Create a Conversation to Interview Your Best

March 1, 2008

Convert the Interview Interrogation to a “Best Fit” Hiring Conversation

The ultimate goal of the interview process is to create a conversation within which the candidate and hiring manager discusses the job and comes to a mutual agreement about the candidate’s “fit” with the position; difficult but not impossible

Unfortunately, the typical job interview is more of an interrogation (a recent survey discovered 51% of all candidates referred to the interview as a “cross examination”) where the interviewer asks questions and the candidate provides answers which he or she thinks will be acceptable. Consider the following questions (all are questions that are asked on a regular basis):

* Why should I hire you?
* Why do you want to work for us?
* How much do you think you will be earning in ten years?
* Describe yourself in 3 adjectives
* How do you feel you work without direct supervision? Are you prepared right now to work without supervision?
*What is one of your weaknesses? Now, I know you had one prepared, so give me another one?
* What makes you tick?
* What would your enemy say about you?
* Why should we hire “you” over everyone else we spoke to today?

These stock questions only put a candidate on the defensive in an already stressful situation. Asking cookie cutter questions is easy and creates a standardized interview, but does little for the selection accuracy of the interview process (currently pegged at 55% only slightly better than flipping a coin). Being able to answer these questions says more about the Candidate’s glibness than their ability to do good quality work in the job for which they are being interviewed.

In order to create a conversation there has to be equality, a power balance, between the individuals engaging in the conversation. In unequal communication, one person lectures, directs, or yells at the other. Typically, an interview appears unbalanced with the power residing in the hiring manager who ostensibly will make a decision about the candidate’s fate and alter the candidate’s life’s journey. In reality, a candidate has just as much power to make a decision about the position as the hiring manager. Should a candidate choose not to take the position, the candidate could alter the “life journey” of the organization in general, and the hiring manager in particular. Once you become aware of this equality in power, the opportunity for an interview conversation emerges.

In order for you to feel empowered, you must understand the value you bring to an organization and the demand for your skills and experiences in the marketplace. I have found when working with candidates that have had a long tenure at one organization, the candidate has lost touch with the marketplace and does not have an accurate assessment of their value. This is exacerbated when the candidate is older, 50+, and is concerned that they will be deemed “over qualified”. Through a process of evaluating the critical requirements of job and their match with those requirements, candidates often realize the value they will bring to the position. Once they are aware they are a good match with the job and they have a wealth of experience to offer, they feel empowered. Once empowered, a candidate can enter a conversation where they are giving and requesting information about how well the job suits them.

When a person is unemployed, they are particularly vulnerable to the perceived power imbalance. However unemployed people (and I have been there), regardless of their desperation (I have been there as well) need to keep in mind that taking a job that does not fit typically results in failure or misery (darn, been there too). In the case of unemployment, it is very helpful to have a trusted advisor to remind you that you are still a valuable asset to an organization and to go into interviews focusing on developing a conversation that will result in determining if this position is a good fit for you.