Source | Leadership IQ
When a candidate enters the room to interview, it signals a shift from recruiting: attracting them to the organization, to interviewing: conducting a diagnosis of skills and attitudes to see if they’re a fit for the organization. But one of the biggest mistakes hiring managers make is missing that signal and continuing to recruit when they should be interviewing.
You want candidates feeling excited about the job and saying nice things about the organization after the interview (even if you don’t hire them). But filling interview time with warm and friendly recruiting pitches cuts into valuable interview time. The toughest interview questions subtly prompt candidates to reveal their true personality without being guarded (try your hand at these interview questions on the free quiz Could You Pass This Job Interview?). But in order to get candidates to drop their guard and reveal their hidden flaws, you need to make them feel positive and relaxed. It’s a tough transition to make.
Giving candidates an agenda that outlines what’s going to happen in the interview smooths the transition from recruiting to interviewing. The more transparent you are about the process, the more relaxed they’ll be. And the more relaxed they are, the more revealing their interview answers will be.
Once you’ve offered the candidate some water, coffee or a soda, and invited them to sit down, move right into an agenda script such as this:
“I read your resume and I’m really excited to learn more about you. I’d like to take the next 40 minutes learn all about you, your history, the things you’ve done, and all the experiences you’ve had. I’m really excited to hear all about that. And then, what I’d like to do is to save the last 10 minutes for you to ask any questions you have for me. Does that sound okay?”
It’s a nice way to establish an agenda without sounding controlling. If you make this person a job offer, you do want them to actually accept it. So it’s not going to work if you start the interview by saying, “Listen, I want to make crystal clear that I’m the one in charge here. So you just sit there while I grill you with questions for the next 40 minutes.” We have to establish control in a subtle way by outlining the structure of the interview while still providing a welcoming environment.
You’ll notice how the first part of this script says ‘I’m really excited to learn more about you.’ Offering the candidate a compliment that says ‘Wow, you’ve got great stuff to tell me’ makes them excited to share lots and lots of information. And that’s exactly what you want because the more they talk, the more you learn.
The script also sets a very clear expectation about how much talking the candidate needs to do. It doesn’t say ‘You tell me some stuff and we’ll see what happens.’ It says, very clearly, that we’re going to learn about you for the next 40 minutes. (Note that I’m basing this script on a 60 minute interview; if your interview is longer, just adjust that 40 minutes accordingly).
And the script closes by asking the candidate ‘Does that sound okay?’ It’s the rare person who will say ‘No, it doesn’t, I won’t do it.’ (And if they do, it immediately tells you to end the interview and to not hire this person.) What this simple question does do is it gives the person being interviewed a feeling of control. When candidates feel like they’ve lost control, the interview feels like an interrogation, which makes people become passive, reactive and taciturn. But give them a choice that provides a feeling of control and they become an active participant and partner in a deep conversation. Your candidates will relax, loosen their tongues, and you’re much more likely to learn all sorts of things that they hadn’t planned on telling you.
Finally, establishing this agenda is a great way to avoid the gamesmanship that goes on in some interviews. This is where the interviewer asks a question and then the candidate answers that question with a question and on and on it goes. Many candidates have been taught that they should take control of the interview, so this is an expected situation. But when you use this agenda, you’re basically nipping that technique in the bud and nicely saying ‘We won’t be playing that game today.’