Do your interviewing skills still hold up?

Do your interviewing skills still hold up?

There are about as many interviewing techniques as there are people who conduct interviews. Everyone is different, so that provides opportunities for us to learn from one another. I hope to offer a few ideas of my own for your consideration. Some of these ideas might seem a bit odd. That’s okay, because it’s the odd stuff that gets us thinking, and if it works to our benefit, then it quickly becomes perfectly normal.

So, let’s look at what some might consider odd interviewing techniques. As odd as they may seem, they can help us make a nice match between our enterprise and the candidates who make themselves available to fill positions we have to offer. Better yet, perhaps these techniques will help you find someone who can make their own position within your firm, even if you don’t have an opening.

Does that seem odd? Yes? Okay, then let’s discuss that as our first of many interviewing techniques.

Interview even if you have no opening on your staff. I’ve always been a contrarian of sorts. Tell me I can’t do something, and before you know it, I’ve accomplished the impossible. There isn’t any reason we can’t extend this contrarian view to interviewing by simply interviewing candidates when we really don’t have any openings.

Why? Simply because you might discover a superstar who, with a little encouragement, can “create their own position” within your firm. Imagine someone who is self-starting, self-motivated, very talented, and good at drumming up business. That kind of individual would be capable of finding and completing their own work assignments. Why wouldn’t you extend a job offer to that kind of person? What more would you want out of an employee?

Once while interviewing a candidate, he asked me what position we were hiring for. I replied that we had no openings. His mouth flapped open for a moment and then he asked why I was interviewing at all. I calmly replied that we were in search of individuals who could create their own position. I told him if a candidate was good enough to make their own position with the company, then they would be extended an offer to join the firm.

Now that I have the odd one out of the way, let’s look at a more basic suggestion.

Match the interviewing techniques to the position. This might sound like a basic recommendation, but it can be elusive. You’ll want to spend more time and effort interviewing your future section head, while it won’t be nearly as much effort to find a good clerk or administrative position. Support staff won’t need to be put through the “cheese grater,” but more pivotal positions within your company will require much more time and effort.

Let’s look at some of the techniques for crucial positions within your organization.

Don’t look at the resume. One of the first things many interviewers do is look at the resume. I don’t. Remember, that’s how I screened them for the interview, so the interview isn’t the time to look at what has already been reviewed in detail. Instead, I immediately engage the person in a conversation and never look at the resume until I’m finished with the interview and want to make certain I haven’t failed to investigate some aspect of the candidate’s experience. Even if the interviewee suggests that I find the answer to my question on their resume, I dismiss that and make them tell me their own version of the story.

This is one way to get them engaged in a meaningful exchange. When handed the resume, I put it on the desk and slide it completely away from my immediate reach so the interviewee knows that they are “on the spot” and their well-crafted resume isn’t going to carry the interview. They’re going to have to come through the “cheese grater” with their own presence, not something that they spent hours laying out on paper.

Ask basic questions to find a cultural fit. Regardless of what your enterprise may be, you need to match the culture of the individual with the culture of the operation. Find out about your candidate and his/her:

  • ideal work environment
  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • personal goals

I always like to ask a candidate what others would say about them. That can lead to some great insight about how well the individual might fit into various aspects of your operation.

They better come out selling. Again, it’s another no-brainer, but something that can be overlooked in the excitement of the interviewing process. Is your candidate selling to you, or are you selling to them? There’s a big difference between the two.

A candidate who is selling to you is one who is showing enthusiasm, ability and interest in your organization. When you think of it, that’s their main job – win the position by selling you on how well they fit with your organization. If they’re not selling, then perhaps they aren’t sufficiently interested in the opportunity. If they’re not interested, then why would you be?

From your perspective, you should only be selling them on your organization after you’re sold on them being part of it. The key here is to recognize when both you and your candidate are excited about the prospect of being engaged in an enterprise as a team.

Interview with multiple people in your organization. Unless you’re a “mom and pop” organization, you’re better off if you have multiple supervisors and managers interviewing your candidate. Find “stake holders” as well as disinterested individuals who can help you see your candidate from another perspective.

I like to use a “wet blanket” type and a “tough nut” type to help me verify my own perspective on a candidate. If your “wet blanket” man likes the candidate, then perhaps they have some especially good qualities that even the nay sayer can’t turn a blind eye to.

The more important the position, the more you should try to expose the candidate to multiple and more senior members of your staff.

Interview in various situations. An office interview is fine, but perhaps you might do a “tag team” interview in a conference room or a “good cop, bad cop” interview to see how the individual reacts to a tense or stressful environment. How about a lunch interview? That’s a good way to let the candidate relax a bit and perhaps provide more insight with respect to who they are as a person, not just a job candidate.

I once interviewed a guy while wine tasting. Me and another gent from the office took the candidate wine tasting and we all had a great time. At the end of the day, it was clear that our candidate was a nice man with varying interests, good technical skills, and he could hold his own in a wide range of circumstances. And, he shared some of the values that many of us in the company shared – we enjoyed fine wine.

My last suggestion is to interview all day long. You don’t have to tire out your candidate, but you need to spend time with your prospective employee. If you rush through the interview, you’re really processing the person, and you won’t have enough time to allow his/her presence to soak in a bit. Also, a day long interview gives everyone another chance to step back in and ask follow-up questions.

The last aspect of an all day interview is that it gives the candidate a chance to see your operation as well. They should be just as interested in soaking up your operation as you should be about soaking up who they are and how they might fit in. This just can’t be done effectively in an interview that lasts 30 minutes or even a couple of hours. The more important the position, the longer you should spend with the individual.

So, as you search for good employees, remember to find good skills, but also match them with your culture so you have a good technical as well as team fit. Also, try different things to help you distinguish between candidates who just want a job, and those who are truly worthy of an opportunity to be part of your enterprise. And, remember that employing an individual is a serious decision, so take your time to make certain it’s a good fit – all decisions of this nature deserve careful thought and deliberate action so it works well for everyone involved.

Clair Schwan has interviewed his share of job candidates, and he’s still not convinced that there is a best way of doing it, but he’s certain there are some wrong ways to go about finding a good match between a candidate and a job opportunity. If you’re on the prowl for a job, you might be interested in Clair’s 12 suggestions for how to find a job, and his advice on why it’s important to find a job that’s yours to lose. He wishes you well as you face the challenge of the interview, and hopes that you find a career opportunity that is just right for both you and your future employer.