Five on Friday: The Art of the Interview


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“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

Interviewing truly is an art form. And while people often give advice about how best to present yourself as a candidate at a job interview, how exactly to conduct yourself when you’re on the other side of the table is less commonly discussed. But since the importance of fielding a talented, cohesive team cannot be overstated, we’ve compiled a list of things to keep in mind when it comes time to interviewing people to fill a new position within your company.
Have a game plan.

Make a list of all of the responsibilities that your new employee will have. Then make a corresponding list of all the qualifications that one would need in order to adequately take on those responsibilities, and use these things to write your interview questions. Bring the list with you into the interview and take notes throughout the process. While instinctual feelings are often very telling, don’t try to rely on that and memory alone.

Create a positive, open atmosphere.

It can be tempting to put the candidate through the wringer, so to speak, just to see if they’re the type who can perform well under pressure, but that is not the best way to ascertain much else. Instead, start with a few straightforward questions in order to help them relax and open up. This list of 9 tips was written with journalistic interviewing in mind, but many of the same concepts can be applied for job interviews.

Ask for specific examples rather than generalizations.

Questions like “what’s your biggest weakness” and “what does your current position entail” are more than likely going to be answered with rehearsed responses. Instead, ask the candidate to talk about a specific problem that they’ve had to deal with or what a typical work day for them looks like. Similarly, since a line-item on a resume may have been added because it’s something the candidate has done once before but hasn’t necessarily mastered, ask for elaborations on how they’ve used certain key skills.

Let them do most of the talking.

Answer any of the interviewee’s questions, of course, and be sure to give them relevant insight into the company’s culture, but you should try to do 20% of the talking at most. You’d be surprised at what some people will volunteer in order to fill a moment of silence, and those moments can be some of the most revealing.

Ask one unexpected, seemingly irrelevant, question.

One CEO asks every candidate what they would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. On top of bringing out a little of their personality, he says that the question shows who the candidate is on the inside—what they truly value. If not zombies, come up with one unexpected, fun question that the candidate probably hasn’t heard before. You’ll catch them off-guard (in a good way) and get some good insight in the process.

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