Search for Yes: Successful Interviewing Practices

Andy Adams is a Sr. Account Executive with CareerPlug, whose background includes extensive recruiting experience.  He has spent time in the trenches as an agency contract recruiter, as well as a direct hire recruiter.  Once a month, we have asked him to share his insights, tips, and advice on a particular recruiting topic.

There are countless articles and posts out there that can give you tips and ideas for how to interview better.  There are plenty of tests, skills assessments, and other tools that you can use to make sure the candidate you are interviewing has the right skill set.  Even after following a lot of these tips and testing candidates until you are blue in the face, you still may not end up making the right hire.

You need to interview candidates in a manner which gets you to a “yes”, instead of putting them through a dog and pony show trying to uncover the “no”.  When you do that, you’re typically ruling a candidate out based on a skill they haven’t used in two years or lack of experience with a certain tool.  You are not taking into consideration everything else that candidate may bring to the table.  By searching for the “no”, you may miss several things that can make candidates a “yes”.  After all, that skill set they are a little rusty on can be taught or coached if you’re worth your weight as a manager.

So, how do you interview candidates in a way that works you towards a yes?  There are several simply ways, that when implemented, can help you get the right people on your team:  Do not treat them like a “candidate”, do not go searching for the “no”, let them do most of the talking, and do not look at their resume/profile for the first time when you sit down at the interview table.


Do Not Treat Them Like a “Candidate”

But, they are a candidate, right?  Wrong.  They are a person.  They are a person that you have to potentially spend 2000+ hours per year with.  When you are hiring someone that you are going to spend that much time with, treat them like a human being and have a conversation.  By lobbing questions at them like grenades and not really engaging them, how can you get a feel for what it would be like spending more time with them than you husband, wife, or kids?

When I decided to relocate to Austin, TX from Ohio, this exact situation is what factored into my decision.  I had multiple job offers and I accepted the position I did because my future manager treated me like a potential member of the team from our first conversation.  I was engaged; I never felt like I had a “stupid question”; I felt like part of the team from the minute I stepped into the office for my interview.  The other opportunities just could not match the experience that I had.  Ultimately, I turned down a comparable offer and one with a little bit more money because of the way I was made to feel during that interview process.

Do Not Search for the “No”

I do not mean that you should not properly screen candidates.  You absolutely should.  What I am saying is that you should interview candidates and work towards reasons, yes plural, to say yes.  A lot of the times you won’t get there, but you will find that you’re focusing on a lot more than checking boxes next to skill sets.  Skills are important; obviously, I am not getting hired for a Mechanical Engineer position, but if you are even interviewing me for that role…the waste of time is your own fault.  By treating candidates like people, you are getting a more holistic view of how they would fit in by asking about their projects, successes, challenges, interests outside of work, etc.  Then you arrive at this:

  • Will this person’s personality fit on my team?
  • Do they have the necessary skill set or can they be coached to have the right skills?
  • Does their experience align with what we are doing as part of our growth plan?
  • Will the challenges they have faced allow them to bring a unique perspective to the challenges we face?

If the answers don’t align with what you are looking for, then you are given your “no”.  You are also not alienating candidates during the interview process, causing them to turn around and say “No” to you, once you have decided they earn a “yes”.  This happens more than you imagine.  I have had a number of candidates turn down offers because the hiring manager just seemed to be searching for a reason to say “no” to them.

Time to down the sign and get some real face-time?
Time to take down the sign and get some real face-time?

Let Them Do Most of the Talking

This one is simple:  How can you learn about a candidate if you don’t listen to them?  Get them talking about their experience, their projects, their passions etc.  Then listen and take very detailed notes.  Obviously, stay engaged and ask for clarification and detail where things are vague.  But keep in mind, you are not going to learn anything about them and build towards a yes by talking.  It’s through listening.

When I first started in recruiting, I remember presenting a candidate to a hiring manager that was not local, not willing to relocate, and only willing to work remotely.  Candidates for this particular role needed to be local or willing to relocate and had to work onsite.  I did not know any of these things about my candidate.  They had the right skills, a great personality, and wanted the job.  I also talked way more than him during our interview.  It was embarrassing, but I learned really quickly what not to do.

Do Not Make the Interview the First Time You See Their Resume

First of all, it’s embarrassing when this happens.  We, as interviewers, expect candidates to be prepared for the interview.  We need to extend the same courtesy to candidates.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that this preparation will you allow to do the other three things I mentioned effectively.  Any candidate that is worth your time to interview, should be treated like gold because hiring is hard.  Why make it harder?  This preparation will also help your credibility as a manager by conveying interest, organization, and putting the focus on the candidate.  That helps minimize turned down offers that cause you to start your process all over again.

Last story before I go: I previously had a client that worked with multiple recruiting agencies.  The managers biggest complaint was that, no matter what firm presented a candidate, his offers kept getting turned down.  After conducting a mock candidate interview with him, I learned that he was guilty of all of the above.  He was de-valuing candidates, not learning enough about them, and in most cases, it was the candidate walking away.  I had to work with him to re-train him on how to interview.  Only four candidates later (he had been through about 35 previously), he had an accepted offer.

So, as you can see, by treating candidates like people, working towards a “yes” instead of searching for a “no”, being prepared and listening, you can greatly improve candidate experience and limit your stress by getting the right people hired.

What tips do you have for interviewing?

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