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Interviewing: The Soft Skills

- Posted by Matt Nagler, Managing Partner  

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Interviewing is both a skill and an art. While some people might have more of a natural talent, the best interviewers don’t get to be that way accidentally – they approach the process thoughtfully and, yes, have a lot of practice.

 

Even with practice things can start to feel stale. How many times can you ask the same questions? Well, a lot, but an interview is more than just questions. There are things you can do that will make your interviewing more effective by letting you get the answers your really want, no matter the questions.

 

Prepare

 

Just like the person you’re interviewing , you need to come in with a plan. Start with some research. If the resume and cover letter went through another department, ask to see those things. If the candidate already interviewed with other people in your company, ask for some details about the interview instead of just relying on “it was great.” You might hear about something you want to follow-up on or that leads you to a question you wouldn’t have asked otherwise. 

 

Have a plan

 

Once you’ve done the background research, know what you want to learn from the interview. Asking stock questions with no goal in mind will get you information, but maybe not what you ultimately need. As an interviewer, you want to expand on what you already know about the candidate. Most candidates are well-prepared to give you the basics; it’s up to you where it will go from there. 

 

Some ways to guide the interviewee to the information you want is to have a conversation instead of just asking a pre-prepared list of questions. If you share your own relevant anecdotes and stories and truly listening to theirs, your candidate is far more likely to open up beyond their practiced answers.

 

“How” and “Why”

 

It’s important to ask short questions and follow up after the candidate has answered rather trying to squeeze all the information you’re looking for out of one question.  One great way to follow up? Ask (almost) the same question twice in a row. 

 

“How” is a very behavioral, and important, word in job interviews.  The answer to, “How were you successful in that role?” will let you know how the candidate actually dealt with real life situations. 

 

“Why were you successful in that role?” while only one word off, can be equally important and provide a completely different insight into how the interviewee thinks. In this case, “why” is more reflective and requires answering with bigger picture thinking rather than a pre-rehearsed story.  

 

Another reflective question might be, “What were some unexpected benefits you encountered in that situation?” Interviewees are so programmed to talk about difficult situations they’ve encountered, asking about the positive can really provide great moments of insight.

 

Let them tell you something

 

Before ending the interview, give the candidate a chance to let you know what you might have missed by asking, ‘Is there anything else I should know?” Given time restraints, nerves, and questions that have to be asked, there may be something that the interviewee wants to share that  is germane to the job and why they would be good - or not – for it.