Interview Techniques to Find a Prince Among the Frogs

Do you want a perfect performer or a perfect interviewer?frogs

Professionals that change jobs frequently are the best at interviewing. They have more practice. Those who are constantly on the job market have honed their interview skills, which tend to cover up their skill set deficiencies or personality defects.

Ask yourself this question…when times get tough in an economy or on a project and people have to be cut, whom do managers choose to be the first or second to go? The top performers? Those who can get the job done? I think not.

How do you ferret out the good performers from underperformers who find themselves frequently on the market? What skills must an interviewer have to uncover the gems that exist under the surface of discomfort with the interview process?

Other than having a good recruiter doing the initial screening so you’re only looking at potential “princes,” a good interviewer must find a way to get the interviewee to relax and open up. An open and warm style of questioning is probably the best and easiest way to put a candidate at ease.

  • Relax the environment by beginning with some light chatter, showing some concern for the comfort of the individual and then opening with conversation about the area a person seems to call home.
  • Many interviewees are counseled, and rightly so, to always go to an interview in a suit. For the men, asking the candidate to relax and remove their coat is a good softener. For the woman, if she has a jacket that can be removed, this too might relax the atmosphere.
  • Most candidates will not accept drink during the interview for fear of needing a bio break, so don’t be put off when they turn down the offer. However, should the candidate accept the water or coffee, make sure that the opportunity to take a break after an hour is presented.

Brusque, stern or challenging styles and argumentative responses to answers will most certainly cause the uncomfortable interviewer to further withdraw, preventing the manager from really knowing the skills and personality of the candidate.

I must admit that I am guilty of a little oversimplification and generalization in this opinion, as there are always special circumstances or special people who do find themselves changing jobs more frequently than others. Some of them are grand performers, and a manager would do well to snag them. It is usually easy to get the information from these people because they have developed good skills at interviewing.

However, many great performers are poor interviewees. They find discomfort in the interview process. I think this is especially true amongst the ranks of the technical professions such as IT or engineering. Developing the skill to help those top performers come out of their cover and expose their knowledge is a challenge to all hiring managers.

Have you developed any opinion on this topic? What techniques do you use to find the charming prince amongst so many frogs?

7 thoughts on “Interview Techniques to Find a Prince Among the Frogs

  1. How do I know your a good recruiter?
    How do I know your representing the job with truthful information?

    I’ve worked two gigs for a large recruiting firm. In both gigs, I was deceived by the actual work and technologies being used. I could have found this out by asking the hiring manager directly what they were using and what they were planning on doing.

    In one case, I was told they were migrating ASP to ASP.NET. Got on the job site and not only was that not the case, the hiring manager was actively at war with the CEO on replacing the ASP system with an Oracle system.

    So, this issue goes both ways in my honest opinion.

  2. There are a lot of bad recruiters and staffing organizations out there. You have to vet them as much as they are vetting you. After all, they will be your employer.

    That said, good recruiters in IT know IT or are willing to answer your questions by doing further research. Most of our clients interview our contractors at some point in the process, which in your case would have provided you with an opportunity to ask those questions. I’d say that our placing someone without having interacted with the hiring manager is *very much* the exception … so much that I can’t recall a situation like that.

    Something to keep in mind is that all organizations are unique. It is not uncommon for the lieutenants to not be 100% on the same page as the generals. It is therefore very difficult for any third-party to know exactly which way the wind is blowing at any given time. We try though … by getting to know the entire IT leadership, not just a single manager. Unfortunately, some companies use Vendor Management or restrain their staffing “partners” with a too-rigid HR process … all of which can lead to *unintended consequences*. In the pursuit of dollar savings or process for process sake they end up undermining some of their own interests.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. “many great performers are poor interviewees. They find discomfort in the interview process. I think this is especially true amongst the ranks of the technical professions such as IT or engineering. Developing the skill to help those top performers come out of their cover and expose their knowledge is a challenge to all hiring managers.”

    Surprised that the HR ranks are finally understanding that not every great candidate may have the gift of the gab or look or sound polished enough for recruiters and client managers. But what I have found is that some of the top performers come out of this group of people, who I have seen step up and do extraordinarily well in the roles that are thrust on them. So HR needs to break out of its tired and failed way of recruiting the Madoffs and Sanfords and give the unconventional looking packages a try as well.

  4. I believe the best approach is to ask the interviewee “Why us? Why our company?” His/her response is key to who and what they can provide. As the person communicates the details of their selection you can see (why) their contribution to the companies is or is not viable.

    On a recent interview I mentioned my research and passion of a company’s programs in response to that question. My research on the company’s products and programs indicated a weakness in their current approach on a government contract, and that they should have a plan “B” option alternative if funding or the program direction changed due to the new Administration. Short story, about three weeks after my interview, their contract was placed on hold. The whole program is now under government review. Some companies do not want to hear truth, and these are the ones we as candidates need to walk away from.

    Bottomline, viable candidates do their homework, understand the program, and can contribute. Hiring personnel and their technical and/or management counterparts need to consider the strength of the interviewee’s character and convictions when they hear the truth in our response. Is this the type of person who I want to help our company survive, overcome, and solve our problems?

    Why us? A simple question, but it is a wealth of information for both the interviewer and interviewee.

    Blessings and the strength of endurance to all who seek true fulfillment in their employment search.

  5. Paul,

    Great question. I’ll use that from now on in my candidate prep for interviews.

    Nemo, your question and statement indicate the nature of things in the classic HR process, and in many cases, prevent good candidates from seeing the hiring managers. I am aware of some really talented and professional HR folks, who have figured this out. However, too many are still focused on the “glib” types, and not on the fact that technicians and scientists are mostly uncomfortable in the interview process. Good insight!

    One method of being successful in getting the interview is to be represented by a good recruiter who has the respect and the ear of hiring managers. A good recruiter can help the manager realize that you need to be seen. And a good recruiter will help the manager by suggesting questions and techniques that will really expose the best talent for the position.

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