It can be tempting to just surround yourself with the people whose company you enjoy, but from an HR perspective, you need to take some things into consideration to ensure that you’re hiring for fit.

This week on the podcast, HR consultant Niki Ramirez and I walk through some of these hiring considerations that are extremely important but all too frequently overlooked. We talk about how your recruitment process is seen by everyone–your clients, prospective clients, competitors–and why you need to keep an eye on your mission, vision, and values. I share my current hiring process and how I test to make sure a candidate is a good culture fit, and Niki shares why hiring someone who is a culture stretch can benefit your business.

Whether you’re a small business owner who’s in the process of looking for their first hire or a more established company that wants to review the previous additions to your team, now is a good time to learn how to navigate the world of hiring and HR compliance. Listen in as Niki shares some great tips on everything from making job descriptions to interviewing short-listed prospects. Plus, learn how you can get hold of her HR checklist that can be useful for your prospecting efforts!

About Niki Ramirez:
Niki Ramirez is an industry expert and certified human resource professional with over 20 years of successful experience in leadership and human resources management. She has taken what she learned in Fortune 500 HR and created an impactful and practical approach to balancing HR in small businesses that focuses on both employees’ and employer’s needs.

Central to everything that she does is the belief that all success that is accomplished is through the dedication and efforts of great employees. Niki is a firm believer in the powers of collaboration and communication. She carries with her a strong desire to empower employers and their employees to work in partnership to design and implement meaningful workplace and human resources programs rooted in collaboration, respect, trust and open communication.

Niki’s ultimate goal is to create a positive ripple in the world, through her unique approach to human resources. Niki’s professional background includes serving in operational management and leadership roles, as a corporate human resources consultant, as well as community college adjunct faculty, and a human resources executive. In addition to her three HR professional certifications, Niki is bi-lingual in Spanish/English, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Arizona State University, and an MBA in HR Management from the University of Phoenix.

Links and Resources:

Time Stamps:
[2:14] – Best practices when hiring
[2:33] – Are you situated to be an employer
[3:43] – Interviewing and selection
[4:05] – Communicating values when recruiting and everyone will see that
[5:15] – Start consistent messaging during recruitment
[7:10] – How to share recruitment is a big piece of the process
[9:33] – So many parts of the hiring process
[10:52] – Amber’s current hiring process
[14:01] – Create additional points of data for employee profile
[16:06] – Series of screening questions in writing before first phone interview
[18:16] – Questions to determine if candidates align with mission, vision, values
[22:10] – Use interview to develop a potential relationship
[23:47] – Benefits of collecting an employment application
[27:46] – Only hire the “hell yes” candidates
[29:28] – Be consistent in your process
[30:11] – As part of the interview process, do this top secret thing
[34:16] – There are things you can’t ask about
[37:43] – Develop your questions in a way that allows for open conversation
[40:35] – How to use checklists during interviews so you can have a better interview flow
[42:16] – Amber’s strategy for finding a good cultural fit
[45:07] – Your brain runs with an operating system; Niki’s is HR compliant
[50:10] – Bring up potential deal-breakers with prospective employee



Amber Hawley 0:00
Welcome back to the My biz bestie Podcast. I’m Amber Holly. And today I have a really awesome guest. I have Niki Ramirez, who is an HR consultant, and owner of And having used her services before, I will say, it’s so great to have that person who is the All Knowing, super helpful, let you calm down person to go to. And I’m very excited to have her on the podcast today. Welcome, Niki. Hello, hello,

Niki Ramirez 0:32
Amber. Thanks for inviting me. Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you today.

Amber Hawley 0:36
I know, I’m very excited. I was saying before we started recording that, as I’m working with clients, and we’re dealing with overwhelm, and trying to get people feeling so that they’re not so distracted and disorganized. A big thing that’s coming up is this need for people to hire. And you know, sometimes people are hiring other companies, or they’re finding people to do like, virtual kind of contractor work. But then there are those times as you grow that you’re like, I really need to invest in having an employee that’s dedicated to me, and is part of my company, my culture, and is more invested in the business in that respect. So I thought, what better way than to talk to an HR expert about kind of what do you do in that process? Because, as I had talked about, right before we started is, I had the fortunate experience of being in a more like corporate atmosphere when I worked in world where I actually got to do the interviewing process and learn a lot. Like, how do we go through that? What are the kinds of things you want to check out? And how do you vet people? And although I still had an HR department to kind of back me up, but a lot of people who are entrepreneurs have never had any of that experience. And so it’s really overwhelming, like, how do you structure an interview? What do you do? How do you vet people? Like, what legally Are you supposed to do? Right? So I thought it would be so great for us to have a conversation about that to kind of help people navigate, like, whether this is your first employee or you just want to improve your process? What are the best practices when hiring somebody?

