Today Josh speaks to Kathy Knowles, the founder of Intuitive Strategies, a unique Human Resource Consulting Firm that helps service-based businesses and non-profits build empowering teams and drive home results.  In this podcast, we speak about all things to do with hiring the right employees. This is a great strategy for small and big businesses alike and a concept everyone can potentially benefit from.

The truth is without having great employees in your company, it’s impossible to have a great company.  Not having a systematic hiring process in place will guarantee that you don’t often get the people you need for success.

Listen to this podcast to learn some new strategies and tactics you can use to hire better.

What you will learn:

  • Figuring out your values and why you should do so
  • Establishing whether or not someone is right for your business
  • Effectively interviewing potential employees
  • What systems to use to hire people
  • And more…


Narrator:        Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.

Our guest today is Kathy Knowles. Kathy is a speaker, a trainer and consultant who works with entrepreneurs and small business owners. With her find and fill formula and team engagement process, businesses and entrepreneurs learn to hire right the first time and have more loyal, dedicated employees. That’s what I love to see. I am a big fan of hiring right the first time. And if we get into it, maybe, I’ll tell you my sad stories about how badly I hired so I came up with our process. But I’m really interested in hearing your process, Kathy. So let’s bring Kathy in and welcome her to the show.

Hey, Kathy. How are you today?

Kathy:             Hey, Josh. I’m great. How are you today?

Josh:                I’m really well. I’m a little bit frazzled because I was running back and forth between cities today but all is good now.

Kathy:             That’s good. That is really good.

Josh:                Yes.

Kathy:             It’s always nice to be settled.

Josh:                It is. And Kathy was very kind to allow us to put this back an hour so I could get to her my good recording stuff and not my bad recording stuff so here we are.

Kathy:             That’s awesome.

Josh:                At any rate, Kathy, let’s talk about hiring a little bit.

Kathy:             Sure.

Josh:                What is your process? And tell us what your thoughts are around getting the right person the first time around.

Kathy:             Yeah, you know, my process hare really sort of taken years to create, right? Because I was in corporate. I was a corporate human resource director for 23 years. And everything in life is all about shifting, and changing, and tweaking, and making it better and better. So, over the years, I’ve realized that probably the most important part of hiring is for the person doing the hiring to be really, really crystal clear on what it is that they’re looking for.

I think, so often, where things kind of to apart is we think, “Oh, okay. Well, I need an assistant to come on board to help me,” right? But is that really what you need? And if you do need that assist, what exactly do you need for them to do? Because, really, clarity creates focus. So the more clearly we can be with anything, the more focused we’ll be moving forward. And that includes with the new hire. So that is definitely the most important piece when it comes to hiring.

Josh:                So how would you go about achieving that clarity?

Kathy:             What you would do is really sit down and say, “Okay, so what are my values as a company?” And sometimes I know that can feel a little daunting for businesses but the truth is, How are you showing up every day? What are the things that are important to you? How does that show up in the work environment? How does that show up with your customers or clients? Those things that you just naturally do every day that’s your values. That’s where it is.

And then, from there, it’s sitting down and saying, “All right, so what do I really need this person to do for me? What are the top three to five things – most important things that I need to know that they can help me accomplish by the end of the year?” And getting really clear on those, that’s when you then start to create that job description. And everything starts to fall together.

Josh:                So I noticed that you have mentioned values and you’ve mentioned what people need to do for you, you haven’t mentioned technical skills.

Kathy:             No, I haven’t.

You know, it’s so interesting. Over the years, the one thing I found is that people really lose their jobs more because they don’t say fit than because they can’t do the job. And it’s kind of crazy. I think, when it comes to the technical skill side, everyone is so honed in on looking at that piece. And I’m not saying that piece isn’t important but I am saying that there’s a lot of pieces to this hiring puzzle.

Josh:                You just passed my test, by the way [laughs].

Kathy:             [laughs] Oh, thank you.

Josh:                Yeah. I will tell you my story, just very, very–

Kathy:             I want you to. I want to hear it.

Josh:                –very briefly. I used to be in the food and vending business and we would hire people on a regular basis. And our success rate was about 35%. And we were only hiring for technical skills at that point. We were basically saying, “Can they do the job? Do they have the skill level to do the job?” But we didn’t check whether they were willing to do the job and whether they were a good fit for the company.

And then I read this book by Robert Half called Robert Half on Hiring. In there, he has this thing called a Can do with will do fit factor method of hiring. And we started doing that. And, lo and behold, our retention rate went from 35% to 45% up to about 85%.

