The Other Side of The Interview: Employers Need Help Too
These are 5 simple recommendations on your path to hosting better interviews that will leave a positive impression on the candidate and you in a better position long-term. They might also land you a resource that you actually need. Candidates can benefit from these recommendations too because it just might help them find their true self in an interview.

All too often the interview process can be rushed, the questions not quite aligned to what’s needed for the organization, the focus of the evaluation misguided by external events, policies, compromised emotional intelligence, unnecessary disruptions of perceived greater importance distracting the process end-to-end, and a possible desire for perceived perfection of a candidate that challenges the journey and the results. See, it’s not always the candidate’s fault that maybe the employer can’t find what they’re seemingly looking for if the employer isn’t either clear on what they’re looking for or the decision is being impacted by elements that aren’t relevant to the need for their selection. Yes, there are many woah considerations in that theory that those too proud in the way things have always been done will want to conveniently dismiss. If you’re one of those employers, these recommendations probably won’t work for you because you’ll read them from a glass half-empty perspective, looking for ways not to do them. Still you’ll probably read or listen on because you just don’t want to miss out. Either way, if there is a capacity to at a minimum consider the possibility that the interview experience could be mutually beneficial, then please indulge yourself and find ways to make the recommendations better or even customized to your organization or hiring situation.


These are 5 simple recommendations on your path to hosting better interviews that will leave a positive impression on the candidate and you in a better position long-term. They might also land you a resource that you actually need. Candidates can benefit from these recommendations too because it just might help them find their true self in an interview. So where do you start?


Have Some Fun

There’s going to be plenty of time for the successful candidate to face adversity without punishing them during the interview. Have an opening conversation like you would as if they already worked with you. Imagine if you talked to your staff every day in the same manner that you interview them, sitting across from one another, the same one always asking, the other answering, and never deviating from a script that only you have, while the candidate waits for the next dart to be thrown, hurdle to jump, or hole to avoid falling into. Dip into that part of their resume where they have perhaps and hesitantly through years of conditioning to limit the content due to some theory that what they do outside their core skills is less important, shared some hobby or volunteer interest and get them talking about something they enjoy aside from their work duties. Everyone will start to relax a bit and there’s a good possibility that the topic ends up naturally blending into a facet of the interview that will yield more insight than the more structured and standard questions. For example, if the candidate says they play an instrument, explore that, and let them shine right off the start. It will increase their confidence, get them into talking fluidly about something they may be passionate about, and the door to trust has been nudged open.


The best interview experience I ever had was one when I didn’t even know I was being interviewed. It was setup to be a lunch before the interview. At the end of the lunch the hiring manager offered me the position and to my youthful shock I said, “Aren’t we supposed to have the interview at 1:30?” He looked and smiled at me and said, “You just had it.” During that lunch we talked about what was going on in my life and things I enjoyed doing, as well as what my career plans were and it flowed so well, I didn’t even realize I was answering questions indirectly. I learned as much about him as he did about me and we laughed and had fun doing it. That manager ended up being the best manager I’ve ever had, and we thrived working together.


If you’re going for a more conventional interview though, there’s four more things for you to consider.


Set The Candidate Up for Success

There are two parts to this that first focuses on pre-interview arrangements and then on your integrity as an interviewer.


Part 1

If you’ve got questions that are deeper than what’s your favourite colour or tell me your greatest weakness, give them to the candidate well ahead of time so they can prepare. Yes, give the candidate the questions anywhere from 1 hour up to 24 hours before the interview. If there’s a presentation involved, given them 3-5 days. In doing so, you will remove the shock of any of the questions and the candidate will be able to focus on their skill, talent, and stories. Interview purists may want to point out that this would allow the candidate to “find the answers on the internet” or “ask a friend”, and that may be true. What is also true is that neither the internet nor the friend will be there to deliver the answer and if you’re as good of an interviewer as you think you are, it won’t take you long to evaluate if you’re getting a Wikipedia answer or if the candidate is giving you a relatable experience. In being able to see how the candidate functions at their best, you’ll get a head start on assessing where they fit into your needs. You’ll also get insights into their preparedness skills.


Part 2

Build an interview pool of candidates that you’re willing to consider hiring. While from candidate-to-candidate they may not be aware that you’re interviewing 9 other candidates for 1 position, your engagement, enthusiasm, body language, and other signs will emerge throughout the interview process, possibly impacting the performance of the candidates, especially if you’re quota-filling. Interviewing without intent does a disservice to everyone involved and will impact other parts of the process and recommendations. Besides, if you need to interview more people just to fill a quota, you’ve got bigger systemic problems in your organization that need to be addressed and dragging candidates through a process that isn’t going to yield them a true opportunity is just shady and compromises your integrity. You can avoid shady through authenticity so let’s talk about that.