Niki Ramirez 2:16
Yeah, well, it’s a huge topic, right Amber and breaking it down into a couple different phases for business owners will be helpful. So you know, I think the first thing to think about if it is your first employee, is am I situated to be an employer. And so I really want young entrepreneurs to know that there are certain steps that have to be taken in their state in order to get set up as an employer. So without going into all of the technical details there, you want to get set up with the state, you want to ensure that you have a payroll platform that can account for state and federal tax withholdings, and all that kind of good stuff. So as you endeavor to hire your first employee, there may be some pre work steps to actually launching your recruiting effort. So make sure you’re set up as an employee or your accountant, your CPA might be able to help you with that. And of course, if you’re paying yourself as an employee and your business, your payroll company can probably give you some great ideas on how to square away those, those few steps which are mostly tax related. So once you are set up as an employer, and you’re ready to go, then you embark on the exciting task of putting a recruitment out into the world letting the world know that you are making an announcement for an open job. And so we’ve got that sort of announcement recruitment phase. Once you identify great candidates, then we shift into what HR people like me call interviewing and selection. So you’ve got your recruitment. And then you shift gears into interviewing and selection once you have some great candidates to choose from. So as business owners embark on recruitment, I want you to lean into your marketing talent. And so know that the communication that you put out into the world during recruitment, two things are happening that we have to remember and be really aware of first thing is that you are communicating to the world. Of course, the values of your business, your mission, your vision, your values are coming alive in recruitment advertisements, you’re telling people, what it would be like to work with you, and what mission you serve in the world. And so just remember that your clients might see your recruitment, your potential clients might see your job recruitment, you know, somebody Google’s your business name, they might see that you’re hiring and take a peek at your ad and what you’re hiring for. So just remember that your audience is wide, and you want to employ really great marketing strategy in employee recruitment. Once you have a job description, that’s a great start, you know, what are the essential functions that this person is going to be executing? He has a company and my team and what kind of skills, attributes characteristics are you looking for them? to possess when they come to you, we want to talk about those responsibilities and those skills and abilities, and clear and concrete terms as much as possible during recruitment, because that’s also as an employer, that’s the first time you get to tell this potential employee, what you expect from them. And so I really want you to start your consistent messaging as a leader and as a supervisor during recruitment. So these are, you know, when we talk about the duties and the functions of the job, just imagine that you’re sitting down with this person, and you’re training them, and you’re using this recruitment advertisement or the job description as a tool to help point them in the right direction.

Amber Hawley 5:37
And so it becomes a part of your HR ecosystem, the recruitment strategy, the job description, then, when you are moving out into the world, you’re recruiting, you’ve got this great tool that’s telling people what it’s like to be a part of your business, what’s your mission, your vision, your values are, what you need them to show up ready to do on day one, you know, that’s something that I love small business owners to focus on in their recruitment, communication, you know, what do I need Amber to do on day one, when she shows up? You know, what are my non negotiables? What systems, even our programs, if you have technical aspect in your business, technology platform? Do you need your new employee to be proficient in on day one, because that’s one of the things that I see, small business owners and entrepreneurs stumble over a little bit, they find a candidate that they might love in terms of their general personality attributes and characteristics. And they think that maybe it’s not a big deal, that they’re not proficient in a particular software platform system. Maybe they aren’t so savvy using Excel, or they’ve never used Trello. But you use Trello, with every client that you work with? Well, holy smokes, even if they are the most spectacular person, do you really as a small business leader, and entrepreneur, do you really have it in you to teach somebody how to use that system or platform. So identify what your non negotiables are free one system platform skills or abilities. And then when we get to going out into the world and deciding how to share the recruitment? That’s another big piece, right? I’m sure that you see your clients and in your experience, you probably have seen lots of different platforms for recruitment.

Niki Ramirez 7:17
Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it could just be the time of year or, as time goes on, and things shifts, like where I found good quality people has really shifted right. Like, I remember back in the day, when I initially started, I could get good people on Craigslist. I’m not saying you still can’t. But it depends on what the job is, right? Because as somebody who’s hired for different kinds of positions, like I think that also matters, like sometimes you’re gonna get certain candidates from certain places, because of what type of work they do. That I’ve done, indeed, and I’ve done LinkedIn. So yeah, I feel like it does shift. You know, I’ve also done like you’re saying, where you’re putting it out on your own social media and reaching out to people that, you know, and putting it on listservs? You know, I’ve, I’ve done the whole gamut. And I think it does ship sometimes just, sometimes it’s just about catching that person at the right time. Right.

Amber Hawley 8:14
Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s a, you know, very intuitive sort of observation, you know, you’re in tune with the market there. So, you know, the recruitment platforms are shifting all the time. I was in an HR coffee talk. So we get together once a month, it’s about 12 of us that all live in Arizona, where I’m from, yeah, we just chit chat for an hour and drink coffee. And this last week, when we’d got together, we were talking about recruitment. And one of the group members mentioned that, indeed, was somehow either they were bought out by or they were acquired by Glassdoor in the last couple of years. And I actually didn’t know that. I’ve been an indeed user for years and years. And in the last year, I’ve noticed such a shift in the way that the platform functions. And so when that other individual mentioned that this week, it was so obvious then that they’re shifting to a culture based platform. They’re not just a job board anymore. So yeah, it’s a very different tool now than it used to be two or three years ago.