Kathy:             Yes.

Josh:                And it was only because we focused on fit factors first and will do issues, “Are they willing to do the activities that make you successful at a job?”, second.

And my experience has been exactly what yours has been, it’s that the technical stuff is easy. You can teach that.

Kathy:             Yeah, you can.

Josh:                I mean, obviously, if you need a Java programmer, you need to know how to program in Java. But you can figure that out in about 12 seconds by looking at a resume or giving them a Java test.

Kathy:             Mm-hmm, correct.

Josh:                I believe, you shouldn’t spend that much time there. And it sounds like you’re coming from the same place I am.

Kathy:             Absolutely, Josh. So often, right, wouldn’t you rather have that candidate that really fits into the culture that gets how important your customers or clients are and teach them the job. They’re there. They want to learn. They want to be part of the team so teach them the job. Absolutely.

Josh:                So how would you go about establishing whether somebody is a good fit and whether they’re willing to do the activities to make them successful in the job?

Kathy:             I mean, there are several different types of interview questions, right? There’s the interview questions where you’re just strictly trying to find out information. There’s the open-ended. There’s close-ended.

There’s all these kind of things but what I really love are behavioral-based interview questions. And I have about 25 really, really strongly behavioral-based interview questions. And it just really allows you to understand. And, in an interview, there’s really– especially with these type of questions, there’s really no right or wrong, right? Because what one business wants and needs, another one may not.

Josh:                So what would be an example of a behavioral-based interview question?

Kathy:             You would ask someone, “Tell me about a time–” A lot of times they start with things like that. So, “Tell me about a time when you had to work on a really tight deadline and it was a project you had never completed before.” So the applicant, right, they’ll go into their story telling mode. I say all the time that interviewing isn’t really a conversation. It’s definitely not an interrogation but it is storytelling, right?

Josh:                Yes.

Kathy:             Because all of a sudden, they take that question and because you’re asking them to tell you about a time, they’re telling you about a time. And as they do that, you’ll ask things like, “Well, how did that feel for you? How did you know what the most important thing was to do first? What was the final result of that project that you completed?” So by asking those four or five questions, you can really understand how someone works under stress, how they can prioritize, how they may act with the team when they’re in this place where they know they have to go from A to Z in a tight framework. There’s so much that you can learn about that person in just that one question.

Josh:                And the other thing that just came to mind for me while you were talking about that is that most people, when they through an interview process, are never given those sorts of questions.

Kathy:             Never.

Josh:                So, as a result, you’re likely to knock them a little bit off their game for how they prepare to do interviews in the past, so because of that you’re going to get probably a more honest answer will be my guess.

Kathy:             Yeah, you really do because there are some times when a person will just say, “Oh, I didn’t do well in that situation,” right? And, again, that’s not bad and that’s not good because every organization is looking for something a little bit different. But, number two, it’s also that person – the applicant, knowing and understanding that in that place they had a weakness.

So then the question is, if they say, “Oh, yeah. Well, you know, this happened and uh, man, I really messed it up.” Then the next question is, “Well, how did you– or would you fix that in the future?” because maybe they figured it out now. Maybe it’s something that they want to make sure they never make that mistake twice so they really go into this space where they have a great answer for that.

Josh:                And they maybe– I mean, for me, one of my core values is mistakes are learning experiences. So if they made a mistake and they didn’t learn anything from that, I would be hesitant to give them a high grade on that part of the interview because that might be a core value. Or maybe mistakes are not allowed here could be a core value in which can case that might be a knockout for you, too.

Kathy:             Absolutely. I think another mistake that the person doing the interview may make is have this tendency to give too much information away at the very beginning. So then, as the applicant is going through and answering the questions– you know, it’s just human nature, right? I’m not pointing a finger at any specific applicant but it’s just human nature for us to, “We want to get the job. We’re there to get the job.” So now, in some ways, we’re answering that question the way we think they would want to hear it because now we’ve received way too much information. It’s really interesting.

Josh:                Yeah, I mean, I I find that many people, before they go through a training process for how to be effective at hiring, generally do a selling job at their company before they even get around deciding whether they want to hire the person in the first place.

Kathy:             Right, right. And that, to me, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Josh:                So let me ask you another question here. What kind of systems do you recommend people use to hire so that they do the same thing every time they hire people?

Kathy:             Well, I’m kind of old fashioned in some ways. I certainly love and appreciate applicant tracking systems but I’m pretty old fashioned and I love my checklist. I have a fine and fill formula that is seven steps in regard to hiring.

