The Control Freak’s Guide to Interviewing

There’s nothing uglier in the world of recruiting than an interview that spins out of control. Trust me, it’s not something you want to see-from any angle. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that you get to know your own interviewing style, so that you can keep it under control. We all have a tendency to seek out aspects of ourselves in the people we choose-not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes lead to a kind of tunnel vision that excludes other possibilities. By taking a hard look at your own interviewing techniques, you open yourself up to a wider range of talents and abilities. There are three basic styles of interviewing: emotional, intuitive and technical. Which one describes you? If you make fast decisions (usually in less than five minutes) based on things like first impressions and personal biases about personality and appearance, then you’re definitely in the emotional group. If it takes you up to 15 minutes to decide, and you base your judgement on your “gut” feeling about a few critical traits, you’re an intuitive interviewer. Technical people take a longer time (over an hour) to come to a positive decision, basing it on a candidate’s strong skills, experiences, and methodologies. Think of your internal decision-making mechanism as a three-way switch, with “Yes” at one end, “No” at the other, and “Maybe” in the middle. It’s important to keep your switch at the “Maybe” position for as long as possible. Moving to “Yes” too early might make you feel relaxed, but it’s also likely to end in tears-causing you to ignore negative data, to globalize strengths, to slip into a selling mode and (worst of all) to stop listening. A premature “No” can be equally dangerous: biases about age, physical characteristics, even race can easily override a candidate’s strong points. Try to remember that nobody is really at their best during an interview: even the seasoned professionals get anxious or tense. The good news is that these effects usually wear off after 15 or 20 minutes. Hopefully, your switch will still be in the “Maybe” position when that happens. Here are ten quick tips to help keep you in control during an interview:

  1. Fight with yourself to stay objective. Recognize when you feel either too relaxed or uncomfortable-keep your buying switch in the “Maybe” position.
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  3. Conduct a 20-minute performance-based phone interview BEFORE you sit down. When you talk with someone on the phone first, you automatically minimize the impact of personality and first impressions.
  4. Don’t start the actual interview right away; chat or take a walk together instead. This will help minimize emotions and set up the framework for a good dialogue.
  5. Use a pre-planned, structured interview. Write down a few performance-oriented questions to ask right away, whether you like the candidate or not.
  6. Measure your first impressions again after 30 minutes. Compare with your original feelings and evaluate your reactions.
  7. Change your frame of reference: ask tougher questions if you like a candidate, easier ones if you don’t.
  8. Listen four times more than you talk. The interview isn’t a casual conversation-it’s a fact-finding expedition. Get a page of notes for each of the candidate’s accomplishments.
  9. Treat the candidate as a consultant, someone you’re paying to listen to. We always listen more carefully to those we consider experts.
  10. Talk about real work instead of hypothetical issues. Accuracy will increase if the interview is more like a problem-solving session.
  11. Use a panel interview to minimize emotional response. With less worries about a one-on-one relationship, you can get to the truth faster.

Now you’ll never have to feel out of control again-at least during an interview.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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