Niki Ramirez 9:15
That’s the hard part about all of this. You find that thing you love that was all of a sudden no longer works. And you’re, you know, everything in your head. Yeah, I was like getting spammed and all this other stuff. I’m like, okay, so I think yeah, sometimes you got to shift it up, change it up. Try and I know, yeah, like, I like what you’re saying. There are so many parts to the hiring process. And I feel like we could do a series like it could be like, Okay, let’s just talk about that first part, you know, like, getting your business ready, then there’s the whole like, getting your recruitment set up. But I feel like doing all of that, like we’re saying, but I feel like the piece that I’m really noticing where, where there’s like resistance from people I’m working with around hiring is I don’t even know what to do, like once I get these applicants that I’m even possibly interested in, right? Yeah, but I do agree, I think the recruitment piece is huge. Like, maybe we’ll have to do another talk about that. Because there’s a lot, I’ve learned a lot of tricks about how to eliminate people, like right off the bat to save myself time. I’ve posted on social media, this was a couple years ago, I have a strategy. And I was able, sadly, to eliminate 97% of the applicants because they didn’t follow the directions. Frankly, as somebody who’s very busy, like, if you can’t follow the directions during that process, like, what are you gonna be like, as an employee? Right? So it was one of those things like, I think there’s so much value in talking about that, like, so let’s say we get that person make it through the gauntlet, you’re, they’re part of the 3%, you know, yeah. Okay, I want to meet with them what I guess maybe, like, I’ll share just like an overview of like, my process right now, just to give an example, because I know you’re gonna have like, let’s do it. So our process is, yeah, we have that vetting, we have these five questions. And we have, like, things in there to make sure somebody has actually read the whole thing. And it’s, you know, we make it culture based and fun and whatever. So they answer the five questions and make it through the gauntlet, I have my my intake person do a phone screen, if they’ve passed to that point, just kind of read verifies things, she kind of gets a vibe, she, you know, asked any questions and things were kind of unsure about. And then if she feels like after that process, although I will say again, like it’s kind of willy nilly. So even though I’ve been doing this a long time, I have like general like, go back over the questions to make sure they’re being consistent. Because, you know, sometimes people say things, and then they’re like, oh, you know, caught off guard, they say something different. Or if we have questions, I don’t like even the phone screen, I feel like we could flush that out a little bit better. So if they make it through, then they come and I do an interview with them. And it used to be I would do this in person, this would be our first in person, but obviously right now not. So everything’s virtual. So that has been a learning curve. And this last year as well. So then, if they do the first one, and I usually in the first one, I try to be very casual, where it’s more of like seeing like a personalities fit, I tell them a lot about us and how we work in our company, and also get to know them a little bit. And I kind of throw in things here and there to kind of just check out like, do they vibe with what I’m looking for. And then if they do make that, and it depends on the position, of course, I have them come back for a second in person interview. And I always try to include as much of the team as possible, or the people that I feel are helpful in the hiring process. You know, somebody who’s, I’ve got a small team, right? So I don’t have like a ton of people. But I have that. So again, to kind of check out by but that’s where I do more of the technical stuff. I mean, because I’ve already made sure like they’ve said they can do.

Amber Hawley 12:56
Yeah, they’re attesting to their ability, right.

Niki Ramirez 13:00
And so, like, if I’m hiring for a therapist, then I do, that’s where we do like clinical questionnaires and stuff. But I find almost like being so casual on the first one puts them at ease. And then that way, it’s interesting, because otherwise people come in Super, it’s almost like they relax a little. So then you’re able to catch people, when they’re kind of not being so honest. Or you kind of get to see like if they get frustrated or caught off guard, like how are they defensive? How do they react? So I have lots of reasons why I do things, right. But But still, so we do that. And then that’s when we decide like after that we decided we’re gonna hire somebody, but like, and again, I agree with you. And when I worked in corporate, I even developed a really simple like, Excel test. And it was basic, and people who said they were super familiar with Excel couldn’t finish it. So it’s like, I do think that there’s a time and a place, depending on the position. But so that’s my process. But I’m curious, like, yeah, I always want to make it better. It’s really good.

Amber Hawley 14:01
Yeah. So I think the different phases that you talked about, in the interview process, demonstrate, you know, a pretty comprehensive process. And what we’re trying to do through all of the different steps that you outline, is really to create additional points of data, right? We’re just we’re creating a profile for this potential new employee, and we want as much data in that profile as we can possibly generate. Because one thing that we know about people and in the in your professional industry, you will probably have a lot of personal professional knowledge about this is that people based on the situation that they’re in presents themselves differently, right. And so again, you already talked about that. We’re saying we want to see consistency in the applicants performance throughout their interview and recruitment process. We want to see that they’re consistently on time that they’re consistently professional, that they are consistently able to speak to the values of the organization whether it’s something that I’m talking about that might be a technical skill, you can still sit there linking it back to your intent to serve your community or your patients or your clients. Or they’re talking about their philosophy and delivering, you know, support in a clinical atmosphere. Right. So you’ve got all kinds of different ways to draw out that information. And so I do absolutely recommend, you know, great screening questions that we put together a series of questions that we even communicate in writing before the first phone interview. And so it sounds like you might be using some, you know, we sometimes call them knockout questions, right? You might send an applicant or candidate a series of questions that will give you important information about whether or not they’re a good fit for the job. From a logistics standpoint, right? Saying, can you you know, this job does require evenings and weekends? Are you able to work evenings and weekends? You know, when Could you start, you know, they might be in a family transition, and they’re moving, and they can’t really start a new job until April, and it’s January right now. Right? So who knows what the heck might happen? But yeah, sending, you know, a series of simple questions. What about the job posting caught your eye? Why did you decide to apply? You know, simple question like that, as an introduction, starts to help you determine if this candidate is aligned with your hiring objective. And that kind of question works in any type of industry in any level position. What about the job posting caught your eye? And why did you decide to apply? Right? And so that’ll kind of give you a little bit of insight into why are they are looking for a job. And we, we want to try to remain fairly open to all candidates during this process, especially this early process. So if someone says, I’m currently unemployed, and that’s something we can dig into later. And if they say, Well, I’m currently employed, but I hate my supervisor, right? They’ve got something to think about too, right? So just their language and their responses, that will help you start to sort of build that profile to determine if they seem like they might be a good fit. And in jobs that do require written communication, I really do recommend that you start out with some messaging questions, so that you can get an idea of how well written your potential employee is. You want to see their writing style, you want to see if they’re going to use a capital letter in their message back to you or any type of punctuation?

