Building Your Dream Team: Interview Strategies and Hiring Insights from Valonda Banks

Meghan Lynch (00:00):
If you're trying to build a brand that lasts, you simply can't do it without the right people around you. But how do you find the right people and how do you set them up for success when you finally do find them? Our guest today is an expert at solving these kinds of people problems in the hiring process, and she's got some tips for interviewing that you won't want to miss. Plus Henry will be asking her his tough interview questions. All this and more coming up on this episode of Building Unbreakable Brands.

Welcome to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast where we talk to business leaders with a generational mindset. I'm Megan Lynch. I'm an advisor to family businesses and founder of Six Point, a brand strategy agency that helps generational brands honor their past while evolving for the future. Today my guest is Volanda Banks, a hiring practitioner for almost 30 years. Valonda and her team at Liberty Employment Solutions are on a mission to provide employer branding, hiring strategy, and organizational development support for small and medium-sized businesses. They don't just do the heavy lifting for hiring. They'll also provide tools and training to share with clients to help them succeed in all of their hiring efforts and eliminate as many people problems as possible. Welcome, Valonda.

Valonda Banks (01:24):
Thanks, Meghan. It's good to be here with you.

Meghan Lynch (01:27):
I'm so glad to have you on the show because we're here talking about building unbreakable brands and if there's one thing that can break even the strongest brand, it is people problems. So I'm excited to have you bring some wisdom about how leaders who are trying to build enduring companies can kind of navigate these people challenges that we all have. Even though you've been doing this work for decades, Liberty was born at a pretty unique time for both employees and employers when there was a pretty high quit rate and unemployment was very low, and then things were only magnified during Covid. So I was just curious if you want to walk us through those early days of Liberty and how that employment environment really affected your approach to help small and medium-sized businesses compete for talent.

Valonda Banks (02:23):
So back when we were getting ramped up, we started in 2018, but 2019 is where the business really started taking off. Like you said, the quit rate was the lowest it had ever been since it started to be measured by the Department of Labor, but unemployment was so low, so there was a lot of movement happening in the job market. It just wasn't, people weren't quitting without having something else, which told us as we were working with various employers across different industries even that we needed to get the unique about what it was like to work for the organization in front of the right people so that we had to start, we had to dial it back one, okay, so what is the right people for this organization? And then we really started to dig out cultural differentiators and it resonated with the job market because the job market was starting to resist the traditional process and the traditional way that people were going through a hiring process and then even treated once they got there. All of the articles that you read back in 2019, 2020, 2021 was that you just needed to pay more. You needed to pay more money, and truthfully, people were still quitting even when you got them the money that they really wanted. And so we really just dug in to understand culture and begin to look at cultural matches, which for me, some of my favorite businesses to work with are the family businesses that do have unique cultural differentiators that we can market on their behalf.

Meghan Lynch (04:03):
Yeah. I'm curious if you could say a little bit more about exactly what you mean or maybe give an example of what cultural differences or differentiators mean, especially through the lens of employer branding.

Valonda Banks (04:18):
When we sit down now, the first thing we do with a client, no matter what service we're providing them, the first conversation is always the same. And it's why should somebody come work for you as opposed to your competitor? We do enough research to know who their hiring competition is. Why would somebody, we work with Quantum Services, they're a 300 employee inventory control companies. They do inventory control for convenience stores all across the country. Why would somebody want to come work for you as opposed to Regis and wis, which are large inventory control companies, and immediately they come to life and they kind of talked about how in our organization you have a different level of autonomy than you do in those organizations. You have the ability to start your day early, you end when you're done, which means that if you do your work effectively and quickly, you choose your end time.

So when we realized autonomy, early end times, no evenings, no weekends, which a lot of those other convenient, or I'm sorry, inventory control companies required overnights, all of that, it affected how we advertise the job. If you want more control over your schedule, do you want Monday through Friday, new evenings and weekends and you've done this kind of work and you've done it well, but you've had to do it at night and had to do it Saturdays and you've had to pop in a van with everybody else, and so you're stuck until everybody else gets their section of the store done. And so all of those became how we advertise from the video that we recommended to the job ad that we wrote, to how we even structured and talked about the organization in the phone screens that we do for them, things like that.

