How To Avoid Being “Trumped” During An Interview

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Interviewing, Recruiting, Selection

Yes, I’m proud to be an American and am extremely grateful for all we have in this country, but man, our presidential election process has become a complete circus and frankly, an embarrassment.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the Republican field and our good friend Donald Trump in particular.  (Full disclosure: I’ve lived and/or worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the past 15 years—so I’m what you would call… liberal!)

That being said, I can still recognize when someone with a different perspective can teach me something, and Donald Trump is chalk full of lessons for all of us.  As an HR Pro, with a focus on attracting and hiring top talent, he’s given me enough material to teach people about all the traps they should try and avoid when interviewing a candidate for a job.  So without further ado, here are my tips on how to avoid being “Trumped” in an interview.

  1. The Confident Candidate.  Everyone knows this guy because we all have a friend like this.  The one who, no matter the situation or topic of conversation, jumps right into the fray and talks as if they are the world’s foremost expert on the topic. This same thing happens in interviews all the time. The candidate speaks with a tone, cadence or even has a look that makes you think, “Hmm, they sure do sound like they know what they’re talking about… they must know what they’re talking about.”
  2. The Extroverted Candidate. This type of candidate has always been the hardest for me to deal with. You have 30-45 minutes with them to learn as much as you can about who they are and their experience. But they dominate the conversation and end up talking for 85% of the time—primarily about things you aren’t all that interested in or topics that aren’t relevant to the role. This isn’t necessarily a strategy on the candidate’s part (in fact, I think it hurts them more than not) but interviewers often give them a pass by saying things like “Well, I didn’t have enough time, but they seem fine to me.”
  3. The Master of Redirection. All candidates who run for national office have a knack for this, but Trump is a master. You ask him a question, and it’s completely irrelevant to what he wants to say next. He’s got his talking points, and he’s going to hit all of them. The question is nothing more than an opening for him to talk about what he wants to. This is a major trap for interviewers, as well. Why? Because often what the candidate chooses to talk about is in fact quite interesting and impressive (not shocking given they’ve likely practiced before), and we can get anchored on what they told us and ignore what we actually wanted to learn.
  4. Successful but has no track record. Trump is also the perfect example here. By any measure, he’s been a successful businessman. Which has (almost) absolutely nothing to do with being a successful President. People assume because he can successfully build tall buildings, open casinos and is entertaining on The Apprentice that being President is a natural next step. Interviewers fall into the same trap, assuming success in one area is applicable to another.
  5. The Just-Like-Me Candidate. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world quite like Trump. But he speaks about things in a way that make people feel like he’s one of them and understands their situation. During an interview, this trap is always looming on the horizon. The candidate says something that resonates with me, comes from a similar background, or knows the same people and we assume they’d be a great hire. Bad strategy!

I wish I had some cutting-edge and innovative solution for you to combat these challenges. But frankly, the best remedy to being Trumped is to have a well-defined and objective selection process with interviewers who are taught how to really interview people. Boring I know, but it works!