In Interviews

1. Seek first to understand then to be understood

This of course is one of the key principles from Dr. Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Too many hiring managers are so intent on describing the position that they forget to take the time to be a good listener. During the interview process, many hiring managers make the mistake of talking too much about themselves or the job opportunity, and leave little time for the candidate to show how they may fit. The more you let a candidate speak, the more you learn about the candidate. You will also learn if they can accomplish the tasks ahead or if they will fit your team.

2. Know who must interview the candidate in advance

When possible, a team approach to hiring can help. Hiring managers tend to have certain bias that is often referred to as “hiring in their own image”. The team can help check this by following predetermined criteria. Allowing other staff members to interview the candidate will not only help educate them about the environment at your organization, but it will also provide you with more data points about the candidate. Different interviewing styles will also help bring out different aspects of the candidate that you alone may not have discovered.

3. Don’t wing it, prepare some questions in advance

If you don’t prepare for the interview the candidate will know it. Although following standard questions may be better than just winging an interview it also is often perceived by candidates as very impersonal and as if the hiring manager is going through the motions. Questions that are specific to the candidate’s background show that you have reviewed their background and it is a better way to evaluate if they are a fit.

4. Let the candidate interview you also

You are not the only one making a decision in this setting. When you are seeking top talent there will be competition for their services. You must have an aspect of selling the benefits or working for your organization. Seek out what is important to them and see if you can highlight how your company can meet this need.

5. Reward well

You cannot pay uncompetitive wages and expect to get the talent that is the best. Top performers still must be paid at market or above market rates. Consult internally with Human Resources to see if they have access to market information. If you can’t find it there, ask your peers in your industry you work in. This will pay off in the long run.

6. Ask specific questions about significant projects or accomplishments

Lou Adler had a great article about this type of interview question. He referred to it in this article: “The Most Important Interview Question of All Time” He went on to propose this question: “What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?”   From there you can really dig in with great follow up behavioral based questions. I have often found that top candidates don’t even need much prompting and really know how to convey how their past accomplishments position them well for future success.

7. Don’t miss the details

Take note of things that might seem trivial and consider their bigger implications. Did the candidate dress inappropriately? If so, what does that tell you about how they may fit in your office setting? Did the candidate arrive late and fail to take responsibility? If so, how might that translate into performance on the job?


There is no doubt that competition to hire top performing professionals is getting tighter.   Combine this with the fact that many business leaders are a bit out of practice from having to compete for this talent. It is time sharpen the interview skills and land those candidates who can add the most value.

I am very interested in your view on the following questions.  Do you sense a changing environment and increase in competition for talent?  Has your company made changes in how they hire to increase the quality of candidates they hire?  I look forward to your feedback.

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