Are dependable employees myth or legend? Small business owners tell me that they are desperate for dependable employees. And while I’m sure they are hurting for reliable and accountable workers, I sometimes find that part of the problem is confusion in the employer’s expectations, and the other part arises from their failure to structure their hiring interview to these needs.

Employers look for personal chemistry and, in so doing, miss clues to specific behaviors. They would be smarter to structure the interview around specific desired behaviors. For example, dependability should not be a generalized characteristic. It should be a virtue defined by specific behaviors.

Dependability is a measure of things that the boss wants to depend on. Employers need employee support in their business process. They need people to show up and be on time. They need workers who respond to customers’ questions and complaints on a timely basis. They look for new hires that are willing to work on teams and go the extra mile. These are all measurable behaviors for which you can structure behavioral interview questions.

Make your list of dependability behaviors:

  • Completes assignments as scheduled
  • Arrives at meetings or events on time.
  • Completes reports to teammates and superiors on time.
  • Follows business’s rules and regulations.
  • Solves customer problems on time.
  • Willingly takes on work when peers are overloaded.

If dependability is delivering on promises, an interviewing employer may want to ask:

  • People miss work from time to time. What would you say are good reasons to miss work?
  • What would you say is satisfactory attendance at work – 75%, 90% or 100%? How many days work did you miss last year?
  • Tell me about a time when you accepted responsibility for a problem at work.
  • Describe the reaction of your coworkers when someone is late for work.
  • Give me an example of how you prioritize things.
  • We expect employees to keep in touch with customers. How frequently would you make contact to keep customers satisfied?
  • Only 4 employees showed up when 6 were on the schedule. How would you handle this?
  • Suppose you woke up and heard the weather and traffic are bad. How would you react?
  • Many things happen in our personal lives. Just what would affect your dependability at work?
  • What happens if your car doesn’t start?
  • How do you handle a customer problem if the call comes as you are leaving for lunch?

These are all questions you can ask in a qualifying phone interview. If you want to save them for a face-to-face interview, stick to your plan. These questions won’t take more than five of the minutes you allocated for the meeting. Structure the questions, make your list, and take notes. If nothing else, the job candidate will walk away with a sense of how important dependability is to you.

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by Steven Schlagel