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A typical job interview is a conversation between two liars: Fernandez-Araoz

Source | LiveMint : R. Sukumar

New Delhi: Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, global expert on hiring at executive search firm Egon Zehnder, has interviewed more than 20,000 executives in more than 40 countries. The author of books like It’s not the How or the What but the WhoGreat People DecisionsHiring Without Firing, and How to Hang on to your High Potentials, he is a frequent lecturer at Harvard Business School. In an interview with Mint, he speaks about succession planning and leadership assessment. Edited excerpts:

You must have hired a lot of people. How many?

I would have interviewed 20,000 people and hired about 400. That translates to nearly four interviews per day over 20 years. The more I interview, the more cautious I get to complement my interviews with reference checking, because even after 20,000 interviews, I still trust more in what people working close to the candidate can tell me about the person.

What can we learn from this?

A typical interview is a conversation between two liars. The hirer will tell the candidate that come and join us in paradise…it is a spectacular place, look at the integrity…we change the world, society… And the candidate who is desperate to get the job would say that the day I join you it will be like walking in paradise.

A lot of people ask questions in an interview which are absolutely useless. A typical question is: tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. What would you expect from a question like that? It is like a glorified lie where you show something that you hope the other person will interpret it as a strength which you tried to disguise as a weakness. The right interviews are interviews where you really focus on what needs to be done and you check that the person in the past has been able to do something similar that requires similar skills under similar circumstances.

For example, if you are looking for a project manager that needs to work on a strict deadline and a very strict budget, then you should ask the person if he has been in a situation where he had to manage a situation with a very tight deadline and a strict budget. Ask what was the situation like, what was his role, how did he do it, what were the circumstances and consequences. And then you need to complement or confirm that the person is telling you the truth. Technically, these are called behavioural type of interviews, where the person demonstrates that he/she has the right kind of skills to successfully perform in the job.


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