Monthly Archives: November 2012

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the Evaluating Responses video. Select title 3.7 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

Imagine it: you’re finally able to make those home improvements you’ve always wanted. The interior decorator measures the living room using her foot and the architect uses a tape measure. How will that work out, I wonder? Inconsistencies in measurement are likely to result in mismatches — both in home repairs and during interviews.

Inconsistencies arise during the hiring process when interviewers ask different questions of different candidates, which can render the process unreliable as in the case of our home repair analogy: a foot for one measurement and a tape measure for another. The interior designer may report that the living room is 10’ wide but that measurement is only valid if her foot is consistently available!

“The only way to measure a candidate is to measure every single candidate with the same yardstick,” said Nancy Newell of Nth Degree Consulting during a panel discussion at the 2010 Society of Human Resource Management Conference. An interview question is the “yardstick” used to measure candidate responses. Newell says that each candidate should be asked the same question, or be measured by the same yardstick, if the evaluation process is going to be credible (Lorenz).

During a search for a director of development at a youth services organization in New York City, the interview design consisted of two interviews each with a different measurement scale:

Interview #1

Focus: Skills and Experience

Interview #2

Focus: Working Style and Compatibility

Measurement Scale:

100 points for twelve weighted* questions

Measurement Scale:

A-E grade for eight unweighted* questions

The executive director and search consultant scored responses by each candidate to twelve questions for the first interview. Three program staff awarded each candidate a letter grade for the whole of the second interview. The letter grading system was used for the second interview because it required less training time since most people are familiar with an A through E grading system from school.

Spontaneous questions arose on both sides of the interview relationship but candidates were not evaluated based on their responses to those questions because that would have altered the “yardstick” and reduced the credibility of the evaluation process. Several follow-up, clarifying, and idiosyncratic questions added fluidity to the conversation and were included among a subset of broader questions asked of all candidates.

The important thing to remember is the yardstick principle: if a question is important enough to ask of one candidate then ask it of all. Otherwise you could end up with a candidate that just doesn’t fit.

Next up: onboarding.

Watch the Evaluating Candidate Responses video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.7.

* Weight is the importance of each question characterized by the maximum number of points possible for a particular question. Please see title 3.7 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library for more information.

References and recommended reading:

Interviewing Do’s and Don’t’s: Lessons From SHRM 2010” by Mary Lorenz. The Hiring Site. July 15, 2010.

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the Onboarding videos. Select title 4.1 or 4.2 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

After a rigorous hiring process, you and your team have settled on the candidate with the skills, capabilities, working style, and organizational compatibility to succeed at your organization. Now what?

This is just the moment where many nonprofit leaders and managers make one of their biggest hiring mistakes: the new hire arrives on his or her first day to a full in-box and no plan for the person to get acquainted with the organization’s people and practices. Onboarding, which is a process of inward transition for new team members, sets-up the new hire for success and is an essential part of the process particularly when we consider that:

  • HALF of senior hires fail within 18 months
  • HALF of all hourly workers leave within 120 days

The above findings from SHRM are compelling in the nonprofit sector even though they derive from for-profit companies. In addition, SHRM reports that departing senior hires cost up to 150% of annual salary and hourly workers up to 75% of annual wages.

Let’s think about it from the perspective of one nonprofit staff member. The annual salary of the director of development in our case study at a New York City youth services nonprofit was $80,000. Potential costs to fill the position could be as high as $120,000 using the SHRM findings as a mathematical basis.

In addition to reducing turnover costs, effective onboarding results in:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Organizational commitment
  • Higher performance levels
  • Lowered stress

How high are turnover rates at your nonprofit? A revolving door could be the symptom of a dysfunctional modus operandi. If so, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at human resource practices that include onboarding, professional development and training, and even organizational culture – especially true of small nonprofits that may have a small staff with vital roles and functions.

Watch the Onboarding Overview video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 4.1.


Watch the Using the Onboarding Checklist video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 4.2.

References and recommended reading:

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the Multiple Perspectives video. Select title 3.6 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

An empty position often leaves small nonprofits and emerging leaders thinking I need to fill this position now!

From that vantage point, the well-intended nonprofit leader will see many candidates who seem to fit the bill: attractive, confident, professional and immensely qualified on paper. You like them. You really like them.

“It is just at this moment that the biggest hiring mistake is possible,” says Lou Adler, recruiter, author, and CEO of Power Hiring, a consulting company in Southern California. “What typically happens when you like someone is that you tend to go out of your way to reinforce what you like about that person-even if it’s subconsciously. You tend to support your conclusion and don’t look for facts to preclude it.” (SHRM)

A co-dependent hiring storm is created: an open position with urgent functional needs and a pool of likeable candidates. Each circumstance serves to fuel a belief that both are true. As a result, many time-pressured nonprofits administrators enthusiastically jump-in to hire the candidate liked best before thoroughly examining skills, experience, and compatibility with the organization.

Adler recommends training yourself to “wait 30 minutes before drawing any conclusions” in order to become more objective and tame overactive emotions (SHRM). While waiting is a great way to avoid impulsive decision making, nonprofit administrators often have another resource that engenders discipline in the hiring process: board members, staff, and outside consultants.