And when I go through that process, it’s something that when I know each step has been followed that is just so powerful that chances are this applicant, i.e. new employee, now, is going to be with us for a long period of time. Because systems and processes, it’s those small details that take a company from good to great or from great to outstanding. Yeah, it really is.

Josh:                I’m in total agreement with you that going old school with just a plain old checklist is probably– I mean, I was having a meeting this morning. And at the meeting I said, “You know, we don’t need to computerize everything. We just have to computerize stuff that makes sense to computerize.”

Kathy:             Yes.

Josh:                And in my experience, in the hiring process, it’s a checklist that is way more effective than having a fancy hiring computer system, I think.

Kathy:             I think so too because it’s the ease and simplicity, especially if you have a team where an applicant is going from, let’s say, an initial phone screening, possibly, in to see someone– you know, someone that it starts with first where you’re kind of looking at culture. And then, from there, maybe they go see who they’d be reporting to. I find that that process is just a much easier flow, quite frankly,  when it comes down to paper.

Josh:                So my experience is that most people, when they hire, don’t have a system and there’s no way to get predictability into their hiring process.

Kathy:             Right, right.

Josh:                So when you start coaching somebody around hiring, what are the first things that you do with them?

Kathy:             One of the first things I really do is look at their team. And part of the reason for this is because, you know, initially, when we just start out as an entrepreneur or when our business is fairly young and growing, or maybe not, maybe we’ve been around for 10 years, 15 years but we hear about “our Uncle Frank needs a job” so we bring Uncle Frank on board. And our neighbor, Jenny, down the street has just recently lost her job so we bring Jenny on board. So they’re there working with us and Uncle Frank’s not really doing what we thought he could do from the very beginning. And Jenny, she’s doing okay but as the company’s growing, she really can’t keep up with the client base but we keep ignoring that.

And I know that looking at people that maybe don’t fit anymore is one of the most challenging things to do regardless of maybe we could find another position for them or we need to let them go. But every healthy business goes through that. Every healthy business needs to sit back and consistently look at their team. So that’s really one of the first things that I do with every single business owner because that’s typically what I find. Yeah, there’s been someone there that they’ve just kind of keep overlooking and they hope that person will change or hope that they’ll leave or whatever it may be and it doesn’t always work out that way.

Josh:                Well, often, they’ll leave when they see the writing on the wall but not before that.

Kathy:             Not before that. No way.

Josh:                Yeah. What you just described is what happens in any growing business. When you go from the team you needed at 10 people is not the team you need at 35 people.

Kathy:             Correct.

Josh:                Nor the team you need at 90 people or 500 people.

Kathy:             Yes.

Josh:                And if you grow your business from zero to 75 or 100 employees, you’re probably going to go through three or four generations of key employees because of skill mismatch that will appear along the way.

Kathy:             Absolutely.

Josh:                That’s an important thing to learn.

There’s another type of person that I’d like to get your opinion on.

Kathy:             Sure.

Josh:                This is a personal I call the brilliant jerk.

Kathy:             [laughs] Okay.

Josh:                Every company I’ve ever worked with, including my own companies, has had brilliant jerks running around. And I’m going to bet you know what I mean by brilliant jerk.

Kathy:             Absolutely.

Josh:                So, first of all, how would these people, do you think, appear in a company? And, second of all, when one does appear, what should you do?

Kathy:             I learned about this the hard way. So in corporate, I worked corporate aviation – private aviation. And, of course, aviation is way compliance driven and I was part of that compliance process. And we hired an aircraft maintenance technician who was just amazing with the hot sections – the part of the turbine aircraft. Amazing. And he was brilliant. And he was a jerk.

And, six months go by and he gets jerkier. A year goes by and it’s even worse. And he’s brilliant. So the department manager and I would sit down several times throughout the year and say, “What are we going to do?” So, finally, the decision was made to let the brilliant jerk go. And it was a big deal because he was absolutely brilliant in his skill set.

But what was so amazing, Josh, is that when we let him go, the rest of the team that worked under him that felt like his thumb was on them the whole time, they had learned so much and they completely excelled and took the ball and ran with it. And we all– the manager and I were like, “Why didn’t we do this a year ago?”

It’s hard. It’s a hard decision to make because it’s such a scary place to go. But the truth is we don’t know the damage that’s being done so often until after that employee, after that team member’s gone. I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. Then, all of a sudden, other people come and start talking you. And then you hear these stories and you say, “Oh, my gosh, I had no idea.”