Niki Ramirez 17:21
Because, yeah, so you know, for my my clients that hire for positions that are retail, highly labor oriented, you know, texting back and forth with someone, I do not demand, you know, capitalization, promotion, or hiring cashiers or stockroom folks, things like that, just not a job requirement. So I don’t necessarily use it as a disqualifier. But for those professional type positions, where you may have someone who is on your team, they will interact in writing with your clients in some way, or they record keep for you, they create notes and records that become a part of patient’s record, or that might be shared more publicly, and not in that in your field. But you know, we have lots of information that might get out of organization. For example, when we provide HR support, I want my team to send an email that somebody could copy and paste and put on the internet. And we would just be proud of it. As a part of the interview process, a comprehensive process, a phone interview is a very logical next step. So once we’ve communicated in messaging, or email, even text messaging works, depending on your business, then we move into a discussion on the phone, where we’re trying to determine if the candidate is aligned with the mission vision values of the organization. So you might start to ask questions like, our organization relies heavily on collaboration and teamwork in order to get everything done. Talk to me about your philosophy on teamwork. Do you prefer to work independently? Or do you prefer to work on a team, you know, and just sort of try to draw them out in the conversation in areas that are going to be of key importance for you and your team? And in service to your clients? During that phone interview? I typically try to stay with just maybe three, four or five, no more than six really, kind of simple single topic questions in a phone interview. We don’t want it to go much longer than 1520 minutes at the most. And I don’t know, Amber, what your philosophy is on the length of a phone interview. But I think it does make a difference.

Amber Hawley 19:27
Yeah, I agree. We tend to do it. It’s shorter. And it’s kind of a way of, like I said, checking out to see if we had any questions or to see if like they have a good vibe, because I don’t want to waste people’s time, but I also don’t want to waste hours. So I learned like, I don’t just bring people in, straight away, you know, screen because I was like, Man, I just wasted my time. I will say I’m not good at an interview early even when it’s been clear to me. That’s a hole but I need to work on that piece. But yeah, I agree. I felt like I think on average she does, it’s probably about 15 to 20 minutes.

Niki Ramirez 20:06
And I think you bring up a good point. And it’s worthy of a quick mention Amber, when you’ve determined that somebody that you are interacting with in a phone interview, or in an informational or panel interview, what we want to be able to do is graciously and the interviewer right, we don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable, the best we can we want to help them leave feeling respected. But one easy way to do that, especially in phone interviews, is to in the onset of the conversation, say, Hi, Amber, it’s Nikki, I’m calling for your phone interview is it’s still a good time. And then you say, of course it is. Thanks for calling. And then I say something simple to you, like, I just have a couple of questions that I wanted to go over. And it’ll probably take us, I don’t know, maybe somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, right. And that way, you’ve got sort of this range. And if at any point, you decide that to move forward, even if it’s just after a couple of questions, then you can say, hey, Amber, thanks so much for your time, I’ve concluded the questions I have for this morning. Do you have anything that you’d like to ask me? And then you just move, you know, keep moving things along? But if you give them that range in the beginning, then that you preserve that flexibility for yourself?

Amber Hawley 21:17
Yeah, I think it’s easier in the phone screen, I guess it’s there, sure. A person one wherever they go. Like, I mean, you know, I’m not going to continue to go for a full hour. So I’m sure, but I do like that. I like managing expectations, I think it is important. And like you said, I don’t want anyone to ever feel bad or, like I want them to still walk away feeling positive about the interaction, even if they’re not the right fit. So, but I like that, I think that’s something it’s one of those, this is why I wanted you on because it’s like, I think we can always improve our process. And there have been times where, you know, I have made so many mistakes, and then realize, oh, like I forgot to do this part or, and I think that’s where it’s like really streamlining it, which I mean, F p i really resist having like, you’re on my five questions I asked. Yeah, it isn’t gonna work, right?

Unknown Speaker 22:11
Yeah, and we don’t want to seem overly scripted or impersonal with people, we really are trying to develop a good rapport and see if we would like to develop an employment relationship. And employment relationships are just like every other relationships in our lives. And they operate the same way. So we want to be friendly, we want to be respectful. You know, there’s the sort of norms that you each of us has in our lives in terms of how we interact with people. But the more that you practice your flow, the easier it gets to. So that’s something that you know, you and I can chit chat through privately sometime, but just you know, how to ease out of asking all your questions. And if you do panel interviews, I know you mentioned that sometimes you’ve tried to get other team members involved with the process. And if you have a panel of team members that are interviewing a candidate, you should have spoken ahead of time about what the process is, if you as the key decision maker, Amber decided to cut the interview short, so you should have a strategy for that. And a lot of times that looks like you the key decision makers stepping in and saying, I’d like to actually just ask you a little bit of a different question. And then you lead into what you in the panel know, is the final question and that you’re skipping a part of the process. So you kind of have a little code setup ahead of time. And again, yeah, so you can get creative about it with your team. But you know, the idea that you again, you’ve got some maybe messaging going back and forth as a first step, and then you’re moving to a phone screen phone interview, where you’re talking about good culture fit. Along the way, you have also hopefully collected some sort of employment application that allows you to prepare for later steps in the process, like verifying previous employment, right. So at the end of the road, when you are making an offer and selecting an employee, I do recommend that employers, although it is a fairly sort of old fashioned and formal process, that you do get approval from your top candidate to do an employment verification for each of their previous employers that are relevant to your decision, and do check personal and professional references. And so that’s, you know, I think that’s a part of the process again, where we create additional points of data that we can use to confirm our assumptions. Right. So if I think this is a great person, and I love all the things they’ve told me during the process, and I call their previous employer and I learned that unfortunately, they’re not eligible for employment at that place of work anymore. That gives me information that I can use in the decision making process. Maybe it doesn’t disqualify them from unemployment or from employment in my business, but at least I can go back and I can say, Hey, I was working on your employment verifications, Amber and I learned from ABC company that You’re not eligible to return to that company for work. Can you talk to me about what happened? And then you’ll get more information that you can use to balance out your decision?

