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The Art Of Interviewing

HRH 5 | Art Of Interviewing

There is an art to interviewing. As an interviewer, you can’t just spew out questions and expect to find the best person you are looking for because sometimes, those who are good during interviews tend to be the least fit for the job. In this episode, Andrea Hoffer talks about the three key areas you need to consider when approaching the interviews you conduct. Get the details you really need with your interviews. Listen in to this discussion to learn more.

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The Art Of Interviewing

We’re going to talk about the art of interviewing. This is more of an overall approach to interviewing. We’re not going to specifically talk about writing interview questions or drill into what to listen for. You can find that in some previous episodes and we’ll do some future episodes about it as well. I want to talk about the three areas to how you approach the interviews that you conduct. The reason I want to talk about this is because lately, we’ve been asked to start observing some of our clients conducting interviews. As part of our program, we always train our clients on how to interview effectively. We even create a customized interview guide with specific interview questions for them to ask and the reasons we want them to ask and what to listen for.

I’ve been finding as I observed these interviews, which we’re not sitting in on, we’re observing them as recording later. I’m seeing some trends and I’m realizing that maybe some of our training needs to approach certain areas that we haven’t approached before. I want to focus in on three questions. The first one before you do an interview is, are you prepared? Are you truly prepared to do this interview? This is important. Do you have your questions together? Is it a structured interview so that you’re asking every candidate the same questions? There’s a specific reason that you’re asking each question. There’s something specific that ties back to the job. We’re a big fan of behavioral interview questions where you’re trying to get to the specific details of how the candidate showed up in the past and what specifically they did.

The other thing is, are you prepared in a way that you know why you even need this position filled? What are the results or the outcomes you’re looking for from this position, from the person who fills this position? If you don’t know that, it makes it very difficult to conduct an effective interview. How will this position support your overall company mission? People want to know how they fit into the big picture. What is the big job that they’re fulfilling that’s going to push your business forward? From that, you figure out what experience and skills you’re looking for. That’s usually the easier part, but also what is a success trait? What are the characteristics that you know to be successful in this position and in your organization that they need to have? When you have that, you can start to build very effective interview questions.

[bctt tweet=”The more relaxed and conversational the interview is, the more honest the candidate will be.” username=””]

Those are some of the things around being prepared and I’d like to take a step further even by practicing role play. Conducting an interview is very important. It’s not just going through a list of questions and asking them or letting the candidate speak and say whatever they want. You need to practice this skill. Test it out with some of your current employees and see what kind of feedback you got. See how they answer to see what kind of responses you’re getting from them. Would you hire them based on how they’re responding? It will help you get a feel for, “Are these good questions?” It’s getting comfortable with the questions so it’s more conversational when you ask them.

That brings me to the area that I’m seeing come up a lot lately and this is question number two. Are you taking on the leadership role when you conduct an interview? That might sound a little odd to you because here you’re the employer and in many cases, we work with the CEO, the person who built these amazing companies and has amazing leadership skills, and then we’re putting them in this interview situation. We’re giving them these interview questions and we’ve talked at length about what they’re looking for. We’re seeing them veer off the plan or when they ask the questions, not having some confidence behind them. They’re asking them more like a checklist and not drilling in to see if the candidate is answering the question.

This is important because you could have the best list of interview questions and know what you’re looking for. If you’re not taking leadership of that interview and making sure that you are going through all the questions that you know need to be asked to get a good feel for if this person is the right fit for your position and your culture, then what was the point of all that pre-work, of all that preparation? There is a very specific outcome that you’re looking for from that interview and if you don’t take on the leadership role, making sure you ask all those questions that you prepared ahead of time and making sure that you listen and probe to get all the information you need. What does that mean? You could ask the question and a lot of the questions that we encourage our clients to use are asking for specific examples of how the candidate showed up in the past and in different work situations.

HRH 5 | Art Of Interviewing

Art Of Interviewing: Nothing is foolproof, especially when you’re talking about people. Still, the more information you can get from them on the front end to understand who they are and how they showed up in the past, the better decisions you’re going to make when it comes to hiring.

Often, the candidate may answer generally. Sometimes it’s up to you to probe a little bit. That doesn’t mean to tell them what to say or give away the answer as we like to say, but to probe on what happened next? If you’re not getting all the details you need to get a feel for what the situation was, how the candidate showed up in the situation, what were the results, and what did the candidate learn from it, then you need to probe them a little bit. I’m not saying to just keep peppering them with questions constantly until you’ve grilled them to pieces. Do probe them a little bit because sometimes they need permission to know. They don’t want to over-talk. They may have felt that if they speak too much, it’s going to sound like they’re nervous.

