Archive for August, 2014

The Magic Elixir in Interviews

August 25, 2014

Of all the ingredients that make for a successful interview from both the interviewer’s and candidate’s perspective, there’s one ultimate element guaranteed to ensure a next step. Rapport, interest, honesty, consistency, credibility, suitability, inquisitiveness, intellect, self-awareness, passion, vision, drive, listening skills, and respect – they all lead to one must-have destination: trust.

People buy from people based on trust. In the interview setting, it’s no different. Both hiring executives and candidates go through mental checklists – either consciously asking themselves questions or tapping into their own intuition. Let’s look at some of the common checklists that help to determine trust.

* Is the candidate telling the truth? Short of a polygraph, there are specific attributes interviewers assess to help determine honesty. Consistency is a good starting point. Does the resume align with the LinkedIn profile, back-channel reference feedback, and answers to interview questions? Have answers to similar questions from all members of the interview team been consistent? When answering questions in a face-to-face interview, does body language vary much from answer to answer?

* To what extend is the candidate exuding candor? It’s one thing to tell the truth. It’s another thing to tell the truth in a forthright manner. When asked about areas of improvement/personal development as well as to recount specific times when they faced adversity, do candidates answer in an open, complete and humbling manner, revealing all related warts and pimples? By contrast, are the answers more guarded, delivered less naturally compared to other answers, and presented with minimal detail or with glaring omissions?

* How deep is the candidate’s expertise? Interviewers are looking to see detailed answers, flowing naturally and staying on point without too much thought. They want to see someone able to articulate the inner workings, nuances, and inherent challenges of their role. They need to be convinced that the candidate possess a deep understanding of the space the role serves (e.g., target audience, industry players, market dynamics and trends, etc.). When discussing specific scenarios from past experience, are candidates providing complete fact-based pictures? In asking how the candidate would approach the new position, interviewers are seeking detailed, organized and logical thought process in the candidate’s response.

* Does the story make sense? Every candidate has a career story to tell. Yet, does it all add up? There’s an implicit credibility check that every hiring manager conducts in their mind, at least to some degree. For example, does the candidate’s purported extensive experience and ongoing success in a particular discipline match up to their ability to convey an equally deep understanding of the role and all related intricacies? With such broad, real world experience that the candidate supposedly brings to the table, they should be able to present themselves as a subject matter expert with ease and authority.

* Will they fit in? From a personality, communications and interpersonal skills standpoint, candidates must help interviewers envision a cultural fit. Hiring managers need to be convinced that the upbeat, charismatic and personable communicator they are interviewing will remain so once they’re hired. Even the most subtle signs of a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome in the interview process could threaten trust of a fit. Most interviewers are quick to pick up on candidates’ personality and communications style that include occasional hints of negativity, abrasiveness, crudeness, or air of superiority. While nearly all candidates have experienced troubling situations that caused them to leave a company, it’s the way in which candidates recount these events that can have a significant bearing on the cultural fit determination. For example, a candidate who reflects back on such career moves with negativity, a victim mentality or resentment, is not helping their own cause.

Interestingly, all of these questions apply to the other side of the interviewing fence. Candidates need to believe that hiring managers are being open and honest about the opportunity. Does the company’s story make sense as well as the reason why they’re hiring for the position? How credible is the hiring manager’s depiction of the company’s culture, financial well-being, and vision for sustainable growth? Can they back it up with specifics? And every company has its share of warts and pimples, too. Are they willing and able to describe those candidly?

In the hiring process, establishing trust is key to risk mitigation. Whether a manager making a critical hiring decision or a candidate seriously considering a new career opportunity, there is plenty at stake for either side. A manager’s poor hiring decision can result in a multi-faceted setback – opportunity cost to the team’s (and company’s) growth and momentum, deleterious effect on cultural health and team cohesion, and decreased confidence from others in the organization. Likewise, a candidate’s ill-fated career move can reflect poorly in terms of an unsavory job hop, questionable judgment and inability to handle difficulty.

In the interview process, trust is more than a nice-to-have, warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s a critical milestone that must be attained in order to proceed forward in the hiring process.


Action items:

  1. Consistency and candor go a long way towards engendering credibility and preventing the proverbial BS meter from activating. Tune in to these attributes when engaged with others.
  1. Every candidate has a career story to tell just as every hiring manager has a company story. Focus on the elements and progression of the story to see if it makes sense and that there are no glaring elements missing or conflicting elements. Check with other people who can corroborate the story.
  2. Trust is a two-way street, and for both parties, it is in their best interest to ensure that trust justifiably exists on both sides.