You're interviewing candidates wrong. Here's how to do it right

You’re interviewing candidates wrong.  Here’s how to do it right

230602 Lyz Ryan Oped Illo

I love HR and leadership, or at least I love it when it’s done well. It’s tragic and infuriating when they’re done badly.

Over my 20-plus years as an HR leader, and even more years as a speaker and consultant on HR and leadership, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. What I’m about to tell you now won’t surprise you. However, it is worth repeating.

When you treat people as professionals and value creators, it’s easy to attract and retain talent.

When you treat people like cogs in your machine, the best people will leave quickly – or you won’t meet them at all, because your recruiting process will drive them away.

Why you need to humanize your recruiting process

The great thing about humanizing the recruiting process is that it’s free and gives you an edge over other employers. So, why don’t more organizations do it?

It depends on the mentality. Too many CEOs and their lieutenants still subscribe to the idea that a candidate must work hard to get a job at their organization. Somehow they have confused talent and brains with submission. That’s why they still ask old, offensive questions like “why do you want this job?”

You learn much more about a person through the questions they ask you than through their answers to deadly questions

What makes you think the candidate wants the job? They came to the interview to learn more, for the same reason you invited them. They don’t know yet if they want the job. This is your chance to sell them the role, your company, and yourself as their manager!

It can be difficult to change an ingrained mindset, especially one you grew up with and may not be aware of. The idea that employers are powerful and that job candidates are interchangeable workers is part of a long-standing and unexamined mindset.

If you want to attract great candidates and place them on your team, you need to abandon this mindset.

How the true valorization of talent materializes in practice

As a young HR manager, I was lucky because my CEO believed talent was critical to our success. This meant the company would do whatever it took to get the right people on board, including flying to where they lived to conduct an interview and being open and transparent about its strategy and plans.

This perspective has made my job much easier. I flew across the country to meet candidates at their home airports between their children’s Little League game and afternoon errands. If I could get the candidate interested in our company, the trip was a triumph.

I met the candidates for eggs and coffee at midnight. This is how you let candidates know that the poster on the wall that says “We value talent” is real.

I have dined and lunched with candidates, spouses and partners, children and babies. If our company doesn’t value a candidate’s time and attention, why would they give us a second look?

Four ways to upgrade your interview process


Throw away the script

If you need a script to interview candidates, you probably shouldn’t interview anyone. An interview is a back-and-forth conversation between two people with equal power in the hiring equation.

You don’t need a script. Describe the history of the role: is it new? Was there anyone at work who left or was promoted? What will the person do in this job and why is it important?

Here’s a simple truth every recruiter knows: You learn much more about a person through the questions they ask you than through their answers to dead questions from an interview script.



At the end of the interview, explain to the candidate how the rest of the process works. “I will finish this round of interviews on Friday; I will contact you early next week. The next step would be to meet my director, Jerri.

If there are next steps, have them available. Make it your top priority to respond to candidates after interviews, even if it’s just to say “sorry for the delay; I’ll have an update tomorrow.”

Your timeline isn’t the only timeline that matters.


Don’t ask questions you don’t want to be asked

Don’t ask candidates where they see themselves in five years because, really, who cares? Did any of us see ourselves three years after a pandemic, five years ago? Don’t ask them what their last boss would say about them (especially considering that bad bosses are the main reason people leave their jobs). Talk about their background, your background, the company and the role. It’s enough.

Don’t ask hurtful questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Why should we hire you?” These terrible, outdated questions have no place in a modern business conversation.


Sell ​​by listening

Because interviewing is stressful, many interviewers talk too much during interviews. Your main job is to listen. Let the candidate ask you questions about the role, challenges, technology and team.

You’ll sell more effectively by listening to candidates rather than blathering on about how great the company is to work for. Great culture, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder!

Being “human” is the key to getting great interviews

Let’s assume that just like you have other candidates to meet, each candidate has other companies to talk to. The names of those other employers are none of your business, so don’t ask.

Talk about the work and your challenges through 2023 and into next year. Talk about what is concrete and impactful about the job and why a smart person with other options would want the job.

If you interview candidates primarily to exclude people from the pipeline, you’re doing it wrong.

No one praises the purchasing department for considering 100 suppliers before choosing the right one. They are praised for finding the right vendor and getting them on board.

Recruiting is about inviting people into the fold, not about looking for reasons to reject them. Your job as a recruiter or interviewer is to get candidates interested and keep them interested.

It’s not difficult to do and the benefits are enormous. You just have to change your mindset back to “human”.

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