Interviewing is an art form. Beyond crafting smart, engaging interview questions, what can you do to really get a sense of a candidate as a person and future coworker?
Try these 4 interview tactics that go outside the ordinary and get inside the candidate’s head.
Zip it. Once you’ve asked a question and the candidate has answered, don’t immediately respond or move on the next question. The best answers to interview questions often come when you let the candidate fill in the silence after their original answer.
In the silence that follows their answer, the candidate will reveal their true colors. Most people will want to fill in the gap in conversation, and what they say next is what you should *really* be listening to. Do they elaborate on their original answer by giving you a stellar example of what they just said from their last job?
Or, do they backtrack? Many candidates will take your silence as a challenge of what they just said, and weaker ones will try to tell you what they think you want to hear and change their answer.
No matter how they respond, you’ll get a look into how they work when their rehearsed answers aren’t enough.
Get other staff involved. Candidates are usually prepared to interact with HR reps, their future manager, and maybe some future peers from their team. Fewer of them have prepared to interact with other people in the office.
If you have a receptionist give them a tour or sit with them while they wait for the interviewer, how do they treat that person? Are they friendly and interested, or do they brush them off?
They may also ask some revealing questions to someone they don’t think has an impact on the hiring decision. The interaction doesn’t have to be long for the other staff member to get an impression of this person’s vibe. They can submit quick, short feedback via email to the hiring manager that could be extremely useful in making a final decision.
Get quirky. Culture fit questions can be tough. Candidates want to convince you they’re a good fit, so they’re likely to try to make their answers to questions like “Do you like to work as part of a team?” fit what you want to hear. A great way get around this is to surprise them with a culture fit question masked as a fun conversation topic.
I like to phrase a question like this one: “One of the things I like most about working here is that everyone is a little bit weird. What makes you weird?”. By asking this, you invite them to have a little fun and tell you something more personal about themselves outside of the typical interview context.
Other examples include asking questions like, “If you could hop on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”.
Their answers are likely to be revealing and also more candid, without making them feel like you’re confronting them or trying to get information they don’t want to share.
Have them teach you something. Knowledge-sharing is a vital skill for anyone who’s working as part of a team. Instead of asking them to demonstrate their expertise to you by just answering questions, create a situation where you two can collaborate on something, or where they can teach you something you don’t know.
You can phrase this kind of question like, “Imagine that I’m my grandma. Explain [any high-level topic] to me in a way so I’ll understand it.” You can also try things like pair-programming to see how they engage with you as a peer.
If they have hobbies, skills, or special projects listed on their resume, those are perfect examples of real-life things they can explain to you. Ask something simple like, “I see you wrote a patch for your favorite video game. Can you walk me through how you did that?”
Without investing huge amounts of time or effort, these 4 strategies help you understand candidates better as people and potential teammates. Have you tried any of them? Do you have other special techniques for really getting to know a candidate?