Meghan Lynch (05:59):
Yeah, that's a great example, and I love this idea of really speaking about it from the employee's life standpoint of how do, these aren't just values or cultural differences that are kind of nebulous, but this is how it affects your quality of life or your day to day and makes it pretty tangible to them, it sounds like.

Valonda Banks (06:28):
Yes. It's one thing we always, we will take job ads and we help companies turn them inside out. This isn't about what you're looking for, it's about what you have that your potential employee is looking for. Because when you make that match, that's something pretty special that creates longer retention and it impacts job performance because of being more fulfilled in the work that you're doing. So yeah, it's just really understanding what type of role is this and how can I attract the type of person that's going to want to come here and stay here.

Meghan Lynch (07:04):
Yeah. I feel like that that has been a definite shift in the past few years of this idea that really almost the employee has more agency and power in the process. And I've talked with some business leaders that really kind of resist that concept in general and have a really hard time with it. So I'm curious if somebody was kind of pushing back and saying like, Hey, I'm giving them a paycheck and a good job. I don't have to provide anything else. Do you have any kind of wisdom for them?

Valonda Banks (07:42):
Oh, my first question is how do you know, you know it's a good job. Is it a good job because you say so? And what is that based on? I heard recently a staffing expert in central Pennsylvania say that this is the largest non-union union that the United States has ever experienced. So the workforce in and of itself has kind of unionized. They're not technically a union, but because they're all saying the same thing, but to your human that says this is a good job in a paycheck. I think the minute that that's the person that's still seeing the employee as a commodity. One thing my husband and I said to each other, and it kind of happened organically, we didn't really plan for this, but we walked into the first office we had, we didn't intend for liberty to become what it is today necessarily, but we walked into the office, we'd hired two people, and I think we were even holding hands, and we walked in that first day and I'm like, what do you want this place to be like?

And he said, I really want this to be the type of place that we wish we could have worked in where somebody recognized that yes, we came here to do a good job and earn a paycheck, but that paycheck does something else outside of here. And so for us and honestly for our clients, we'll talk about that and we'll train the person who's screening to really understand this is a human that walks through the door. What does this paycheck do for them? Is it like funding a hobby? Is it really their families? Is this to support their family? And when you recognize that it's a human with a purpose that is, as much as I love everyone that works for us, we have the best team probably right now that we've ever had. And as much as I personally care about each one of them, I know better than to think they're showing up tomorrow. If I said, Hey, by the way, thanks for being here, but we're not giving you a paycheck anymore.

I know that not only does Ed's paycheck provide him his apartment in Philly, it also supports Terry, his lizard, and it supports Ivan, his cat and his girlfriend, who I won't name here, but we know what's important to them and what motivates them. And I know in an organization that is growing, the ownership can only know so many, but you should really know the people that you are working closely with and you should be training the people who are supervising and managing people in your organization to do the same, to really understand who's in your organization and what's really important to them.

Meghan Lynch (10:26):
I love this idea of basically the employment landscape in general as being a gigantic union with some demands, as the different employment market shift and balance might change or unemployment rates go up and down and jobs become easier or harder to find. Do best practices in employer branding change with the job market?

Valonda Banks (10:53):
I don't know that best practices change. I think how we talk about things shift and change a little bit, and I think the process that's created and how it's executed on affect your employer brand. For instance, I just had a client that we worked with that paused, I was in the office catching up with some folks and they talk about how suddenly they were having ghosting all the time and they didn't have ghosting before. And we got into this full conversation of this idea that people put a date on the calendar, they schedule an interview and then they don't show up. And it's like employers all over are so perplexed by this. And yet when I ask them and ask them in their process, how do you respond? How do you communicate when you're not moving forward with people? I hear all the time, they don't have a process to do that, so it happens haphazardly.

