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Perfecting the Interview – A Waste of Time

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On the one hand we all agree that the one ingredient for a successful candidate is fit. Does this person fit inside our culture? Can they do business our way? Can they represent us? Can they get along with all our folks?

So what do we do? We scan resumes in a flimsy attempt to match experiences and backgrounds with what we think the job might become. Then we bring them in for a face to face. Rather than trying to get a sense of who they are and how they might fit; we instead do this nonsensical interview dance. We both read off the same script.

Most interviews are nothing more than some perverse exercise in regurgitating the textbook, counselor, job site suggestions on how to answer the same dumb questions. We ask safe, perhaps open ended but rarely probing questions [lest we violate some HR dictum], and listen to the carefully crafted, practiced and rehearsed responses. Blah, blah, blah.

We learn little about fit, habit or intention. All we learn is how well prepared the candidate is for an interview. It’s a colossal waste of time – for me at least.

Instead I do my best to break the candidate out of interview mode. I don’t want to know how well prepared they are for the standard questions. I want to know what’s inside their soul. I want to learn what makes their heart beat. I want to discover how they might be motivated, encouraged and led to work with us.

That requires some radically different questions. I jump topics and switch gears. If the candidate reveals something I pursue that topic. I push, pull, probe and poke until I see it in their eyes – that they are talking to me about what makes them tick. They reveal how they feel about work. They disclose what’s important to them. They give me some insight into whether they just might be a good fit.

So, throw out the how-to books, the best practices web site lists and the counselor notes on how to do the interview. Let’s start discovering not how well they interview but how well they might succeed in our organization.

If your interviews are no indistinguishable from others, and the candidate does not leave remarking, “Gee that was different,” then ask yourself this. If my company is different. If we’ve created a unique culture with a competitive advantage, then why are our interviews the same old perfect waste of time as all the others?

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