.

Dusey: Fantastic. If someone wanted to check out either her interview, or you've got a podcast, what's the easiest way for somebody to find [00:21:30] your podcast?

Brad: You can head to That's the name of the podcast. At, you can get Lauren's episode and all of the others that are up there. What I try and focus on for that podcast is, I go out to companies that have been voted "best places to work" and ask them truly, how? I want to know what sort of strategies they put in place to hire. What culture benefits they have, how they've really grown throughout the years and how they've approached hiring throughout that. I really dig into some of the top players in the space [00:22:00] and figure out what makes them tick.

Dusey: Fantastic.

Clate: Thank you, Brad. Good hiring, hiring can make or break a small business. We appreciate you bringing your expertise to the Small Business Success Podcast. I hope all of our listeners will take seriously what you're sharing. The cost of miss-hires is just so great, particularly when you're getting a business going. Thanks for sharing your expertise and your hiring guide. Appreciate you being on the show here with me and Dusey.

Dusey: Thank [00:22:30] you guys so much. It's been an honor, for real. Thank you.

Dusey: Absolutely. Again, that was Brad Owens from the Small Business Hiring Podcast. You can find all of those link to our resources in our show notes. We have actually put together a bunch of other links, all about hiring and this topic. There's a whole bundle of, we've got some links from Brad's blog, to his podcast, hiring kits, blog posts that we wrote. There's a whole kit there about hiring if you want to go check that out and really up your game when it comes to interviewing and getting people [00:23:00] on board when it comes to your small business. Thank you everybody for listening. We will see you guys next week on the Small Business Success Podcast.

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