I'm like, so why are we perplexed? We're people, we're busy. Sometimes we don't communicate well because it's not a priority to us. Why are we shocked that someone who might've had three interviews accepted a job, didn't think to follow up with us, we didn't think to follow up to let them know we had moved on with someone else. So I think to your question, I think how we actually execute in the process is part of our brand as well. If you're saying that we recognize the individual coming through the door and what motivates them and they're what they're going to, what their paycheck provides for them, so I see you as a human, then you don't treat them as a human through the process with good communication about where they are, about why you weren't able to. Maybe you ended up with three interviews and so you haven't selected the next two that you want to talk to, even though you told the first one.

I'll get back to you just making that quick phone call to say, Hey, we ended up with more people than we thought. We need a couple more days. If you want to move on, that's fine, but I just wanted to let you know. I said, I would get back to you by Wednesday. If you don't offer them that courtesy, they're not going to offer that to you. And truthfully, that does affect my employer brand because when they come through the door, I want them to believe me when I say, I told you I would get back to you on your schedule change request on this day, even if I don't have an answer, I'm going to get back to you to say, Hey, this is the process that we're going through to figure it out. We got this far, we need a little bit more time. It's that common courtesy that truthfully, we teach people the process should teach you as much about the employer as possible and the company and company, it should teach you as much about the employee as possible, but you're each learning each other. So these things that you do, we want to tell the job market, you didn't get back to me. Well, too bad, but yet we don't get back to them.

So yeah,

Meghan Lynch (13:55):
If it's really something that we value, then we have to show up and do it, not just expect it from other people.

You are listening to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast all about brand stewardship and crafting an enduring legacy. I'm here with my guest, Valonda Banks, an expert in hiring process and employer branding who helps leaders find and attract the teams they need to evolve and endure. Valonda, you tackle all kinds of people problems, and I'm sure you've seen a really wide range of these, both big and small. I'm curious if there's any people problems that you see in businesses that as soon as you notice them, you're just like, oh my gosh, if they do not solve this, this could take down this company.

Valonda Banks (14:53):
Yes, yes, yes. It's people in the wrong seat. We just recently went through what we call a resource recommendation project, so it was a large nonprofit. They're at about a hundred people and they've done such a good job of intentionally caring for people that they haven't needed an HR person. They have a human sitting in the HR role who hasn't been trained. Her background is in secondary education and accounting, and she kind of just grew into this HR role. And when we did an employee survey, there was just a lot of people going around their leader to get to someone on the senior leadership team who would have their ear and take care of their issue. So all of these things that should be happening at this middle layer were happening up here and everybody wants to say, well, that middle layer isn't doing their job well.

What ended up, what we came to find out is that this person in this role just didn't have the skillset to have tough conversations because she grew up in the organization, felt very empowered to listen and give ear to challenges, but then there was no process to go from there to resolution. And so these problems just kept sitting on the agenda of the senior leadership team. I just think it's that Peter principal, or is it the Paul principal? I can't remember which it is that just because somebody's executed the job well doesn't mean they're necessarily ready for leadership. And I think that plus not really assessing, just because this human has been responsible in this role does not mean they have the skillset or are wired and have the behaviors needed for a different role in the company. And I think we do people a disservice when we say, Hey, we're grooming you for this without finding out number one, is it something they want or two, even if they do want it, is this something that they're capable for? So yeah, you don't take your best passenger and give them the front seat of the bus if they don't have a CDL and a good driving record, right? Yeah. So why would we do that in an organization and give somebody leadership who's never had the opportunity to demonstrate it or in their case, give somebody a role where you need to have crucial conversations well and carry the responsibility and action items out of that conversation to someone who doesn't know how to do that.

