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Why would a company ask questions specifically designed to probe a potential employee’s honesty? The answer is that employers are experiencing a great deal of employee theft. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that employee theft costs employers approximately one billion a week. These are expenses that directly affect the bottom line, because it is a direct reduction in net profit, or an increase in net loss.

It is estimated that 95% of all businesses experience employee theft. It is also understood that over 30% of all bankruptcies are a result, directly or indirectly, of employee theft.

Employee theft may take many forms, from stealing office supplies to merchandise to stealing time by improperly claiming sick leave. Stealing intellectual property is one of the more insidious ways an employee will steal.

Are there honest employees in the work force? You bet. Most employees have a high degree of personal integrity. And those are the potential employees that an employer is seeking to hire. These are a few of the questions designed to help the employer uncover an honest employee, someone with high personal standards of integrity.

• How would your close friends describe you?

• What have you learned from your mistakes?

• Do you feel you can work for someone who is not as smart or experienced as you are?

• What would you do if you observed a fellow employee stealing from the company?

• What are your feelings about an employees stealing from an employer?

• Could you ever justify an employee stealing from an employer?

• What is your attitude about padding your expense account?

• What particular professional advantages do you feel you will gain by working for this company?

• What prompted your decision to leave your most recent employer?

• What would your previous supervisors say are your best assets?

An interviewer may even preface the “honesty questions” with “candor” questions. If a potential employee answers the following questions in a forthright manner, that employee would be more likely to have the self confidence to come forward should he or she notice employee theft occurring. Some questions designed to reveal “candor” might include such questions as:

• Do you see any disadvantages to this particular position? Or with the company itself?

• What would your present or previous supervisor say is your weakest area?

• How would you describe your personal strengths, skills, and abilities?

Why should this employer hire you?

One of the most important segments of a face-to-face interview is the first impression. Often this commences with the first question, “Tell me about yourself.” It is therefore important for an interviewee, the job candidate, to prepare for this important question. Be aware! There is a danger here. Too often the job candidate interviewee provides way too much irrelevant information. Remember you are in an interview situation, being interviewed for a specific position. Your answers to all questions, including this one, should keep that clearly in mind.

Tell the interviewer, the employer, information relevant to the interview itself. If you are being interviewed for an operations position, and your background includes experience in operations, tie that comment in with a short summation of your background, followed by your specific area of expertise as it relates to the position for which you are being interviewed. For example, you might say:

“I am seeking a position in operations management. I have more than 20 years in operations, the last 14 years working as an operations manager. I also have a bachelor’s degree in business management. One of my greatest strengths is my organizational ability. For example when I was hired for my last position as operations manager, I took control of a position that have been vacant for more than five months. The founder/CEO had intermingled personal and company information. I immediately reorganized the entire filing system, and systematized procedures so that his personal information was channeled away from the business records. My most recent position was as operations manager for XYZ Corporation”

Additional questions at the beginning of a job interview, sometimes called CORE questions, would include questions such as:

• What is your full name and address?

• Would you briefly relate your educational background?

• What is your current employment status?

• Briefly summarize your work history.

• If offered the position, when would you be available to begin work in a new position? (NOTE: This question is sometimes a “buying signal” from the employer – in other words he may already see you, in his mind, working at the company.)

Common questions for managers:

• How would you describe your approach to managing people?

• Please describe your experience in long range planning.

• What is the largest budget that you have been responsible for?

• What criteria do you use in selecting employees for your department?

• What is your attitude about employee turnover?

• Describe your approach to getting a job done.

• What type of specific operations have you managed?

• What things might interfere with your effectiveness as a manager?

• What kind of manager gets you to put forth your best performance?

• Do you believe in any particular time management method?

• Please give me some examples of important decisions that you have had to make.

• Please describe your decision-making process.

• How would your employees describe you as a manager?

• How do you delegate to your subordinates?

If you have a job description, or even a well-written employment advertisement, you may wish to design your own job interview questions. If you were going to hire for that position, what questions would you like answered? Relate your questions to the job description or employment advertisement.

Role play your answers. Keep them positive. Keep them short and succinct except for your example stories which usually take longer. Keep your stories to 2 minutes and preferably less.

Richard M. Knappen is president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.

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