One day, while I was training a cashier at the same drug store chain, she made a common beginner’s mistake. I said, “Let me show you what went wrong.” She said, “No, just tell me what button to push or who to call.”

“But it’s very simple; if I show you what went wrong, you’ll know what not to do next …” She interrupted me rather defensively. “No, no, I don’t want to know. Just tell me who to call!” I could see I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her (and I was a mere cashier myself, not a supervisor), so I acquiesced, but I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she even care to know?”

Obviously, she just wanted to be fed a set of simple commands that required no independent thought on her part. But even the simplest jobs require a modicum of attentiveness and concern. The trouble is, applicants don’t walk into interviews with signs that say, “I truly care.” or “I say I care, but I really don’t.”

So how can you tell if someone truly cares? One way is to ask the applicant a theoretical question that involves some skill that he or she does not possess. “So, let’s say I wanted you to make a late 19th century bustle dress and chemisette. How would you do it?” If their answer is merely “I don’t know.”, you’ve probably got the wrong person for the job. Even if the applicant hasn’t the slightest idea, they can still say something like, “I guess I’d Google it first so I’d know what you’re talking about! Then since it’s some kind of dress, I’d try to find a pattern, then I guess I’d have to take a sewing class.”

A good employee cares enough to ask questions to do their job better, whether they’re making a bustle dress or just running a register, and a good boss appreciates it.