Listen – It is the hardest thing to do in an interview. It’s almost as hard as showing up to work after a late night eating grilled meats and watching fireworks. Happy Birthday, America. #4thofJuly
Recruiters and hiring managers pay thousands of dollars to training firms to become the best interviewers. They buy pricey technology that is supposed to predict a candidate’s success and think they are clever by asking them who their spirit animal is. None of this matters, if you do not listen.
Always assume the candidate knows something you don’t.
Interviewers: You want to tell your story about your company, life, and career paths. So tell it, but then shut up. A good candidate has already researched you and the company. Instead, let the candidate tell their story.
These are a few of the things you will hear from the candidate – you will hear about their problems, what they know, and equally as important, what they do not.
A conversation with a candidate that is worthwhile should be both messy and clean.
It’s messy in that you are unsure about the person you are listening to. Do you trust them? Do you see yourself or your team working with them? The truth is that you are uncertain because you do not know them.
It’s clean in that there is something about them that you align with. They seem to get it – they are prepared and can share good stories with facts and figures to back up their resume. The candidate’s career is in order, and it matches what you need them to do.
The problem is when the interviewer doesn’t listen.
To make yourself listen always summarize to the candidate what you just heard after each question. By trying this method, you will quickly discover whether you listened and learned something, or that you didn’t listen and missed parts of their story. The candidate might correct your summary of what you thought you heard, so learn from them and then move to the next question.
This is your chance to let the candidate talk and figure out if they want the job – while also, once again, listening.
Interviewers: When you do speak, speak the truth to the candidate about the job and make it sound interesting (don’t be boring), but also let them talk and figure out if they want to work with you. Sharing the truth is good, and being funny is good. Talk about how great you are, but don’t make yourself sound too great, even if you are the best executive in the world. I doubt Bill Gates starts his interviews by telling someone how great he is…
Like Socrates, a good interviewer knows they actually know nothing during an interview. Your secret weapon will be your ability to listen, learn, and then take action.
PS – Anything beyond four interviews with a candidate is overkill. Find three to four diverse people on your team who are good at interviewing, ask them to speak with your candidate, and then make a decision. Do not ruin recruiting with bad interviews, lousy coffee, and inadequate technology.
Ben Martinez – family guy, coffee critic, planker, and HR & Recruiting journeyman. He has successfully worked in HR leadership roles around the US and Mexico for Fortune 500 companies (Pepsi, Honeywell, and Energizer). Most recently he was the VP of People & Culture for HireVue, where he hired 400+ people in almost five years using video, social media, and created the employment brand, VueNation in partnership with HireVue.
Ben now runs his own consulting company, Ramp Talent, where they ramp recruiting and HR for startups. From recruiting ready-to-go talent to implementing ongoing best practices to preventing legal headaches, we build the first HR and recruiting systems for fast-growing startups.
PS – coffee is for closers – Ben founded an e-commerce subscription coffee company focused on re-imagining coffee in the workplace and home – Sumato Coffee Co. They only roast your beans within 48 hours of your order.
Ben lives in the SLC, Utah area.