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The Art of Interviewing

4 May, 2014 By: Patrick Fitzpatrick, Human Capital Sales

If you are to the point of having a qualified candidate sitting in front of you; this isn’t the time to forget the investment you made to get him / her there. Maybe the candidate came through an inexpensive employee referral.  Perhaps you pay a recruiter a contingency fee or have them on a retained search basis. Maybe you even have your own in-house recruiter or team.

The point is there is already a substantial investment made. Now, are you going to leverage that investment and dig into this applicant’s background / resume, or are you going to ”sell” them on the position because it has been open for so long you are starting to feel the pressure?

It’s tough to get a good candidate in front of you, but it’s an even bigger mistake not to really drill down on accomplishments and get past the platitudes of them saying “I work hard’; “ I am a team player”; “I am dedicated” - and get to the “How did you accomplish that?”  You need to ask tough questions, which reveal tactics and strategizes.

I like to start out by making the candidate feel comfortable, often making small talk for the first few minutes. I don’t want the information I am after to be clouded by his or her nervousness. We have all been there and any interview process is an anxious-type situation. I understand that even competent and strong people can be nervous, so I try to take the nervousness out of the equation.

If they have been in the workforce for less than 10 years, I like to have them walk me through their resume from college graduation through their present position, explaining their thought process along the way, including why they chose their college major and/or decisions to leave a company for the next. This gives me an insight into their decision making capabilities, their communication style, and their sense of comfort in delivering information they are familiar with. It also takes me out of the talking mode and into the active listener mode. This is the number one pitfall I have observed in interviewers: The interviewer does most of the talking! 

 Talk vs. Listen

Here’s a good rule of thumb: The candidate should be talking 90% of the time.  That’s not a typo, as your job as an interviewer is to get the person talking about themselves.

In your preparation you should be looking for gaps in the resume and have some questions ready. Challenge them and see how they react.  Some quick research on the companies they have worked for will give you a basis for second and third level questions. Ask probing and open ended questions. Seek contrary evidence and see how they react. Do they get rattled? Get defensive?  Seem less than truthful on the presentation of their skills or background?

Whatever you do; do not answer the question for the candidate. You might not believe it but feeling sorry for the candidate is more prevalent than you think, and the interviewer will sometimes want to “help.”  On the other hand, clarifying a question is fine if the candidate asks for it or if you feel they didn’t get the essence of what you were asking. Don’t try to fill in silences. See how comfortable the candidate is with them and their ability to move the conversation along. Remember, you are evaluating their communication skills more than anything else. They will be representing you to your clients and you won’t be there to assist them along. Do they make you feel comfortable? Would you buy from them? Are they engaging, funny, entertaining? Would you look forward to speaking with them again?  When you have someone with the skills to sell, a verifiable history of success, and someone you enjoy being around and talking to, you have what you are looking for.

In closing, ask if they have any questions and be prepared to answer various ones about your company and what it is like to work there. Their questions will reveal a lot about what is important to them. Are they concerned with you and what your company is trying to accomplish or are they more concerned with how many weeks’ vacation they get in the first year?

If you sense you have a great candidate in front of you, begin selling your company subtlety. Talk about recent wins or promotions of people in his or her age bracket or how financially rewarding it is to work at your company, and see how they react.

If the candidate is borderline in your mind, observe how they pursue the next step. Are the displaying a passion for working at your company or are they just looking to end the interview and get out as soon as they can?

Finally, take notes; take good notes. After two weeks of interviewing, candidates will begin to collapse together in your memory. If you have good notes you will be able to go back and compare the first candidates to the most recent ones. The candidates should be fine with note taking. In fact I always say I am going to take some notes, and for them to feel free to take their own if they like. This can also be an indicator of how professional and committed to detail they are.

Remember, you have made a substantial investment either in time or money or both to get these candidates in front of you. Do it right and select the best fit for the job.

Patrick Fitzpatrick is Managing Partner of Human Capital. For more information visit http://www.humancapitalsales.com or phone 864-979-1070.

About the Author: Patrick Fitzpatrick

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