Amber Hawley 25:10
Yeah, I think that’s a step that a lot of people skip is calling the references or doing like you’re saying a formal check like that. I know, like when I first started, I didn’t do that as much and that I started incorporating it. And then now I’ve given it, you know, to one of my team members, but even knowing like, which questions legally, we can ask, because, and, you know, it’s like, so hard. There’s all these rules that we just don’t know, not our expertise, right? It is funny, though, because I remember, it’s also using the information there was one person I had hired as a intake person, and I loved her like, we could be besties. although that’s not always a reason that’s not somebody but no, I loved her, I loved her personality, loved her energy, everything. And it was really interesting when I called her current employer just kind of verify. It was actually she gave the person as a reference. So that was even more intriguing to me. Which on the applicant side, like Hello, talk to your people talked about her being chronically late, and like having problems with calling in sick a lot, right? What do you think I did? I still ignored that, because I loved her. What do you think happened? It was probably chronically late and called in a lot. Yes. And then and it went from needing to show up in person to just never showing up, you know, and then she actually ended up quitting before I had to let her go, which I was grateful for. Because I was like, I hate firing people. But yeah, it’s so intriguing. But I think like, that was the hard thing. If I was in my corporate position, that would have been a like, obvious, no to me, hard as an entrepreneur, you’re putting yourself out there and trying to find people you trust, and you want to be in your company, and you’re like, but I love them, you know. And so I have done that a few times where I have, like, I’ve not listened to the data that I’ve gotten back and I’m like, Okay, I’ll just give it a shot. And I’ve never, ever been happy with that decision.

Niki Ramirez 27:15
Yep, good lessons learned and try to apply those lessons when we can, right. Sometimes, like you said, our emotions get the best of us. And, you know, that happens to HR people to and, you know, HR, small business owners to all that we hear Yeah, it’s a very human mistake to make when we want to surround ourselves with people that we enjoy, right? Whether or not they are really a good fit for a particular job.

Amber Hawley 27:39
So even when you feel desperate, I think that when I was when I feel like oh my gosh, like I am dying hearing, like we’ve been turning away all these clients, I need more therapists. And so I will hire somebody that’s like a father seem pretty good. But it wasn’t like a hell yes. And so there are those mantras I started having to tell myself and that’s also why I do include a team member. And, um, times where I didn’t have somebody on my team that I felt would be like, you know, like an appropriate person. I’ve even had a colleague sit in on an interview. It’s their impression, because, and I developed that mantra of like, if it’s not a Hell, yes, it’s a no like, because I have gotten again, most times when I hired those people where I’m like, Ah, they seem pretty good. It’s not been what I’m needing. Right, right. So like, I stopped really trying to hire people out of desperation.

Niki Ramirez 28:31
Yeah, that’s a good move. I like that. And it with my clients and the folks that we sometimes support in recruitment services, you know, we don’t do full service recruiting for our clients or anything like that. We definitely lean on a network of professional recruiters to help with that. But from time to time, we do help our clients with the recruitment process, like screening resumes, doing phone interviews, stuff like that. And we really have to talk through that emotion that I’m so swamped, I’m desperate, I’m flailing, I’m in crisis. And so just get any anybody, right. It’s really a it can lead to all kinds of issues, which you’ve already illustrated really well. So having that ability to apply some patience is important during the process, so that you can collect that data too, right? Like you might like somebody in the phone interview so much and you think you know what, I just I liked them so much, I’m gonna skip the next step in the process, and just move forward with you know, whatever is the next piece. So yeah, be consistent in your process. I often ask employers, especially entrepreneurs who have so many ideas like we I’m an entrepreneur as well, right? We are idea people that is we live and breathe, what is the next great thing that I’m going to do I get so excited about new ideas. So create a process that works for you. Make sure you document it, don’t go crazy thinking you have to document your process a certain way. Get some post it notes and stick them on the wall, whatever you need to do, so that you know what you’re promising to yourself. You know, I promise to myself and my team that I’m going to go through this process so that I can collect enough data to make a great decision. So I can find that hell yes. Right. And yeah, and just don’t sell yourself short, you know, follow through the process, you know, I really encourage people to as a part of the interview process, and it can happen most comfortably. Usually, when you are in the, like the almost the last phase of your interview, whatever that is. So, if you’re just doing one interview, aside from your phone interview, just a single interview and then making a hiring decision, I want you to do this top secret thing then. Or if you’re doing, you know, two interviews, you might do it in your first interview, okay. So you either are asking this candidate to fill out an application, like I talked about just a general employment application, or you’re holding their resume, you’re holding a completed application or their resume one or the other. And you’re going to review their employment history with them live in person.

Unknown Speaker 30:53
And this is a technique that I employed when I was doing a lot of hiring both as an operations manager and in my HR directorship, that really helped to facilitate a meaningful conversation about how this person makes decisions about their own employment. So what I would do is Amber, if I had your resume, I’d be looking at it and say, Amber, I’m holding a copy of your resume. Do you also have a copy of it? Because I want to talk through a few things with you. Is that okay? And they say, Yep, I have my copy here. Great. And and then I usually joke and I say, I swear to you, this is not a test of any kind, I’m just using the resume or the application as a point of reference, to try to put them at ease. I’m not going to ask them for like dates on their resume, like, when did you start and leave that employer? Right? I’m not trying to catch somebody in details. But then what I do is I say, Okay, I’m gonna start back at the furthest back position, you know, the position that you held longest ago, I see that you worked for the city of San Francisco in 1999. And you left that position in 2006, to go to work for the school. Can you talk to me about something important that you learned when you worked for the city of San Francisco? And the second part of the question is what happened that made you decide to leave? And so we just stepped through each transition like that? I like that, that is so smart. So yeah, does this person have a reflective enough personality to look back and say, yeah, when I worked for the city of San Francisco, it was my first time working as a clinician, and I learned that I love working in a collaborative team, where I can get support from other therapists, because I really like to get second opinions, right? And so if it’s just you and one other person, you know, that might be something to think about in terms of what time do you have to consult on, you know, a particular skill or activity within the job? And then the Why did you leave, what made you decide to move on is a really great way to open up conversations about previous supervisors, co workers, or other, hopefully job related things that will be informative for you and your business.