Josh:                In my world, when this was happened in the past, and I finally gotten around to saying, “You can’t be here anymore,” people would beat a path to my door saying, “What took you so long?”

Kathy:             I know. I know. And then you hear those stories. And then you think, “How did I not know?”

Josh:                Well–

Kathy:             “How did I not know that?”

Josh:                –I knew. My question back to my staff when they started that stuff, I said, “Did somebody cut your tongue out?”

Kathy:             Yes, absolutely. Yeah, yeah.

Josh:                Because they could’ve said something. Nobody ever does.

Now, I have talked to lots and lots of business owners over the years that said, “We recognize it’s a brilliant jerk. Often, they’re the best salesperson.”

Kathy:             Absolutely.

Josh:                And they say to me, “I can’t afford to let them go.” What would your response be to that?

Kathy:             “Then what can you do to have them settle in and work with the team a little bit more?”

Because I love personality profiles. And in particular, I’ve been working with DISC, which is very well known, for 25 years. And there’s different types of salespeople. But when you really get that hard- pushing salesperson, the one that has the deep drive and the one that’s not going to be afraid to ask for the sale, they have this tendency to be pretty assertive which can put a lot of other different types of personalities off.

So something that’s very important to me is for every team to really understand, not only how the different personalities work with each other but why different people are in different roles. That’s always really helpful because it’s all about communication. So that would be a piece that, to me, I would give anyone advice to really dive deeply into that and to allow people because what happens when they start to understand these things is you kind of stop taking things so personally. You make it a little bit more of a joke. So that would be one of the number one things, I would say.

Josh:                The problem with that is often brilliant jerks take themselves way too seriously and it’s hard to make it a joke. My advice to people is you have to get them out of your company because even high D’s which are drivers and hard-charging salespeople, they can learn to mitigate their behavior. And if you have conversations with them and they don’t–

Kathy:             Well, yes.

Josh:                – you can’t have them around. I don’t care how good they are are. They’re hurting your company.

Kathy:             And I will say, I agree with that. I do believe that with every one of these brilliant people we need to put some investment and some tools in them to see if there’s any way that their behavior can switch/shift. Chances are, especially that type of personality, they won’t shift.

Josh:                My experience is a brilliant jerk is a brilliant jerk and the only way you deal with them is they have to go away.

Kathy:             Yeah. And I agree because the longer you stay in that energy, the longer you really are putting down the rest of the team. And you’re stifling the growth of the organization as well.

Josh:                Now, there are companies where the whole company is full of brilliant jerks and if you’re a brilliant jerk you fit in.

Kathy:             Absolutely. Absolutely.

Josh:                So you have to say, first of all, what type of company do you have. You know, I don’t want to pick on Oracle but that’s Oracle’s reputation because it’s a very tough organization and a dog-eat-dog sort of place. And if you’re working there probably, if you’re a brilliant jerk, you’ll be highly valued. But if you go to work at– I don’t know, some place where that’s not accepted, you’ll be thrown out of the organization eventually.

Kathy:             Right.

Josh:                So if you’re that type of person, find a place you fit in and work there.

Kathy:             Yeah.

Josh:                Hey, Kathy. We are unfortunately out of time for the podcast episode. It sounds like you are really a great expert on hiring strategies. And I’m going to bet some of our listeners are going to want to find you. How would they go about doing that?

Kathy:             Excellent. They can find me at And if they go to my website, they’ll find an opt-in box. If they’re interested, I have a free gift which is 18 Interview Questions you can ask to get your ideal hire. And they can use those for anyone that they’re hiring for. It could be used for any position. And that’s at

Josh:                Cool. And I also have an offer for you. You see this, right here? This is my new book which looks like it’s– well, it doesn’t come out very well. But it’s my new book. I just got my first 200 of these today–

Kathy:             Oh, congratulations.

Josh:                –so that’s pretty exciting. And we’re launching February 6. You’re going to hear this well after February 6. But if you’re watching the Facebook Live presentation, go to and there you’ll see a button that says, “Join our Facebook group”. But very soon, there’s going to be a button that says, “Buy the book.” You can get the book free, just pay me some shipping and handling and we’ll have it on your way to you. So go to and buy the book.

This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon and buy my book, please.

Narrator:        You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at or you can send Josh an email at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.


Topics: employees, sustainable business podcast, hire, business sustainability, podcast, Uncategorized, business, employers

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