Interview Better: Stop Talking and Start Listening


“Are you still there?” asked the candidate.


“I’m still here. I was just listening.” I responded.

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Over my years of interviewing candidates, this exchange has become fairly common. I believe the many hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources managers spend too much time talking during the interview process and many would benefit, by way of making better hires, if they spent more time listening. Let the candidate communicate and share the information that you need in order to make a hiring decision. Also, remember that “listening” means more than using just your ears. It's what you hear but also what you observe.

Observational interviewing, even over the phone, is a great way to learn a tremendous amount about someone in a short amount of time.

The concept is fairly straightforward. The goal is to observe the other party during your time together. How does the candidate enter the interview process? Formal and stiff or conversational and friendly? What does the candidate do when there is a breath of silence? Anxiously fill it up with chitter-chatter or confidently let it be? If you pay attention just to the words being used, you will miss these details.

Listen to what’s being communicated beyond the words.

Understanding why there’s a need to be better at interviewing is important. If we consider that our interest in interviewing someone is to fill an open position, then it would make sense that we are introducing a bias. Ask yourself if you have have ever done any of the following during an interview:

  • Finished someone’s sentence or helped them find a word they were looking for…
  • Rephrased a question if it appears the candidate is struggling to provide an answer…
  • Accepted a partial answer as acceptable…

Winning the interview battle but losing the employment war has real consequences as the cost of a bad hire is extreme.

You’re not doing anyone any favors by promoting a candidate that did not meet your requirements further into the recruiting promise. All you have done is increased the amount of time invested by all sides and built false hope for a potential offer.

To increase the quality of your hires consider how you can increase your time spent listening and observing during your next interview. Challenge yourself to not “help” candidates through the interview process. Everyone, in the long run, will be glad that you did.

Written byAustin Meyermann, Founder and President of Hunter Crown, LLC

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