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26 Apr

Interviewing for Deeper Understanding of the Candidate

  • By Cannabis Industry Institute
  • Hiring, Interviewing, Management
  • 406

When you’re ready to hire a cannabis industry candidate, it’s essential to go beyond their experience to determine intangibles — such as work ethic, reliability and honesty.

This post offers a few ideas and tools to both help candidates, and help interviewees as they are interviewing for a deeper understanding of the candidate. For those of you on the other side of the coin, the candidate, this post reveals what employers are looking for so you’re prepared for your next interview.

Pre-Employment Assessments


The most obvious tool for assessing personality is, well, a personality assessment. This assessment is typically a short test given to candidates, and often asks them to respond to hypothetical ethical dilemmas, such as what they might do if they caught their manager stealing. It may also ask candidates to rate themselves on personality attributes such as honesty, reliability and loyalty.

Pre-Employment Assessment

It’s best to purchase the rights to use a personality assessment from an outside company, rather than writing your own. This practice saves time and ensures the assessment is fair, unbiased, and will stand up in a court if ever accused of discrimination. An internet search for “pre-employment assessments” will yield many good companies that provide these tools for a reasonable fee, or free.

Here are some free assessments to consider:

  • The Fascination Personality Test: Measures hidden talents and unrealized potential by qualifying how the world sees the test-taker.
  • The Four Tendencies: Are you or a candidate an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel? Determine how the test-taker’s tendencies influence actions.
  • Myers-Briggs: This widely used psychological instrument defines the test-takers’ distinctive personality based on their preferences.


You can’t do much to influence the outcome of these assessments, and you should never try to present yourself as something you’re not. A personality assessment can help a company determine a number of things depending on the type of test administered – your strengths and weaknesses, how you solve problems, what type of work you most enjoy, how you work with others, what type of experience you have or how your background may influence your actions.

Don’t take it personally if an employer decides not to hire you following an assessment. If you aren’t what they’re looking for, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy working for that company anyway. It’s a two-way street and both parties need to be happy for a long-term and fulfilling work relationship. Unfortunately, finding your dream job isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Background Checks and Previous Employer References


In the cannabis industry, it’s extremely important to run a thorough background check on every candidate you may potentially hire. The primary benefit is legal protection and screening out unprofessional candidates. However, you can also use background checks to gain subtle insights into a candidate’s personality.

For example, a candidate may be unreliable if he or she has never held a position for more than a few months, or if they have a criminal history for stealing or violent crimes.

Reviewing a background check might also net a few contacts from the candidate’s past, which you can contact for references. Because most candidates only provide references guaranteed to give glowing reviews, additional contacts generated via a background check might offer a more accurate and unbiased review.

Background Checks


Let past employers know you’re seeking employment in the cannabis industry so they can prepare themselves to speak to your work ethic if contacted. If you suspect a past employer will have negative things to say, you could preempt the conversation by explaining the situation to the prospective employer.

If you have legal issues that could show up on a background check, that is another potential conflict you want to get ahead of. Many cannabis businesses are required to complete a background check on employees, so let them know if you have a “red flag” on your report.

These issues might be able to be explained away depending on the situation and what the employer is looking for. You also need to be aware of the legal disqualifiers that might prevent you from working in the cannabis industry. These are different from state-to-state so check the qualifications in your area before applying.

Honesty is always the best policy.

Preliminary Screenings


Hiring isn’t typically something company’s like to do often. It can be expensive, time-consuming, long and stressful if you’re not getting the responses you want. It’s important that you find the best candidate the first time around to prevent losing additional resources on a single roll. Preliminary screenings can help reduce the time from application to hiring by weeding out candidates upfront, rather than waiting until after an interview.

Choose must-haves for the job and disqualify applicants who don’t make the cut as soon as possible. Maybe you need someone with experience in the cannabis industry, or you require a Certificate of Completion in a cannabis-related area. Perhaps you require a certain number of years experience or a particular type of skills, software knowledge, or familiarity with the systems you use. Regardless of what is required, you will get applicants who don’t meet these hard lines.

Preliminary Employment Screenings

Step one is to remove any candidate who does not meet your must-haves. Once you’ve eliminated them, you can do phone screenings with the remaining applicants who you are most interested in. A quick 15-30 minute screening can tell you a lot about a person that you can’t find on a resume…do they have people skills, are they familiar with the software and systems you rely on, how do they feel about the culture of your business, or what is their educational background in cannabis. After gaining a better understanding of the candidate, you can decide if an interview is the next step.


As a candidate, you need to be ready for the process set up by the company you’re applying. Sometimes steps to employment can be long and you may not see the value in multiple interviews with a variety of people, pre-employment assessments or situational questions. However, if you want the job, you’re going to need to play by their rules.

Just because you don’t meet all the requirements listed, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. Your cover letter is your opportunity to explain why you should not be overlooked for the position. Your cover letter serves as an explanation to your resume. You might not have previous professional experience, but maybe you’ve have life experience or additional education that would prove equal on the job. When done right, your explanation can come out looking like a strength rather than a weakness.

Interviewing Tactics


Pre-employment assessments and background checks can tell you a lot about someone’s personality, but not nearly as much as their behavior and demeanor during the interview. However, some candidates try to adopt an “interview personality” as an attempt to appear as professional and employable as possible. Your job is to get past this and glimpse their true nature.

One useful interview tactic is asking open-ended questions. For example, an interviewer may ask, “how long have you worked in the cannabis industry”? Instead, you want to say, “tell me about your experience in the cannabis industry”. Don’t give candidates the opportunity to respond with a quick “yes”, “no” or numerical response. You want to go deeper than what you can learn on a resume so ask questions that can provide long answers.

Many hiring managers find that using behavior-based questions provides more insight into how a candidate may perform on the job. Behavior-based questions often start with, “describe a situation…”, “tell me about a time when you…”, or, “give me a specific example of a time you…” and challenge the candidate to talk about how they handled past experiences.

These questions can be especially helpful in providing insights into a candidate’s behavior in interpersonal interactions. You want to make sure budtenders can deal with difficult customers and grow technicians can relate to co-workers.

Open-ended and behavior-based questions force interviewees to think on their feet. This increases the likelihood of them abandoning the “interview personality” and showing their real personality. They also lend themselves better to further conversation, which can provide deeper insight into a candidate’s personality and experiences.

Interviewing Tactics


Prepare yourself for long-form questions with responses that highlight your abilities and strengths. Additionally, you also want to speak to the specifics of the job you’re applying. Make sure you’re familiar with the job responsibilities, the company’s mission and the products and/or services provided.

Having done your homework on the job and the company, shows the interviewer you’re serious about earning the position. This knowledge will also enable you to answer questions more easily with the mind-set of an already-hired employee. Gain a deeper understanding by visiting the company’s website and social media pages. Follow the company and the interviewer on LinkedIn to create a connection and learn about their background before the interview.

Companies, especially cannabis companies, invest a lot into their employees and don’t want high turnaround. Depending on state-specific legal requirements, employers may face high application costs for background checks and badges. Take the extra steps necessary to find (and be) the right candidate so you can concentrate on growing professionally.

If you’re interested in adding cannabis-specific Certificates of Completion to your resume, or upskilling your employees for streamlined onboarding and training, add these online tools to your business to take the stress out of hiring. These credentials will both get your resume noticed, and give you the knowledge necessary to make cannabis your career.

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