Meghan Lynch (17:25):
So it sounds like not only right or a person in the wrong seat, but also specifically a wrong person in a seat that has a lot of influence or leadership within the organization, that becomes a really big failure point. Yes. Thinking about that. So do you have any, speaking of process, you can sometimes know that somebody's in the wrong seat once things are going terribly wrong, but how do you get in front of it and figure out ahead of time if they're a good fit for the seat and if the seat is a match for them?

Valonda Banks (18:15):
Yeah, I think a lot of times as business owners, we tend to define the role that we need in light of the last failure, or I'm not calling the human who was sitting in the seat of failure, but the last time you got it wrong. And so we want to create, say, well, this is what I want, but it's all in reaction to somebody who had been sitting in the wrong seat before. And I think the biggest thing is being able to, even if it means you have to separate yourself, go to a coffee shop, being able to sit back and say, what does my business need from this role? What does the team working around this human need? And define it that way or even define it in light of the person who did do it well. And it's okay to think about what didn't go well, but the whole thing cannot be defined by someone who didn't succeed in the role.

It really needs to be what does the business need from this role? And then what will help in this role? What will help take this either department to the next level or how does this move the business on? Because then that really helps you define what you need. I was just talking to someone who, he owns a cybersecurity company with a large Pentagon contract, and he was talking about a president that he hired that was sitting in the wrong seat. He had had worked at this level, and this was an entrepreneurial startup that now had government contracts. He had taken the guy from a corporate environment who'd run government contracts, and I asked him, did anybody ask the question what he had built? It's very different to step into a role that has all of this responsibility that you've had before, but in this case, they wanted him to build.

And so once you're able to sit back and say, what does the business need? If you need somebody to take it from 10 million to 15 million, then you don't just find the person who's sitting at 15 million and assume that they can get you from 10 to 15. They've shown they can manage 15. So I think just like I said, sitting back and then if it's a growth role, just really being clear as you're looking to find somebody who's already taking something and grown it. So it's critical to make sure you have the right person in the right.

Meghan Lynch (20:34):
Yeah, I feel like I've seen that a lot, especially when it is the first time that a role exists in the organization, maybe bringing in a national sales director for the first time or hiring a president or something like that, that I have seen that mistake where people take somebody who has executed at the level that they want to get to, and so they look and say, oh, well, the way I'm going to get there is by hiring that person from the competition who that's where I want to be. And they're not really thinking about it from that building perspective of who has taken something from where we are right now and filled that gap. It's definitely a valley of death. And so oftentimes the person comes in from that large company and then looks around and says, whoa, I don't have this. I don't have this. And it just turns into this really combative, frustrating relationship on both sides where they both feel let down or misled almost in the process of, well, that's what you're supposed to build, or, well, how am I supposed to do my job if I don't have these things? But yeah, it's a really

Valonda Banks (21:54):
Very well said

Meghan Lynch (21:55):
interesting pattern that you definitely see and I feel, and then it becomes only after you've made that mistake, then it becomes what you described about, okay, well now that I've done that wrong, now what don't I need?

Valonda Banks (22:12):
It's a painful, expensive way to learn the lesson it costs. The cost of a bad hire can be felt. There's costs that you definitely see on the bottom line, and there's ones that you don't see in how it just slows the organization down. Because when you're talking about a role like that, I think you use national sales director that's not just working with you, that's also they're working with a team of people who understand who probably were there before them and kind of understand where the organization is and then feel like, have I been doing it wrong this whole time? So then yeah, just that lack of clarity just brings everything to a grinding halt and then you're like, what's happening here?

Meghan Lynch (22:56):
And I feel like the values culture match for those kinds of positions, especially when they have a lot of customer interface exposure and things like that, that those people are representatives of the brand. And so if they're not quite culture fit or they don't quite believe in what's going on, or they're frustrated or confused, there ends up being ripple effects that the customer starts feeling, then the customer feels frustrated or misled or that the company's not living up to it's brand promise and things like that. I think particularly these are really expensive, frustrating mistakes to make, but I also think when it comes to hiring, we do get stuck in what we've always done or how we've always thought about these things. But to your point earlier, I mean people's lives have changed so much in the past five, 10 years. What they want out of work has changed so much. It seems like it would be really dangerous to get complacent around hiring process, how we're thinking about that. Are there any really unique or innovative approaches that you've seen out there of companies dealing with employer branding in a really different way that feels really kind of cutting edge right now?

