The 5 Secrets of Great Interviewers

Oct 31, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. We’re reposting each of the top 25 articles between now and January 2nd. This is No. 12 of 2016. You can find the complete list here

In today’s market, it’s imperative to utilize interviewing techniques that will maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people for the right roles. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the recruitment and search industry, I have found there are five secrets that are key to being a great interviewer.

The first secret is knowing what you want, before you start the interview. You need to understand the role that you’re interviewing for, the purpose of the role, and the outcomes the role is required to produce for the organization. In addition, you should understand the core functions of the role, who the ideal candidate needs to be, what competencies the ideal candidate needs to have, and what the right experience is for this kind of position.

The second secret is to use an interviewing guide. You can either use a work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need to answer – like a template or a format – or use a values-based behavioral interviewing guide.

Even after all the years I’ve been in recruiting, I prepare for interviews to ensure I ask all the right questions to make a conscious choice.  I’ll be honest, there are times I’ve found myself on autopilot and I immediately reschedule the interview, or get access to my interview questions, so I can get back on track.

The third secret is to get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. Many of us are doing 15 things in an hour, and then we rush to do an interview. Or, we do an interview on the run or in our car or a coffee shop. We’re not present and we’re not listening, which causes us to have a superficial conversation and make a decision based on a few things we’ve heard and many things we didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear. This only leads to regret down the road, so it’s important to be present. It’s also important to be in a quiet place, and in a frame of mind to be ready to listen and most importantly, ready to hear.

The fourth secret is to listen from a place of curiosity and open-mindedness. You’ve already defined the role, you know what the core functions are and what the ultimate purpose of the role is. Now you listen to learn: “Does this person have the core competencies, the values, the work history, the attitude, the belief system, and the skills that your company needs for them to do this job?” What’s most important to listen for is who the person is, what they can do and what they want to do.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to hear a yes to everything. With 50 million millennials coming into the workforce, in most cases they’ll need some level of training; their experience is limited. So, what you’re really listening for are core competencies, values, attitudes, and beliefs about themselves and about work. Sure, some of the Echo-Boomers need training in people readiness and that’s also something you’re listening for.

The key is in listening: 70% of the interview is you listening. If you’re talking more than 30%, you’re not interviewing.

The fifth secret is for the end of the interview. Let the candidate know you’ll get back to them in a specific period of time with an answer or next steps. Go through a checklist and debrief within an hour, so you don’t forget anything that was really important. You want to spend 10 minutes reflecting on how you experienced the candidate’s answers, as compared to what you need.

When you can put aside old interviewing techniques and habits, and deploy these 5 secrets, you’ll be setting yourself up to be a great interviewer and will maximize your effectiveness in hiring the right people for the right roles, every time.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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