Hiring (and firing) effectively is central to a good HR policy. The second employee I ever hired at Paychex is still with the company some forty-five years later. That’s a good hire!

I always worked on the general basis of hiring for attitude, training for skill. This may not be an original thought, but hey, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

In addition to that unoriginal thought, over the years I have developed several interview techniques, including testing, that help me identify the good from the not-so-good and the indifferent.

First, let’s be frank: being selective is one of the keys to good hiring. There is a cost to educating and training a new hire, not to mention a transition period where the person is not performing to full capacity. This is especially true of salespeople. I’ve always believed in building a quality workforce through skillful and careful hiring and through superior training.

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to hiring people who played competitive team sports. There is something about people who like to win in a team environment that often makes them good employees. They offer distinct traits conducive to success in any form of business. Things like ambition and perseverance are attractive qualities in candidates. And, honestly, those that have failed in competition only to then learn and grow for success are ideal employee traits.

It is also true that interview performance is also key. I want a job applicant to have done their homework and to know a lot about my company; if they haven’t bothered to do their research, then why should I bother to give them my time? I also want to know why they left their last job or jobs. The answer to that question can raise a lot of concerns, or alternatively indicate I’m sitting opposite a future employee. They may start complaining about their former company or bashing management. Or they may start into a long-winded story. These are huge red flags.

If they are reticent or unwilling to supply a reference for their most recent employer or any key employer, that is a major concern, as are obvious blanks in their résumé.

So, here is the most effective interview technique in my experience. Silence. Let the interviewee talk and when they stop, don’t say a word. What they say next may turn the whole interview into negative or positive territory, or they may simply wait for you to speak. But is there a correct way for them to treat the pause? I think the best thing they can do is let the silence hang. The interviewer may just be thinking or considering his or her next question or, like me, they could just be testing the person!

The pregnant pause is the most effective tool in an interview.

Ultimately, the number one question you should ask yourself when hiring is, “Can this person help us grow?” The answer to that will be a deciding factor on whether to hire a candidate or move on to the next prospect.

And there are even more tips to hiring the right people in my book Built, Not Born: A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs.


Originally published on Quora.

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A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs.

Paychex Founder, Tom Golisano shares the hard-won lessons from his entrepreneurship journey in Built Not Born, a guide to growing a company to any size by going against the grain like he did.

Learn More