We are small but growing remodeling business based in Durham, N.C. Our biggest challenge is hiring quality staff (carpenters and project superintendents, primarily) to handle all the work we have. Any hiring tips would be greatly appreciated.



Excellence in hiring starts with information about a job and the capabilities needed by people to successfully perform the job. Start by listing all the tasks and the physical (e.g., standing for long periods of time) and social (e.g., working with angry customers) demands of the job. Then group these items into a smaller number of "dimensions," where the items in a dimension are similar to each other, and give each a label.

Once you have your smaller number of job dimensions, identify knowledge, skills and personality/values required by applicants to perform the dimension. So a dimension like "understanding specifications" may require knowledge of architectural symbols, the skill of attention to detail and the personality trait of persistence. Finally, an applicant's values should correspond to your organization's culture.

Now you may build an interview process. A good interview is focused on an applicant's past behavior relative to each of your job's dimensions. In other words, what has the person done in previous jobs that suggests he/she would be a good fit for your job? Each job dimension should have at least two questions: "Give me the best example you have of when you successfully performed (this dimension)" and "Tell me more about your behavior in (this aspect) of the dimension." You're after past behaviors that predict future behavior in similar situations. Questions about an applicant's values should closely follow your culture: "Describe when you worked in an organization that lived this type of culture."

Given the nature of your jobs, you may also build a simulation of some important aspect of a particular job and have the applicant perform the activity in front of you, e.g., have a carpenter build something with the tools/materials you provide. You then need to decide how to score the applicant's performance.

About the author

Mick Sheppeck is an associate professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.