They might be very analytical in general and be very thoughtful of how they’re saying their answers and being concerned about sharing too many details. You want to let them know, “I want to hear a little bit more.” If they share a situation and you don’t feel like you’ve gotten maybe the results of that, you can say, “What happened next?” You can even ask, “I don’t have a good feel for what your role was in this story, in this situation.” Let them share that with you. If you just move on to the next question and you didn’t get all the information you needed, it’s not fair to you or to them. It’s very important to keep that leadership role.

When you ask the questions, ask them with authority. I’m not saying to be mean. I’ve seen that approach as well, where you want to see if the candidate can hold up against tough grilling. That’s not a good approach. We do recommend that you make the candidate feel relaxed and you make it seem more conversational so that they’re honest with you. You don’t want their defenses up. Why would you want it to be a bad experience for them? That reflects poorly on you, but at the same time, you still want to show them that you’re the leader, that it’s important to you to find the right person for this job. You feel like it’s important for them as well because you don’t want to hire them if they’re the wrong person. It’s not setting them up for success. You want to show that the questions you’re asking are important to you. There’s a reason why you’re asking each question and ask them with authority.

I’ve seen a lot of the interviews I’ve been observing where the questions don’t come out clearly. They’re just read without them buying into the question. That’s where the preparation comes into. If you’ve practiced them and you’ve read them out loud a few times ahead of time, then it will come more smoothly to you. It will sound like to the candidate that this is important to you, which it is because you want to get as much information as you can from the candidate to discover whether or not they’re the right person for your team. The third question that I would like you to ask yourself is, are you truly listening? It’s where the probing comes into.

[bctt tweet=”One of the reasons we hire the wrong people is because we’re fearful of the outcome. ” username=””]

If you let them speak and say their answer, and maybe even ramble on a bit in different ways, and you don’t try to direct them or probe them a bit to get the information you need, maybe that means you’re not listening to their response. You’re not doing yourself a favor and you’re not doing them a favor. Keep in mind that they’re nervous and what I’m starting to see is that a lot of the interviewers are just as nervous as the interviewees. That’s interesting because this is where the fear comes up. This is one of the reasons why we hire the wrong people. We get so concerned that we’re going to make a mistake that we’re going to hire the wrong person. I’m seeing it start to come up in the interviews where we’re fearful of even asking these questions because we’re fearful of the outcome so the steps we take to get there are affected.

I would like to encourage you to first understand, nothing is foolproof, especially when you’re talking about people. The more information you can get from people on the front end and to understand who they are and how they’ve showed up in the past, the better decisions you’re going to make when it comes to hiring. In order to do that, you need to truly listen to what they’re saying to you. If something strikes you as odd or you don’t understand something, it’s okay to ask more questions. What you want to find out while you’re listening to the responses is, are you truly understanding the situation that they’re sharing with you? What were their responsibilities in this situation? What were the tasks that they needed to get done? What actions did they themselves take? If they start using the word “we” a lot, you need to find out what was their role. Which actor were they in this story? What were the results? This is called the STAR Method. It’s a popular method for responding to interview questions. It’s one that’s taught a lot to candidates, but it’s also a good method for how you listen and comprehend the responses that you’re receiving to make sure you’re getting all the information that you truly need.

Part of those results that you’re listening for is what did they learn from the situation? What changes if any, did they make from it going forward? Sometimes you need to probe a little bit. I don’t ask straight out, “What changes? What did you learn from this?” That’s giving away the answer. It’s usually I love saying, “What happened next?” or “Did you see this situation or something similar in the future? Walk me through what happened there.” There are different ways and maybe we’ll share a bunch of probe questions on our website because we’ve been getting that question a lot like, “Give us some more ways we can probe for responses.” Keep a look out for that at

I want to end by saying the three questions you want to ask yourself before you do an interview and even after you do an interview. One, were you prepared? Were you ready? Did you know your questions? Did you know what you were listening for? Two, did you truly take on a leadership role? Did you allow the candidate to go off in different directions, which led to you not walking away with the information you needed? Three, which ties into the other two is where you listening to what they had to say so that you were able to gather the necessary information? I want to thank you for joining me. I look forward to our next episode together.

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