When Things Go Wrong in InterviewLand, Part 2

Past posts about interviews gone wrong assumed that the candidate screwed up. But we, as interviewers, also have a responsibility to shape the way interviews unfold. Imagine if a talk show host, news anchor or sports reporter didn’t prepare for an interview. They didn’t research what had already been written and asked silly questions, or neglected to ask questions that would deliver a riveting story. They had a chance to unearth new information and they blew it.

But how often do we do that as interviewers? We look at a resume for 2 minutes before the candidate walks in. Or not at all. We’ve heard stories where interviewers launch into a long and disconnected narrative about the company or role, and never ask questions or allow for a dialogue.

Here’s a quick 4-step framework for conducting a productive job interview:

Step 1: Establish rapport

We liked this recent article from The Corner Office of the NY Times, excerpt below.

Here, Grokker’s CEO and founder, Loren Borenstein describes how she sets up interview “to help the candidate do as well as possible.. to show their best self.” This means creating a rapport early by asking questions the candidate can comfortably answer.

How do you hire?

I always start with sharing life stories. I want you to know where I’m from, and how I got to be where I am, and then I want to hear that from you. I want to understand what makes you tick, what your competencies are, and then hear about examples of when you either got it right, or when you got it wrong, and what you learned from it.

I also want to understand why you really want to work here — what is it that we’re going to do for you, and what are you going to do for us? And I also want to understand your long-term aspirations.

What’s your thinking behind telling your life story first? Many people just prefer to ask questions.

Because my objective in an interview is to help the candidate do as well as possible. I want the candidate to show their best self. And I think if you’re generous, and you put them at ease by being somewhat vulnerable in opening up first, and modeling the behavior you’re expecting, it really does put people at ease to let them show you who they are, and all that they can do. I think it’s a really poor interview style to try to catch people or trip them up.

Look for this technique next time you watch an interview. Most reporters don’t come out swinging. They focus on building trust first. Check out our previous post by Killian Young for more tips on establishing an early connection.

Step 2: Assess Skills

Once you’ve achieved a level of comfortable small talk and you’ve gotten a read on personality and storytelling ability, you can move to ascertaining fit. Don’t try to wing this. Think about what you need to hear to convince you that this person is right for the job. Ask for examples. Have them quantify their achievements and contributions in terms of campaign results, business won, client satisfaction, cost savings, etc. Don’t allow the candidate to gloss over details. Keep prompting until you’re satisfied you have a compelling story to replay to the rest of the hiring team.

Step 3: Evaluate Cultural Fit

If you’re satisfied the skills are there, you can move to questions to determine cultural fit. Think about the immediate team members this person will interact with. How will your candidate respond to their personalities and needs? What motivates them? Do they require structure and direction, or are they more of a maverick, self-starter type? What was their favorite job and why? What’s prompting them to leave their current company?

Be able to articulate the reasons why/why not this candidate will do well there, not just your gut instinct.

Step 4: Confirm Interest

If your candidate has knocked it out of the park, don’t let them leave without mutually confirming interest! Good talent is in high demand. They’re likely talking to a few other companies and who knows how long it will be to gather and deliver feedback to them. Outlining next steps and encouraging them to email with additional questions is a strong way to close out the interview.

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