If financial service firm owners fumble when it comes to hiring a new employee, it is generally because there is no set process to accomplish this task efficiently and effectively. Most use intuition and a resume to make the final decision, both of which are unreliable sources of information about-and insight into-the candidate. Therefore, finding an objective, reliable hiring process is critical to success in identifying the right person. And the interview is pivotal to that success.

The hiring process is one in which an employer draws together a variety of data from different sources. The resume is a start-since this is where a job candidate makes his strongest case to be hired. But as important as the standard information on a resume may be (items such as education, experience, etc.), the document can also tell you a lot about the candidate's communication (i.e., writing) skills. Misspelled words, mismatched fonts, unreadable text and improper verb and consonant use (not to mention dangling participles) can reveal much about the candidate. If, for instance, you are hiring a receptionist whose job description would include typing letters to clients, would you really want someone who struggles with sentence structure and spelling?

You can also use a resume as a starting point to confirm information such as education and previous work experience. But privacy issues can sometimes make it difficult to obtain answers to pointed questions about job performance and behavior from a candidate's previous employers.  One thing to watch for is work history gaps, which the candidate should be able to explain.

You can also draw data from a personality (or psychometric) test. Many employers have turned to such tools as a way to confirm observations made in the interview. But the personality test can reveal much more than that. Steve Athanassie, CFP, AIF,  and the president of Trademark Capital in New     Port Richey, Fla., mentions that he has used Caliper's personality assessment  (www.caliperonline.com) successfully for several years, though he adds that such tests must pass muster with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requirements and be applied uniformly for all job candidates.         Otherwise, the employer could run afoul of several laws that prohibit the use of discriminatory employment tests and selection procedures, laws includingTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.         (For more details on these laws, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/factemployment_procedures.html.) For these reasons, it may be necessary to test all employees and candidates uniformly in order to avoid the possibility of discrimination.

Caliper's personality assessment (the "Caliper Profile") is designed to provide insight into the character and personality of your job candidate (or a current employee) and can be taken online. It is designed to objectively quantify an individual's competencies, and it identifies candidates with the strongest potential. Three others to check out are Profile XT (http://www.profilesinternational.com), Kolbe (http://www.kolbe.com) and Myers-Briggs (http://www.myersbriggs.org). Rebecca Pomering, a principal at Moss Adams LLP and a practice leader for Moss Adams Business Consulting, recently said at the TD Ameritrade Institutional Partnership Conference in Orlando, Fla., that she prefers Profile XT for its job-matching capabilities.

The Interview
    Your interview with the job candidate should allow you to identify specific characteristics that fit the job description. For this reason, a single set of "magic" questions simply will not work. Each position in the company may have different questions, based on the characteristics sought. Having said that, there are some attractive features that most candidates have in common, as noted in the sidebar.

You can then develop interview questions that identify these characteristics. Here are 16 examples:
1. What made you decide to apply at XYZ firm?
2. Tell me about yourself and your last or current job or class.
3. What makes you stand out from all the others?
4. Tell me your greatest accomplishment?
5. When we call your previous employer or references, what are they likely to tell us in regard to your dependability or attendance?
6. Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your trustworthiness or integrity in school or at work.
7. Tell me about a time when you were working hard to complete a task and you were asked to leave that task before completing it and start a different job.
8.    Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done. What were the hurdles and how did you overcome them?
9.    Tell me about a time when you took the time to share a co-worker's achievement with others.
10. Give me an example of a time when you had set a specific goal for yourself and tell me how you went about accomplishing it.
11. Give me a specific occasion on which you followed a policy with which you did not agree.
12. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully talk with another person, even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
13. Tell me about a time when you improved a task or job you were working on.
14. How many hours a week do you need to work to get your job done?
15. In what kind of a work environment do you do your best work?

And finally:
16. How do you feel you did in this interview?

As you may have noticed, these are open-ended questions that encourage the candidate to talk at some length. The purpose here is threefold. First, you want to hear the answer to the question. Second, you want to observe the reaction of the candidate to the question (his nonverbal communication). And third, you want to observe how effectively this candidate can communicate the answer when unprepared for the question. You can make this a more objective process by developing an interview matrix with a scoring system.

However, your work does not stop here. Some employers also take the additional step of running criminal background checks for arrest and conviction history. There are many companies, most online, that provide such services cheaply, quickly and accurately (often for as little as $12.95).         Here are four to check out:
http://www.intelius.com/ background-verification.html

Another step is to give the employee a performance or sample job test, which gives you some insight into her readiness to take on certain aspects of the job for which she is being considered. For example, if she is being considered for an analyst position or similar job that requires skills in building and working with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, it could help you to develop a test that gauges her skills in developing a spreadsheet with sample data and calculations, a test that could reveal any inconsistencies in what the candidate has told you she is capable of handling. Computer skills are often tested this way.