Multiple perspectives help to avoid common mistakes like hiring a version of any one person doing the hiring or enlisting a candidate because that person is well liked. In addition, they:

  • Build credibility: the degree to which the judgment and conclusions resulting from the process are trusted and believed by others. If only one person is involved in hiring, then it is possible that several like-minded clones could appear and diminish organizational performance over time. In this case, how trustworthy is the hiring process at a nonprofit or within one of its departments?
  • Reduce the effect of personal bias: one person cannot see and hear everything. Multiple people involved in planning and interviewing discourages any one particular bias, either positive or negative, from dominating the decision-making. Biases can sneak up in unforeseen ways and, in the worst cases, be the culprit behind discriminatory practices.
  • Invest stakeholders in the process: staff, board, and others with whom the new hire will work most closely become acquainted before the new staff member’s first day. Relationships invested in each other’s success are one way to build a high-performance team from the get-go.

Different perspectives do not imply that authority for hiring rests with a committee. While the information gathered is more credible than going it alone, every organization will have to determine with whom or what (in the case of a committee) accountability rests.

Next up: evaluating candidate responses.

Watch Multiple Perspectives in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.6.

References and recommended reading:

Avoid the Top Two Hiring Mistakes” by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). December 2002/Reviewed January 2004.

by Floyd Rumohr

Focusing questions in an interview process can help draw out essential information from candidates while effectively using limited time.

During a search for a director of development at a youth services organization in New York City, the interview design consisted of two interviews each with a different focus:

Interview #1

Interview #2

Focus: Skills and Experience

Focus: Working Style and Compatibility

Sample Questions:

  • What tools, if any, do you use for time management and tracking critical tasks?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?  Why?

Sample Questions:

  • What is your personal working style?
  • Would you say you are more of an independent worker or collaborator?


  • Executive Director
  • Consultant


  • Program Director
  • Program Managers (2)

The questions for each interview were focused to elicit appropriate information from each candidate in about an hour and a half. Necessary information was shared in the time allowed for the most part. Pressure can mount if expectations of each interview transcend the time you have or if too many spontaneous questions arise. These kinds of distractions can cause increased stress levels in interviewers who have other job functions and candidates who might cross each other while waiting to be seen. Worse yet, a line of interviewees could form in the waiting area!

Focusing questions also helps to determine how many interviews will be needed. Our case study reflected in the above table consisted of two interviews each with a particular focus.

Reasons behind the various people involved in the process are described next.

Next up: multiple perspectives.

Watch the Focusing Questions video in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.5.

by Floyd Rumohr

Click here to watch the High Inquiry Questions video. Select title 3.4 in the Rumohr and Clarke Video & Template Library.

Questions are here, there, and everywhere on both sides of the interview relationship. How and what kind of questions should we ask during the hiring process?

Teachers are among the most skilled interviewers, even though we might not immediately think of them that way, because they regular ask questions that elicit essential information from students.

But great teachers do more than just draw out information. They get students to think, which is just what a good interview should do. Having been in my fair share of classrooms and interviews, I’ve seen the same effects on students and job candidates from two kinds of questions commonly asked by teachers.   

Broadly speaking, the two kinds of questions have different purposes. High inquiry questions are those that stimulate a wide range of responses that enable:

  • Abstract thought
  • Self-assessment
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Predictions
  • Inferences

Low inquiry questions:

  • Converge toward one correct response
  • Elicit the meaning of a term
  • Reiterate a statement that has already been made
  • Supply an example of something

Low inquiry questions reinforce “correct” answers whereas “high inquiry questions stimulate a broader range of responses and tend to stimulate high levels of thinking” (Hassard). Low inquiry questions can be helpful in the beginning of an interview to help candidates feel comfortable especially when nerves are at their highest such as:

  • How did you hear about this position?
  • What do you know about this organization?

By contract, high inquiry questions get candidates thinking deeply and penetrate the dimensions of experience, skills, organizational compatibility, and can provide indicators of future performance as in:

“What do you think are the critical job challenges for this position and what in your background will help you succeed in meeting these challenges?”

The above is a high inquiry question because it asks the candidate to:

  • Infer what the actual challenges might be.
  • Predict the degree to which he or she will succeed in meeting the challenges.

Such a high inquiry question requires wait-time – a few seconds for the responder to think about the question – and has been shown to increase logical, abstract, and speculative thinking in students (Rowe) (Stahl) (Llewellyn). Again, I’ve seen these same effects on adult candidates during interviews for nonprofit positions. Instead of repeating memorized responses to anticipated questions, for example, candidates thoughtfully responded if appropriate wait-time was provided after each question.

Asking high inquiry questions and providing appropriate wait-time requires patience on the part of interviewers. And even a little courage. Sometimes interviewers can jump in because their own nerves get the best of them or because silence is uncomfortable. Asking a clarifying follow-up question if you see that the candidate is stuck can be helpful. But don’t start talking because you get nervous for them. Silence can be golden and filled with nonverbal information as important as any of the spoken words.

Next up: focusing questions.

Watch High Inquiry Questions in the Rumohr and Clarke Video and Template Library. Click here and select title 3.4.

References and recommended reading: