By Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
It is hard to think of any aspect of professional life where communication doesn’t come in to play. Consider how often as a manager, supervisor or business owner you’ve had to hire someone. In the process, you conduct interviews, yet few professionals have been trained to do this well. Being a great interviewer is critically important in finding out the strengths and weaknesses of a potential new hire.
With this in mind, consider the following:
Be prepared. The key in any effective interview is to customize your approach to the person seeking the job and the requirements you are looking for. For example, every interviewer asks; “What are your greatest strengths?” Yet, a more customized approach would be; “Tell me a situation in your previous job where you really had to be creative to solve a problem.” Further, these prepared or “canned” questions have been asked so many times before of job applicants, that you are not likely to get especially relevant or useful information. Job prospects know they are coming and predictably they prepare canned answers.
Make it engaging. If an interview is droning on, the first thing to consider is why the interview is so dull or boring? Is it you? Is it the job applicant? One of the things to look for is enthusiasm and passion, which is often communicated through high energy. But if you really think the person has possibilities, here are some things you can do. Lean forward. Pick up your volume as well as your pace, and ask a follow up question like; “Tell me more,” or, “Do you have an example?” Often people play off your energy and become more interesting as a result.
Use follow up questions. Since so many applicants are on their best behavior in interviews and often give the “right answers,” there are ways to find out who the person really is and if they are right for your organization. The key is in the follow-ups; “You have communicated many times in this interview that you are a ‘team player.’ Describe a specific instance where you’ve lead a team to deal with a particularly difficult challenge or problem.” Another follow-up might be; “You said that you are a consensus builder. Tell me about a time where you had to bring people together and resolve conflict or actually build consensus.”
Throw curve balls. There are some interesting questions you can use that the interviewee may not expect, but can be very useful. Some of my favorites include; “What are you most proud of, professionally or personally, and why?” Or, “What is your biggest disappointment to date in business or work and what have you learned from it?” And one that really helps you get to know someone a lot better is; “With all the pressures and demands of this particular job, how exactly do you balance your work and your personal life?”