Valonda Banks (24:28):
Yeah, I mean, I think it's sad when cutting edge is authenticity. I mean, the companies who I feel like are doing it really well, who are pretty three steps in the right direction before we show up are companies who are not trying to be innovative and cutting edge, but who are really being authentic. For instance, one of our clients is a data science company outside of Philadelphia, and they are, he'll say, we're not so cutting edge that we're barefoot and playing ping pong like Google. He'll say, we're not all that. We're also not in Amazon's cubicle city. Their web developers have cool areas to write 360 degrees in a room. They can write out code and they could do all of the things, but they have the ability to be remote and all of that. When we got there, they were doing something really cool and they were doing a round table.

So the leader who was in charge of the process was not a part of this round table, but is a part of an extended interview. This person had the ability to hop on and sit with multiple people and just ask some questions. We recommended that they kind of guide it and have a couple people on that talked about why they chose to come work for the company, what they absolutely loved about working there and what they found challenging. And with the leader off camera, not in the room not even listening. It was a great opportunity to see not only for the applicant to hear what these people said, but really to get a gauge on the questions that they asked and the ability to talk with them and see how interactive they were and give that a gauge as to what it would be like to rub shoulders with them because they were always on conference Zoom calls. They were on Zoom calls with clients, they were on Zoom calls with each other and just see what it felt like to be in that space with them. And that was great. It was great that the owner wasn't on there. It was great to find out later what were some of the questions, because that really tells you the questions that they asked tell you what they value.

Am I I was trying to think of a couple examples that have even come to us. Do they ask the right questions in an interview process? Are you getting the, I call it the LinkedIn set? LinkedIn says, here's how you should interview. And so I'll have people come in that will interview for a part-time operations coordinator role, which is essentially a glorified admin assistant. And they say, where do you see the company in five years? And we don't answer that question right away. We say, tell me a little bit about why that's important to you and if they fumble, I know they're just trying to ask good interview questions. Well, guess what? This job isn't about interviewing. So it's not about doing the right thing, it's about doing the effective thing. What I love is the people who say, okay, I've been in a small business before.

It can be kind of hectic. Tell me about how this place gets hectic. What I love that. Now it's an intuitive question about when I show up to the table at work, what's it going to be like and is that a place I want to be? I would rather have that question than though, where do you see your business in five years? I'm like, maybe I don't want to be here in five years. Is that what you want to hear? Yeah. So I feel like I've probably gone off on a couple rabbit trails there. But yeah, I think it's not about innovative and cut edge. It's about authentically can you pull back the curtain and how can you let them see as much about who you are and how you execute on your product or service? I think that's the most important thing. So how can you do that authentically because that allows them to come to the table authentically.

And I really want to know, Meghan, if you're interested in working for my company, I really want to know about you and how you think, I want to know how you work with your coworkers. I want to know if one of them isn't doing what they said, are you going to call them into accountability or are you going to call the supervisor? And I want you to come and feel comfortable saying that. So I'm going to pull back the curtain and let you see as much about what's going on here too so that we can all be for, it's so much like dating. It is a dating game, and I want you to come and meet my parents, and I want you to see what it's like to be with the in-law potential. And I want you to experience that. And I've had so many people comment on how thorough the process is, but how they really got to know, they appreciated getting to know Ed, who's our systems admin, who our clients never see, but who they will. And so I just think authenticity is so much more important than innovation almost, unless you're innovatively becoming more authentic.