Unknown Speaker 33:12
Lots of times, though, we do hear people say things like, Oh, I moved across the country. And so that’s why I left that job. And that’s super obvious. And you say, thanks. Or somebody might say I had a baby, or my family, you know, we adopted a child or whatever it is. And then so you’re receiving a little bit of personal information, which we don’t want to get too, too terribly, overly personal during interviews, but it’s okay, if somebody tells you that they had a child or that they, you know, had a family event. And that’s what caused them to move from one job to the next because that’s, of course, just part of being human. And we’re okay with hiring humans, right?

Amber Hawley 33:45
Yes. Yeah. So I think that’s a great point that you say like, you may just assume everyone knows you don’t, you shouldn’t be asking a lot of personal things. But I’m telling you, as somebody who’s been around a lot of people as they talk about their process, and like, um, yeah, you can’t ask them that. You can’t, you can’t be like, so are you married? I’m like, No, you can’t do that.

Niki Ramirez 34:10
Yeah, yeah, totally different topic. But there are certain things that by law in certain states and at the federal level that we really cannot ask about, we cannot use that information to make an employment decision without it being construed as potentially discriminating against them if we don’t hire them. Once we know that info. So for example, marital status, is what we call a protected class, right? We can’t make a decision about employment based on marital status in several states across the US. So we want to be informed about those types of compliance regulations and things like that. I have a list of interview do’s and don’ts that I share often with people and I want to say that it’s linked over on the HR answers that org website as well. So we’re happy to share that with you and your network. But yeah, we Yeah, and it’s the simple checklist of You know, we don’t ask about where someone’s from, if they’ve mentioned that they were born in another country, we just casually move on to other information, all we care about is that they’re authorized to work in the US, we’re not going to dig into their citizenship status or anything like that. Right.

Niki Ramirez 35:13
Right. Right. Yeah, that’s great. I know, it’s hard though. Like, you know, obviously, I’m part of my people that I hire are therapists, and I hire people, especially to see couples, because that’s my specialty. And one of my specialties, we get a lot of referrals for couples. And I kind of have this personal bias about not that you have to be married at all. But if you haven’t had long term relationships, like I feel like How the heck are you going to give people support around? You know that and so it’s there are those tricky things right, that I think come up that might be lost? But yeah, I still don’t ask it. Like, I’m smart enough not to do that. But oh, but yeah, it is really, it’s one of those things where I wish like I could ask, and I, you know, I mean, if people disclose, they disclose, but sure. Those are like helpful things. And that’s my own personal,

Niki Ramirez 36:06
I can think of a question that you could ask,

Amber Hawley 36:08
Oh, yeah.

Niki Ramirez 36:09
Can I share it with you?

Amber Hawley 36:10
Yes, of course.

Niki Ramirez 36:11
Hey, so I would ask them a therapist candidate. Tell me about a strong long term relationship that you’ve either been in or seen in your life close up. Talk to me about that long term relationship? And what made it successful? And what types of challenges do you think we’re experienced? You know, or something like that? Yeah. But I think that, yeah, you’re welcome to ask about exposure to environments that are relevant in the job. And you can you can be open to letting the person decide if they’re going to tell you about their own personal relationship. Or if it were me, I would tell you that my parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary in June, right, about the fact that my dad’s an alcoholic, and he’s been in recovery for 42 years. And he’s amazing. And that was hard for my family. Right? Yeah. So you know, there’s so much that you can learn even through examples, even if that person hasn’t been married, maybe they have a best friend that they’ve maintained a close relationship with, since they were seven. And they saw them through their a crazy crisis in their family. There’s all sorts of things that might come up. So be flexible to get into those environmental type questions.

Niki Ramirez 37:24
And I love that. And I think that could probably be applied to if people think about your own industry or exactly that. And like you said, it doesn’t I wouldn’t nest if somebody chose a relationship beyond their own relationship. It wouldn’t necessarily say like, Oh, I’m not going to, but I think there’s an insight.

Niki Ramirez 37:42
Yeah. So just develop your questions in a way that allow for open conversation with your candidate. You know, I know, we talked through phases, so that pre interview messaging, phone screening in person interviews, potentially a panel type interview with a couple people, you know, as a sort of closing phase thought, if you’re going to ask people to do tests or assessments, just make sure that you’re using tests or assessments that wouldn’t be viewed or construed as discriminatory in any way, or disqualifying people from consideration for anything that isn’t directly related to the job. So for example, Amber, you mentioned the Excel spreadsheet test that you created, that’s awesome. And just don’t give it to anybody who doesn’t use excel in their day to day job.

Niki Ramirez 38:28
It was for Internet operations and like we sell so like, they definitely needed to know Excel. It was amazing. Like how much you know, that eliminated people, like I said, really? But yeah, it is it is really helpful. Yeah, I think to have an I appreciate like that, being thoughtful about like that. It’s neutral, that it’s not that it’s irrelevant, right. Yeah, arbitrarily. And I think that’s part of that resistance of, I don’t want things to seem like arbitrary or that I’m just going through a checklist, like, as a therapist, I have that viewpoint, like I don’t like when intakes feel like it’s like, let me go through my checklist. And I’m not actually listening to you or talking to you. I like that relationship. So I think it’s important that I love I do think that there’s so much value though, in writing those questions down there documenting. And that was something I realized this year when I started having to hire people remotely. I don’t know it was just really different. And so I felt like I was a first time interviewer again, in some ways, because it was such a different thing. And also, it’s super intriguing to be able to see people like interviewing we had somebody who I couldn’t see it because I had a screen up looking at because I didn’t print out their resume and okay, I had the screen up and but the other two people that I had this was part of that panel interview. They were telling me that the person was walking around their house and doing other things which I was like, Whoa, you know, I already I already was like, I was like, she seems pretty good like, like that. But again, having got feedback of somebody who’s not like I’m so like, I need to get somebody in, even though I said I try to not come from a place of desperation. But having those other people are like, okay, so this was going on. And this is the vibe I’m getting and I don’t like it.

