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7 Interview Tips From Bob The Builder And Five-Year Olds

7 Interviewing Tips We Can Learn From Coal Miners and Five-Year OldsWe’re actively recruiting at the moment so I have been interviewing quite a few candidates myself (primarily on Skype) over the last few weeks. Not as many candidates as Jenn, but enough to know that I definitely haven’t lost my touch!

Of course I have always loved recruiting for my clients and helping them build their teams. But the excitement and adrenalin levels certainly go up a notch when you’re recruiting for one of your own.

I’ve had a few candidates share feedback with me like “I didn’t think this interview was going to be so gruelling”; “Some of those questions really made me think”; “Thank you for seeing past the nerves. That was awesome”; “There’s no way I could have prepared for that”; or “You must have been the interview master back in your day”!

Back in my day? Really?

So I just wanted to share a few tips whether you’re interviewing candidates over the phone, on Skype, or in person to ensure you don’t accidentally miss out on your next rock star.

1. Chip away slowly at first

You know what it’s like. There’s a candidate sitting opposite you and you can tell straight away that they’re pretending to be somebody else. It’s important that you see past “Mr Uber Confident” or “Little Miss Enthusiastic”, but it might not happen immediately. Tell them to relax and to just be themselves. Don’t launch into interrogation mode straight away. Try to get them to open up a bit. Sometimes it even helps to say something like “Before I ask you any more questions, I just want to make sure I’m talking to the real [insert candidate’s name]”.

2. Just keep digging

In one of our recent webinars I discussed the importance of asking specific or situational based questions during every candidate interview. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep digging until you get to the core of the response.

For a complete ‘STAR‘ answer, you need to ensure you drill beneath any generic or superficial response until you are satisfied that your candidate has described a specific Situation; the exact Task that they were faced with; the Action they took to tackle it; and of course the final Result.

One of my favourite reactions to even a slightly generic response is to say, “OK. Thanks for the textbook answer. I’ll let you start again”.

Watch their reaction. It works.

3. Keep your torch on at all times

Candidates often have the innate ability to give very convoluted responses to even the most basic questions. It could be nerves or it could be that they’re not really listening. Don’t let them lead you down the wrong path or give you the response they think you need to hear. Make sure you keep them on track. Guide them in the right direction. You don’t actually want them to get lost or to fumble along blindly in a dark cave.

You just want to know whether they can honestly answer your questions. Keep the spotlight on them (no … not like in a police interrogation situation) so that they know you’re actually there to help them get through the interview.

4. No really … how? Tell me how?

I remember my nephew once asking me how ‘they’ could build a tunnel under the harbour.

I am not exaggerating here but after at least 10 “but how?” or “but why?” questions, I had actually given the most detailed explanation so that even a five-year old had no more questions and was satisfied with my description of the engineering feat behind the tunnel’s construction.

Kids know how to keep asking (often incessantly) until they’re happy with the answer. Take a leaf out of their book, and if your candidate’s response isn’t detailed enough, throwing in a few “but hows” can suddenly provide you with the response you’re really after.

5. Slow down and tell me what actually happened

A child runs inside. You hear the words “mean”, “sandpit”, “hit”, “spit” and “hate” before the outburst of tears. A kiss on the head, a hug, or perhaps the bribe of a piece of chocolate and suddenly the tears stop and you’re able to make sense of it all.

Aside from the textbook answers I mentioned above, there are candidates out there who have a habit of talking about situations they weren’t even involved in.

Don’t fall for it.

The most obvious sign of a candidate ‘twisting’ the truth is where they speed up, start dropping in buzz phrases, and basically try to baffle you with bullsh*t. There is nothing wrong with telling the candidate to slow down and then (without coming across like an angry parent) asking them to tell you what really happened.

6. Don’t be scared of the dark

No – this one is not the kids’ equivalent of the miners’ torch scenario above.

Interviewing candidates can be terrifying for many first time hiring managers. But rest assured,  you’re not going to come across any monsters, witches, ghosts or bogeymen.

You may well need to close your eyes and take a deep breath before walking into your first few interviews. But just remember an interview is simply two adults having a professional conversation.

Oh … and by they way, there’s a chance that your candidate is actually more scared than you are.

7. Are there any questions?

Remember back in infants’ school when you’d have to stand up for “News” or “Show and Tell”?

There’s a nice flashback for you.

At the end of our little presentations about what we did on the weekend or over the holidays, we’d have to ask the class “Are there any questions?

Would you prefer to face a group of cross-legged blank stares sitting in front of you on the mat? Or would you rather they ask you more about your day at the zoo or what you ate for dinner at your aunt’s place in the country?

Wrapping up an interview can be difficult – especially if there’s an awkward silence. So make sure you ask your candidate if they have any questions. If they don’t, it usually means they’re just not interested or they can’t think on their feet. It definitely doesn’t mean you’ve covered everything.

*       *       *

Oh and in case you’re wondering, we’re currently on the hunt for exceptional Sales Executives on both sides of the Pacific. That’s right … Sydney and San Francisco. So if you know any results-driven go-getters, please feel free to send them our way.

Paul Slezak

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

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