Meghan Lynch (29:16):
Yeah, that's great. So I think the big thing that I hear you saying is that I think when people think about employer branding or start talking about that, oftentimes what it starts to get to is how do we make ourselves look as good as possible to attract really high quality candidates, whatever that means to us. And what you are saying is something a little bit different that what we're really talking about is not looking as good as we can, but instead being as open and authentic as we can and still finding ways to communicate our strengths, but not really with an idea towards how do we, I don't know, turn it into a marketing exercise or something. I feel like that there's kind of a nuance to what you're saying that sometimes gets lost in conversations about employer branding.

Valonda Banks (30:21):
Can I give you one more example? Yeah,

Meghan Lynch (30:23):

Valonda Banks (30:24):
Okay. So somebody asked me on Friday, it was one of our consultants asked me about a question about my husband, and the question was around how did he land you or something to that effect. And I said one of the most pivotal moments for me was when he saw an ugly part of Valonda and he didn't leave.

And it's so interesting because one of the things, I'll go back to the client who's got, they do inventory control audits and convenience stores in almost all 48 states and their video, they have employees talking, nobody. I mean, these are employees with the logoed shirt, but not the leadership and supervisors saying what they love and what they find really hard, really hard, and yet they're still there and why they stay. So we talked earlier, I said, you have some independence and you have some autonomy and you have early and early end day, but you also are probably going to get up at four 30 in the morning. You're going to drive your personal car and you're going to drive it all over it and you're going to get reimbursed, but you're going to put the miles on your car. And so in the video that everybody watches before we phone screen them, all the good is out there, but so is all the not so good.

And when people are still there in process understanding the good and not so good, that tells you you, you've got a good one. Just like when Jeremy saw nobody's perfect, he saw kind of an ugly side and was like, okay, I'm glad I know this upfront, but now I'm ready. And so I just think, again, I just think authenticity is so much more important than looking right, because what happens when they show up and you've made it look like we are happy hour on Thursday, we are Taco Tuesday. Nobody really cares if they don't like any of their coworkers or if the supervisor has no emotional intelligence whatsoever. And so if they come to work having a bad day, everybody else gets to have a bad day right along beside them. Like, now, I don't care about Taco Tuesday or my happy hour with my free glass of wine. So yeah, I just think authenticity is so key. It's really key in a good effective process.

Meghan Lynch (32:43):
When you're thinking about authenticity in the process and thinking about the metaphor of you and Jeremy dating, is there an order that things need to be done in? Do I need to show you the good things about me first for a certain period of time before I hit you with something that's not so good to make that work? Are there any tricks of the trade there?

Valonda Banks (33:13):
Well, if let's just talk about dating for a minute. So first you see a profile online. I did not see my husband on a profile online. I actually knew him from before, but let's just say you see a profile, you're like, okay, he's kind of cute, and oh, he does, this is interesting. I want to know about this. So what do you do? You have a conversation first, right? Usually it's a phone call or you go back and forth by email and you learn a little bit to say, okay, this is interesting enough that I want to take the next step. And that's essentially what we're teaching people to do. So does the application look good? Does the resume have enough skillset there that it makes sense to have a conversation? Okay, well then let's take that online profile slash application and let's have a conversation and we will go dig into at least one or two behavioral areas, not just, okay, so going back to a Liberty job right now we do resume review and interview scheduling.

So you've done similar tests like that, that's great, but have you done it for multiple people? Have you done this work for clients as opposed to just an employer? And so we'll dig into a couple behavioral questions, and the goal of that piece of the process is to say, is there enough good there that it makes sense to ask them to put gas in their car, drive into the office, spend two hours with us to see some of the work? And same, so when we're going through the process, we're asking them, so based on what you know so far, do you want to take the next step? That's how we end each part of the process. And so then now that I know it makes sense for me to take my time and you're saying it makes sense for you to take your time, now let's come in and now let's let you see, meet the family, let's let you meet the family.

