When it’s time to Interview, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

Leora Baumgarten —  February 11, 2016 — Leave a comment

Congratulations, it’s time to interview your top candidates! You’ve been working diligently through the steps of the recruiting process and you’ve narrowed the field to a few top candidates. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and conduct interviews. “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”  Everything and nothing! What better way to explore this emotional time in the recruiting process than quoting this iconic song?

“You must understand That the touch of your hand Makes my pulse react”

From the first handshake and introductions to the final thank you’s; it’s common that both the interviewer and the interviewee’s pulse will react. We are all human and our heart rate and blood pressure are likely to rise in any stressful situation. Interviews are no exception.

One way to manage the stress is preparation. Have a game plan. Know what the goal of the interview is, and have a prepared set of questions that you will use to achieve that goal. Before the interview, study up on the candidate too. Review everything you already know about them; re-read their application, resume, results from tests or assessments, and their LinkedIn profile.  Make a list of candidate specific questions that you want to ask in addition to the ones you have already prepared.

“You must try to ignore that it means more than that …”

The overall goal of interviews is to gather additional information to aid in making a selection decision. You are likely also trying to get to know the candidate to find out if they will be an asset to the team and pleasant to work with. Every aspect of the conversation is important, from the candidate’s initial contact with security or reception personnel at the front door to body language and communication style during the interview.

There are a number of possible specific goals for the interview. Your specific goal for the interview may depend on the job title you are filling. The specific goal of the interview will impact its structure and content.

For example you might be assessing technical knowledge, and ask the candidate to perform technical tasks to demonstrate knowledge. Or,you might ask the candidate to solve a coding problem on a whiteboard, assembling a product from instructions, or producing a writing sample.  Alternatively, you might be exploring specific soft-skills including personal motivations or work behaviors like the ability to manage multiple simultaneous projects and teams. You might probe for this behavior by asking the candidate to reflect on how they would respond to a situation you present.  Another goal of the interview is to verify details of past work experience as a way of exploring personal integrity issues, past accomplishments and experience  appropriate to this opportunity.

“It may seem to you that I’m acting confused”

Sometimes candidates find details of the opportunity confusing and want additional clarification. It’s important to allow enough time in the interview to give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions too. Listen carefully to the questions the candidate asks. These questions are important and  might give you insight into their past challenges or about employment issues important to them. In the best case the candidate might express an eye-opening concern that indicates to you that they have gone the extra mile in preparing and thinking about the company and the opportunity.

Remember that in a one or two hour interview you won’t be able to learn everything about the candidate, so use your time to find out about factors you know to be important for on-the-job success.

“I`ve been thinking of a new direction but I have to say I`ve been thinking about my own protection”

When you’re hiring be aware that you are considering a new direction –  in the form of a new person who will be joining the company. Everyone involved, the candidate and the employer is also thinking about their own interests and about protecting themselves.

You, representing the employer, want to avoid a variety of possible negative outcomes. Those include possible liability and the costs of a mis-hire. Additionally, you want to get the right person in the job. Typically, the candidate wants to be sure the new position includes the opportunity to learn more, earn more and do more. The candidate also doesn’t want to quit his or her current job, only to discover that they don’t get along with the manager. Neither the employer nor the candidate wants to discover down the road that the new opportunity is a poor fit. Everyone involved is assessing risk and acting to protect themselves. After all…”Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”

By TimDuncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By TimDuncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh what’s love got to do, got to do with it?”

It’s easy to fall in love with a candidate during an interview when you discover that you share similarities Perhaps you graduated from the same college or know people in common. Other similarities might be more obscure – like discovering a shared hobby or interest. But love is not necessarily the only emotion to focus on during an interview. It’s possible to really love a candidate during the interview, and realize that despite the feeling of personal affinity, they are a poor match for the job.

There are times when you might find that candidates you are interviewing are dissimilar from you. For example when a founder or CEO who is focused on sales, interviews candidates for a key accounting position, that founder, an extrovert with a customer-focused sense of urgency, might be put off by the reserved, methodical and detail orientation that a well qualified CFO or Accounting Manager exhibits during the interview. If you’ve been in this type of situation you know that these types of differences might prevent you from feeling personal affinity and you might not fall in love with ANY of the candidates, even though one or two might be well a great asset to your company.

In this case, on-the-job success is more likely with a candidate who exhibits certain types of behaviors which are different from the CEO. This is a case where the interviewer might NOT feel personal affinity or love for the best qualified candidate. You might find yourself in a position where you have to overcome a feeling of lack-of-love in order to make a solid hire.  Remember what Tina said…” What`s love but a second-hand emotion?”

Tina Turner taught us a lot about love and a lot about interviewing. Here a few key take-aways:

  1. You might feel nervous – but preparation will carry you a long way

  2. Know what the specific goal of the interview is – are you assessing technical knowledge, social skills, or work behaviors, or a combination of all three?

  3. Make sure that there is time to address the candidate’s questions – you can learn a lot by listening to the candidate’s concerns

  4. Every job deserves the right person – and you, the interviewer, might not feel personal affinity with that best candidate, especially if you are hiring them to do a job very different from your own.

Leora Baumgarten

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Leora is Vice President of NewHire and a pro when it comes to hiring & recruiting for SMBs. When not at the office, you can find her swimming in Lake Michigan or spending time with her family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Connect with her on Google+.

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