Niki Ramirez 40:16
Oh my gosh, yeah,

Amber Hawley 40:17
I know. It’s interesting. Yeah, yeah. Only worlds?

Unknown Speaker 40:22
Oh my gosh, yes, yeah, there’s been so much of a need to sort of re analyze and reorganize how we interview in this different virtual environment, but to your checklists, I just want to make mention of one thing, how I use checklists and lists of questions and interviews. So I also love that more natural flow of a conversation. So the best I can I don’t ask scripted questions during interviews, but I always have a list of scripted questions with me. And I do look at them during the review interview process. And then I always say this to the candidate, I say, okay, Amber. Before we conclude for the today, I just want to look at my list one more time and make sure that we’ve touched on all of the topics that I was hoping to discuss with you today. And so that I look at my sheet. And lo and behold, I realized we didn’t talk about a skill or ability are an attribute that I was hoping to discuss. And I say, Oh, darn it anyway, there’s one more thing that I want to talk to you about. And then I sort of launch into that part of the conversation of the question. So I do keep a checklist type process in place, because I figure checklists work for pilots and surgeons, and by gosh, I can also use a checklist, right?

Amber Hawley 41:31
I agree. And that’s what this year has really taught me is that I can’t I need that. And well, and frankly, also, like I have a little bit of COVID brain like I forget words, and like I’m having those things where I’m extra forgetful. And I know a lot of people are experiencing that. So yeah, I am 100% on board with that. And I love and I think you’re right, your delivery can be different than the process, right? Yeah, exactly. I know. I feel like I want to be really respectful of your time. Like I said, I I feel like we should be doing a series because you’re and you’re I know this is going to be so helpful for people, whether that’s again, their first hire, or they’re needing to reassess or the their 100 hire. One last thing I did want to touch on, because I thought this was super helpful. When I started realizing there are ways to infuse making sure like there’s a good cultural fit with like, rather than than just giving, like, Oh, let me give the perfect answers, you know, and seeing like, do they fit? I have one example that people usually find funny, but honestly, like, it was important to me. Yeah. As the employer. So one thing that I say in the interview, like the in person interview, like, how do you feel about the word fuck, because when I’m stressed out, I say fuck a lot. And now I don’t swear at people, but when I’m in my office, and like I’m like, and you’re probably going to tell me like, I should not be doing this. But I’m gonna still do it, I’m telling you, because it helps like, break the ice and like, make sure it’s a good fit when I was in person, because I didn’t want to be with people who are very, like, Oh my God, I feel offended, or that is just not like, and let me just say, I do not go along saying the F word. Okay? But there are those times, I don’t want to feel that I’ve just made my employee uncomfortable, and that they can’t talk to me about something because they heard me like in my office swearing to myself, and that just wouldn’t work for me. And that’s my personality. And I’m not going to censor myself because my business is my baby. Right? And again, if you talk to my employees, they will tell you, I, I really don’t say it that often. But it was enough to know like, I just need to know you’re cool with who I am. Because I think everyone who knows me well knows I do swear. So and it was funny, because I’ll get the DNA laugh and they’re like, oh, yeah, like, I’m totally cool with it. And like I like I’m cool. Like, they might even say like, I don’t really swear that much. But like, I’m good. It’s just an example. Right? But I think it was one of those things where it’s like, as the end it’s so different when it’s your business. Like I just want to make sure that I can be me and not feel this pressure. And this might be like, you know, that people pleasing stuff of times past where I don’t want trouble, but I want to feel really comfortable.

Niki Ramirez 44:27
Yeah, no, I got you. And I think your examples a great example in that, you know, there are certain things about a business environment or relationships that we have with those key people in our business that we work directly with. We want to make sure that they are comfortable if they’re especially if there are extremes and I’m just gonna say from an HR perspective, you know, saying suck at work is an extreme right? Saying it in your personal life is not extreme. Not at all. I’m not a big F bomb dropper at work, but in my personal life, you’ll definitely hear it and see it in my written work. We’re just and in for you and verbally. So you know, it’s totally okay to ask those types of questions. You know how your computer runs with an operating system like Windows or Mac, my brain runs with an operating system, and it’s HR compliance.

Amber Hawley 45:17
So, I knew I would like for you to say, with that in mind,

Niki Ramirez 45:20
yeah, so that particular word can be used in allegations of sexual harassment, right? So that’s the only like, thing that we have to decide, here’s the greatest part, Amber, as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, you get to make a decision about where you land on am I really worried about this in my business? Or am I really trying to create an environment in which we can all operate as our true authentic self, right. And so that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, that’s the beauty of starting your own business, you get to choose and so for all of my clients, and small business owners that I work with, and network with and just collaborate with in life, I support it, I support you coming out as who you are authentic to your candidates to make sure that you are a good fit from a day to day workplace culture perspective. You know, we try to be, you know, generally respectful to people. And if someone is not comfortable with that there may be underlying reasons that they’re not that have to do with their own experiences in the workplace, maybe someone did swear at them in the past, always talk about it always be as authentic as absolutely possible. And, you know, just keep doing you. And that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, I, you know, there’s always a spectrum, you know, from end to end of, you know, taking a risk or being super conservative, and I support everybody along the way. And I think that’s an important piece to remember, as you build your business.

Niki Ramirez 46:43
And as you hire, you are going to engage in practices that are what you know, from a, let’s say, corporate HR perspective, where I ran away from my corporate job, it would be viewed as non traditional to ask that question, you should still ask it. I love to be viewed as non traditional. I’m like, that’s such a beautiful like.