Let's show you a little bit about what the family's like and how the family works together, like family dinner, if you will. And then after that, hey, does it make sense to take the next step? It does. And that's just kind of how we keep the process moving and do it in a way that's like this is two people making a decision. That's the other thing, going back to the job market and some like the old way, the job market, they made the assumption that you want the job so bad that when you do come in for an interview that you're interested in the job, you're forgetting that there's a person across the table who may or may not like what they see. So just even being to pause and say, does this sound like something you would like based on what do you want to keep going? Yeah,

Meghan Lynch (35:46):
Hiring interviews. I just feel like they're really high stakes on everyone's part, right? And just a critical point of failure for a lot of companies, like where those hiring mistakes are made. And being a really good interviewer, a hiring interviewer is not an easy skill to master, but I've seen you interview perspective employees and you are amazing at it. So I was curious if you could give us Valonda's top three interviewing tips.

Valonda Banks (36:23):
Yes. Number one, assumptions kill, good ones and bad ones. Anything I really liked the sound of that gets me what I call happy ears in the interviewing world where all of a sudden now all you could do is hear the rest of the interview through this amazing thing they just said, pick it apart. Never assumed. I had someone who I was interviewing with one time who said, I really need somebody who cares very much for the people. It was actually for an HR role. And he said, I need this person to be a culture carrier, and here we really care about our employees. And so it just so happened I wouldn't have been at the interview except for he was going to do it after hours in a smaller family business and everybody else would've left the office. So I said, can I come and just sit with you?

I know that you're going to be fine. I just want to make sure she understands that this is going to be, I don't want to you to invite her to an empty office after hours. And he said, I would love that. So we sat there and she said, I do X, Y, Z because I really care for people. And he's like, that's great. And I see him sit back and I see him be like, yes, okay. This is so good. And then she said something else because I really care about people. And he just checked that box all over again and I could just, you can just feel, I could feel he was settling into this. And so the third time I was like, okay, I have questions now. And I said, nice young lady interviewing for this job whose name I will not say here.

You said you really care about people. Can you tell me about a time that maybe caring so much about someone created an issue and she said, oh, without hesitation. Oh yeah, that would be the lady I came to invite to live with my husband and I, he was really surprised when I called him and told him that I was bringing this employee home to live with us, and I saw the person who was doing the interviewing just scribble and I could just see him cross things off. And so whether it's good, or even on the flip side, you get a question or you hear an answer and you're like, I don't really like the sound of that. Check it off. We were hiring for a large, it was kind of in the manufacturing space, but like a service manager. And he said, I forget what the question was, but his answer was, it doesn't look like the cards will play out like that.

And I was like, wait, so is this not in your control? And I didn't like that answer. I'm like, I don't want to put somebody as a leader of a $9 million piece of a very large business who thinks that everything's out of their control. And I asked him what he meant by that here. What he meant was the question was about where he saw himself progressing. That's what it was. He said, it just doesn't look like I could do that. And so when I asked him here, he had done his research and realized there were only two steps between him and the owner of the business who was the son of the original owner and knew it was probably going to stay in the family. And so he wasn't saying, I'm powerless. I have no control. He was saying, I'm probably close to my ceiling, which tells me, A, he did his homework and B, he recognizes that the structure is a family structure and we'll probably stay that way.

And I was like, oh, great. So it's just that whole idea. Some of us have our really know what the hill you're willing to die on is, and be very careful that you put a stake in the ground in someone's application until you've really processed what you heard and what was behind that. I tell our team all the time, it isn't what they say, it's why they said what they said. One of our most effective project managers, when I asked her, she had done some hiring before and I asked her what her favorite interview question was, it was one I would never ask, but when I asked her, why do you ask that question? Her thought process about the information she wanted to get out of the candidate was money. And so it's just that idea. I mean, I would say that's all three tips, Meghan, don't assume when you hear something you like, don't assume when you hear something you don't like and don't assume that the first answer is the real answer, just don't assume.

