How to Hire Present People

How to Hire Present People

Author: Bruce Weinstein

Distracted employees can create headaches for you as an HR manager.  The following questions may help you evaluate a job candidate’s commitment to being present, which I define as the performance of a single task for a reasonable period of time.  (Some people prefer “mindful” or “focused” to “presence,” but the idea is the same.)

Tell me about a time when you were distracted at work and dealt with the distraction successfully.

I love an app called Freedom. You determine how much uninterrupted time you want on your computer or smartphone, hit “enter,” and then the app thwarts your urge to check your social media and email during that period. A job candidate who talks about using such software is someone who takes his or her work seriously, understands how disruptive distractions can be, and does what it takes to be fully present.  Others use yoga or meditation to help them develop focus. 

Sometimes, however, disturbances come from overly chatty coworkers, needy bosses or direct reports, or office noise, and earplugs aren’t a practical solution.  If an applicant responds that a problem with a colleague was distracting, I’d hope to hear something along the lines of, “I spent some time talking with that person and resolved the conflict.”

Note: I have no connection to the company that produces the app Freedom.  I just want others to see how helpful it is.  There are other ones like it.

Do you expect your direct reports to have business conversations on the phone while they’re driving?

Until safe self-driving cars become a reality, smart employers will not allow their employees to accept or make phone calls while driving, even with hands-free devices.  This month Kelly Wallace, writing on explores some of the risks to companies associated with distracted driving, and you owe it to yourself to take a look.  High-character supervisors recognize that there is a time and a place for having phone conversations, and they give their direct reports what is due to them: the ability to get from A to B without increasing the risk of harm to anyone.

Taking business calls while driving is irresponsible and potentially deadly. Fair managers don’t expect employees to do this, and employees who value their lives and the lives of other drivers don’t it either.

Talk about a time when you didn’t listen well or pay attention at work. What were the consequences?

When I was working on my book The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees, I took a break one evening to do the dishes. But I was thinking about something else when I was putting an item aside to dry, and I knocked over a container that was sitting on the stove. The lid flew into the air and landed behind the oven.

What could have been a pleasant few minutes away from my computer screen turned into a wild goose chase, frantic texts to my wife, and far too much time devoted to recovering the lost gizmo. I learned the value of being fully present, even when doing something as mundane as cleaning.

This concludes our 10-part series, How to Hire High-Character People. Read in-depth versions of each part here. Stay tuned for my next series, What is a High-Character Employee? 

Bruce Weinstein is the CEO of the New York-based Institute for High-Character Leadership. Through the Institute’s high-content and engaging training programs for C-suite executives, hiring managers, and employers, Bruce and his team inspire people to do the right thing every time, everywhere. More information about Bruce and his services can be found at or he can be reached at 646.649.4501. 

Thank You to Our Chapter Partners