Amber Hawley 47:05
I still even saying that. I feel like oh, gosh, but again, you can’t Well, funnily enough working in world, in all honesty, I mean, I saw like VPS, doing coke and bathrooms like that, like, it was not corporate. So sometimes they say it was like corporate ish. But it was very, very different. However, I actually do say when I hired like an assistant, because again, I’m not, I never swear up people, I make that very clearly because I talked about that. And frankly, I really don’t. But when I’m really stressed, I will sit and like, I cannot help it, like Buck just comes out like and I mean to say about Washington, right? Like, well, this is obviously explicit at this point. But I will do a warning for people. But it was one of those things where I think when I was in grad school, and I remember in this one class, like, our teacher bringing up like F bombs, and one of the, these are people studying to be therapists, she talked about that, if a client used an F bomb, she would be offended that she would like ask, like, talk to them and ask them to not like refrain and I thought, I think that stuck with me. So there’s multiple layers of this, like when I’m hearing a therapist, to me, that’s unacceptable. Like again, you know, it’s not about somebody yelling at you, and whatever. But it was like, I need people who can take people being real, because I think that’s how we can help them. It shouldn’t be like, I’m judging you, because you swore you like, I honor your like, this is your frustration. Right? Right. But again, I know different jobs, but I do appreciate it, they’re probably better ways. And also talk about like, we like to have fun, but we are super professional. Like I do not swear in front of, I think we know when we do and when we don’t but, but it’s but I think like, I just liked the idea when when I was thinking about like figuring out ways that you can make sure that you’re hiring people that are a good fit for you, or that fit your culture. And another way like, okay, so I’ll go do something less divisive. But being ADHD, I have ADHD, and I get like, you know, it can be a little bit all over the place. And I talked to people about that. I’m like, Look, I’m always kind of, at some level, I am running like a million miles an hour, and I get really distracted, I forget. So if I forget something, you just need to come back to me or talk about this is the process I need. And I’m not going to change. Like I mean, I always try to work on being better or being more like, you know, on top of things, but like this is, you know, I’m going to have this element of that. And so I think, I guess I like when people like make it really clear, like what people could expect, because there are some people who find it really chaotic and overwhelming, you know, so it’s like I don’t want them to have a bad experience either. I want them to feel happy when they come and like they’re like yeah, I love like taming you know, all over the place person and the order Gonna Azazel like balance to you, you know?

Unknown Speaker 50:03
But anyway, yeah, yeah, no. And I think that it’s important to work on that culture fit, you’re going to do it all sorts of different ways during during the process. But yeah, there’s a big sticking point something that’s a deal breaker, bring it up, talk about it, explore it with your candidate. And, you know, I think the the one thing that I want to mention just super quickly, you know, as we seek to find culture fit in our organizations, let’s not forget that there’s this concept out as a sort of an outline concept in recruitment, hiring and human resources, that is finding people who are there as a culture stretch. So if you have a great potential candidate that can challenge you in your business, don’t turn them away. Yeah, seek to find people that have the skills, abilities and attributes that you’re looking for. But that are also going to be able to push your business in a direction that it needs to go in order to continue to grow.

Amber Hawley 50:55
I love that you articulated that, because I think that’s something I do. Like I’m saying, I hire those really, I hire those people that are way more calm and organized. Like I’m an organized person, actually, but like, I just have a lot going on. But I do think it’s really important to have those people who kind of balance you out, but not so much that it feels you guys are at odds with each other. But like, I love the wording of that. Like, I think it’s so smart. And when people are hurting, I think that’s I think it is really you know, it’s like hire people who are better at things than you are to grow your company.

Niki Ramirez 51:32
And, yeah, they’re a good complement to everything that you know, you’re great at, they can complement the team that you have. And, you know, I think that’s true that culture, stretch type hiring, we can often open new markets in our business and reach potential customers and clients that we otherwise may have ignored or not even known about.

Amber Hawley 51:52
Well, again, thank you so much. I know we’ve been talking for a long time, and there’s so much more. But I think this is so helpful. And I know you had said that your website there, there was the checklist of like screening do’s and don’ts. Um, you also had mentioned before that you had another list about like, hiring your first employee.

Unknown Speaker 52:12
Yeah, so I’ll make sure Yep. On the HR website, we have free samples and resources. So I’ll make sure that we have near the top of the list those two items so that anyone who’s interested can get their sample and look at those interviewing do’s and don’ts. And then this simple four page checklists for hiring your first employee. Awesome Amber, I’m really grateful for the invitation. I love talking about HR. You know, I think HR is our, you know, through HR practice hiring great people building great businesses. That’s how we make a positive impact in our communities. So I’m really thankful that you’re thinking about this and that you’re helping other people learn the same.

Amber Hawley 52:50
Oh, thank you so much. And I think, again, people should head on over to hr Because beyond those checklists, like there’s a lot of great information and like I said at the beginning, you know, I’ve used your consulting services when I’m in, you know, very difficult pickle position and, like just having that person you know, is really an expert and you can kind of trust is invaluable. I think as an entrepreneur, by the way, I absolutely love that your rooster is growing like I know he did show up and so thankful.

Unknown Speaker 53:21
And does have an Instagram where he does have a showcase video. So anybody who wants to see the funky chicken we we hatched him at home a couple of years ago now so feel free to take a peek. He’s huge. He’s huge and black and shiny. He’s amazing.

Amber Hawley 53:38
Niki is such a wealth of knowledge. And if you want to hear more from her, she is February’s guest expert in the my biz bestie inner circle, answering all of your hiring questions. The inner circle is a monthly membership that has trainings asked me anything support sessions and a minimum of four hours of co working each month. Tons of support for you and your business and right now it’s only $49 a month. Just go to to find out more information and to sign up.

Transcribed by