Seek Authenticity

Several on-line articles provide candidates an extensive list of possible interview questions that a potential employer might ask, usually a standard set of questions that come across very transactional and never really yield the true nature of the candidate’s personality or capabilities. Things like, “What made you apply for this position”, “why do you want to work here”, or “what is your greatest strength”. Yawn! What meaningful answers do you think will emerge? As an employer you’re going to get answers that are as standard and stale as the questions themselves. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Shawshank Redemption”, there is a scene where Morgan Freeman who plays a character called “Red” is repeatedly asked at parole hearings from year to year if he feels that he’s been rehabilitated and every year he gives them a canned answer of what he thinks they want to hear, until towards the end when he is really old and perhaps more wise, and he replies with something more meaningful and insightful that intrigues the listener through authenticity, resulting in achieved freedom. As an employer if you want to live interview ground-hog day, then don’t change a thing – asked the canned question, write down the canned answer. Otherwise, if you want to get to Red’s final freedom that has meaning and substance, ask the right question in a way that invites an authentic answer and lets the candidate reach into their true self. To do that, you must ask questions in an environment and manner that communicates bi-directional trust, which most employers will find difficult to do in a short period of time. To extract true-self, you must find your own true-self.


Celebrate Authenticity

Once you found authenticity, don’t look for ways to normalize it, instead embrace it. If you have a candidate who is being transparent and giving you more than your standard answers by letting you into their past and present life experiences at work and home, acknowledge it without trying to change it. Have you ever seen one of those workplaces where the team members are generally happy, will work a bit longer when needed without a quip, and maybe answer the phone when they’re not at work? Chances are their employer knows more about them than their greatest weakness and they can have an open conversation about deliverables, communication, strategic and tactical decisions, and more. That is in large part because they’ve recognized the authenticity of their team member and celebrated it by reciprocating it organically. So, during an interview if you see authenticity, grab on to it and don’t let go because you’ve got something special right in front of you. I was recently on a social media site where an employer was asking other employers about their experience with getting staff to answer the phones to ask if they can come into work, while they’re off. You want that phone answered? Celebrate authenticity by reciprocating authenticity and start doing that right in the interview to establish a solid foundation.


The post-interview activity is also just as important as everything leading up to it. Interviews can be like a house of cards, fun, exciting, and beautiful while you’re building it, but easy to come crashing down and a bad post-interview experience can do just that. So how do you ensure the right closure takes place?


Follow-Up Right

There are 3 parts to following up right that focus on contact, timing, and relationship building.


Part 1

Whether you’re hiring the candidate or not, call them to deliver the news. Don’t text them, don’t e-mail them, don’t splurge on a stamp and send them a letter because all those things say two things about you and your organization: 1. You’re not authentic and 2. You’re not a leader. Pick up the phone and have an authentic conversation with them where you talk about the good things they did and the future opportunities to improve (and be sure that those improvement opportunities are legitimate, not some made up generalized statements that challenge your credibility and authenticity). If you don’t have time to do it on the initial call, offer another time where you can give back to the candidate the same time, effort, and respect they gave you in applying for the position.


Part 2

Call the candidate within a reasonable amount of time from the conclusion of the interview. Generally, within two weeks. Anything after that regardless of whatever self-justified reasons you may have, communicates that they’re not as important as whatever else you were doing.


Part 3

Stay in touch with the unsuccessful candidates. If the candidate showed interest and did well, but just wasn’t there yet, invest in your new relationship. Think about the fact that you probably spent several weeks pouring over resumes, setting up calls, interviewing, scoring, and then here you are at the post-interview chat and you’re going to toss all of that away when you hang up the phone or of course if you’ve chosen to hide behind an e-mail? No – instead, offer to stay in touch and then maintain the relationship because even if you never work together in your current role, there may be mutual future growth opportunities for both of you.


These five recommendations are formed in synopsis, founded on real experiences over the course of a 25+ year career. Understandably, some of them may not be achievable because your organization has certain interview structures and policies that prevent this level of logic engagement and so you may have to either be creative or look at constructive ways to influence a more positive outcome. As a candidate, it’s ok to look for these types of relationship builders and use them to assess whether you want to actually work for an organization that isn’t capable of achieving them because the gaps from not being able to do these simple things will eventually creep into your conversations, your work, and your career. It also provides a good foundation for true self constructs that you may want to look for in an organization and the hiring individuals.


If you came here for the standard interview advice, well, I promised you that you weren’t going to get it and I kept my promise. I gave you, my authenticity.


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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