HR & Staffing Trades & Services

Clever Interview Trick to get Top Tradespeople, or Silly Gimmick?

Written by Jon Dale

A trade business relies on its people — your business is one where skilled tradesmen and women, do skilled work for your customer. You grow by hiring more people and your business profits from their labour.

There are a few ingredients for having a good team:

  1. Hiring well;
  2. Leading well;
  3. Managing well; and
  4. Having a good culture.

They all take work and active effort to do well.

Now, I’m a business coach — my job is to help you put in this work and active effort and to give you the education and structures so you can do it properly — so it grows your business and supports you and everybody in it. And I use that word ‘properly’ deliberately.

There aren’t really shortcuts here — you need to be disciplined, methodical and thorough. You need to care about doing a good job. And you need to care about your people.

Glib words and fakery won’t build you a good team. That’s the kind of business coach I am, and people who care are the kind of customers I’ve got.

The CEO of Xero

That’s why I found myself at odds when I saw this article about the boss who uses a coffee test in every interview and won’t employ those who fail.

He’s the boss of Xero, which is a hugely successful company and one I admire, but it’s a slightly odd thing — a bit tricky and mean, I thought.

It goes like this — the interviewing person gets taken for a drink – coffee, tea, water, whatever, and if they don’t try to take their cup back at the end of the interview, they don’t get the job.

He’s testing for attitude — “Do they clean up their own mess?” He wants people who think like that. He believes it also means he gets people who care and take ownership.

I’m sort of there — people who take ownership and tidy up are good. He says their kitchens are tidy and somehow that proves it.

But, I’m not sure one sneaky little gotcha is the answer. And it’s only a stupid trick they’ve pulled from an interview. I’m sure his interview has a lot more going on than that. The Xero product is anything but glib and gimmicky.

So, what I want to be wary of is thinking that a little trick like that is the same as hiring properly.

How To Hire Properly

If you hire good people, you’re off to a good start but headlines and articles like this can leave you thinking a trick is the right way to go to hire good people.

It’s not.

Be disciplined and methodical. You can follow these steps:

  • Write a job description.
  • Write the attributes you want the person to have.
  • Ask interview questions to test whether people have those attributes.
  • Ask for references from previous employers and be sure to follow up with them.

Process and discipline creates extra work, but you’ll be glad you did it. 

You don’t have to do it every time. Once you’ve done it once, you can use it again and again.

“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."

About the author

Jon Dale

Jon Dale, of Small Fish Business Coaching is a business coach for tradies - trades business owners wanting to grow their businesses. His articles will help you understand how to manage your marketing, sales, operational systems and the people of your business. His program is called the Tradies Toolbox because he hopes you can use it, like a tool, to make more money and build a business you're proud of.

There are a few ways you can explore whether working with Jon is right for you, right now:
1. You can watch these videos - subscribe here to get them emailed every week.
2. You can join the Tradies Business Toolshed Facebook Group and participate.
3. You can attend the next Tools Down Workshop - 2 days of Jon explaining the framework.
4. Or you can book a 10-minute filter call where you and Jon will both look at whether he can help.