Meghan Lynch (40:45):
Yeah, yeah. No, that's such great advice because I mean, I think anybody who's done interviewing has had those moments where you fall in love or out of love with a candidate about something that they say. And so to stay present enough in that moment to recognize that that's happening to you and then to respond with curiosity, that's something that really needs to be practiced and honed as a skill. Both the awareness of this is what I'm feeling right now, and then also what do I do?

Valonda Banks (41:26):
And the best place to practice that is at home with your kids, with your husband, when they say something that makes you feel like, oh my goodness, he must mean that he's taking me out to dinner Friday night. We need to spend more time together. Instead of saying, tell me what you mean by that. I'm like, alright, what night do I need to get a sitter? What do I wear? And he's thinking, I just want to sit and hold your hand while we watch our favorite show on Thursday night. It's just that whole idea or saying, I just don't think we should spend money on that. Is he trying to tighten up my shopping budget when he's saying, I want to buy you a new car, so we're not going to spend money on the coffee pot. It's all about really understanding what's behind what you just said before I make my value judgment about what you're saying.

Meghan Lynch (42:13):
Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like getting really good at just asking lots of questions and figuring out how to get at those underlying, that's something that I'm sure isn't easy to do, but that with practice becomes better or with a little bit of training or feedback on, I saw you do this, and I would imagine for the first example you gave of watching somebody get excited and then modeling for them about how to act in this moment, I'm sure could be really helpful coaching for leaders who do a lot of interviewing to just have somebody from the outside be like, Ooh, this is what I saw you go through emotionally, and this is how I redirect.

Valonda Banks (43:09):

Meghan Lynch (43:15):
You are listening to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast for leaders with a generational mindset. My guest is Valonda Banks, CEO of Liberty Employment Solutions. In our final segment, I'm going to turn the mic over to the next generation. My 8-year-old son, Henry is coming in with some big important questions for Valonda. Take it away, Henry.

Henry Lynch (43:36):
Hi, Valonda. My question is, do you think your business will end and if it didn't end, would you need help?

Valonda Banks (43:45):
Wow, my goodness, Henry, eight years old going on 25, 30 something, I do not want my business to come to an end, which means I'm going to need help because if it comes to an end, I might not be around anymore. And we love what we do. We love who work with, and we love seeing people find the right teammates. And so I want to train as many people as I can to have to find really good teammates and then to empower them to go help other people find really good teammates. So I really hope it never ends.

Henry Lynch (44:27):
Thanks, Valonda. I also have a joke for you. Why did the can crusher quit his job? Because it was so depressing.

Valonda Banks (44:36):
I have a question for, I have a joke for Henry. Can I share a joke for

Meghan Lynch (44:40):
Henry? Absolutely would love that.

Valonda Banks (44:41):
Henry, what has five toes but is not your foot? It's my foot. That was my dad joke that I sent to my dad yesterday. I love dad jokes.

Meghan Lynch (44:54):
Love it. Thank you so much, Henry, and thank you, Valonda. This was such a great conversation. So jam packed with lots of great little insights that I hope listeners will be able to take and apply immediately to solving their people problems, finding the right people, and just making everybody happier in the process. If listeners do want to learn more about employer branding or Liberty Employment Solutions, how should they get in touch with you or how would they learn more?

Valonda Banks (45:25):
They can come find us at and they are welcome to email Don't forget the E. We would love to hear from you, even if it's just, Hey, I tried this, it was helpful, or I tried this, it wasn't helpful. Do you have another tip? We would welcome those as well.

Meghan Lynch (45:50):
Amazing. We'll link all of that in the show notes so people can click right on it. And thank you again, Valonda, as always. Just such a great conversation.

Valonda Banks (45:59):
Yes, thank you Meghan. It was great to be with you.

Creators and Guests

Henry Lynch
Henry Lynch
Co-host of Building Unbreakable Brands
Meghan Lynch
Meghan Lynch
Co-founder and CEO of Six-Point
Building Your Dream Team: Interview Strategies and Hiring Insights from Valonda Banks
Broadcast by