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First Interviews: The Game Within the Game...

There's a battle going on in every first interview, but it's not the battle you're thinking of...

It's not the battle for the candidate to prove she can do the job, or prove that she's not overqualified in a down economy.  It's not the struggle for the hiring manager to sell the company to the candidate he really, really wants.  Shut_up-thumb-200x200-1405611

The real battle is much simpler.  It's the battle to see who's going to shut up and let the other person talk.  Because whoever shuts up wins from two critical perspectives:

1. Information - if the other person is talking (candidate or interviewer), the person not talking is getting more data.  Which is good.

2. Flow and Vibe - a funny thing happens when we're allowed to talk through the entire interview (especially if we're the interviewer) - we think it went great!  Advantage candidate if the hiring manager dominated the conversation.

What the #*#$ is KD talking about?  Allow me to explain.

Laurie riffed over at Punk Rock HR last week that candidates need to shut up.  She's right.  In every interview, there's a battle going on to see who's going to dominate the airtime.  Laurie gave candidates the advice in her post that they need to stop talking so much.  If I'm the agent for the candidate (which Laurie is more than I at this point), I have to agree.  Coax the hiring manager to talk about himself.

If you're a candidate and the hiring manager spends 45 minutes of the interview talking about himself, the company or his Harley, there's only one reaction.  Let him.

The hiring manager that dominated the conversation (and it happens a lot, lot more than you might think) is going to come out of the interview saying you're a great candidate.  After all, he just got to talk about what's important to him for 45 minutes and you agreed with him on every point.  You clearly have what it takes to move to the next steps in his eyes. 

Well played, player.

While Laurie reps candidates more than I do (Sackett told me it's unethical to coach candidates in my VP of HR role, after all), I can clearly coach hiring managers.  Here's the coaching - after your next interview, ask yourself the following question - "Did I structure the interview and set expectations where the candidate understood that 80% of the time he or she would be talking?  Did I execute on that plan?"

If you're a hiring manager and even go close to a 50/50 split in talking when compared to the candidate, you've lost the battle.  You're going to think it went a lot better than it actually did.

Why?  Because we love to hear ourselves talk as interviewers.

Because clearly, you're an all-star, so get your game on, go play....

Stay thirsty, my friend.  And stop domineering interviews as a hiring manager.



Great piece on interviewing objections (from both perspectives!)
I love the management coaching advice - spot on. It's so tempting to fill in the silence with our own voice rather than listening to what the candidate can tell us about themselves.

I might like my STFU noob picture better -- but not much. This one is good, too.

30/60/90-Day Plan

This is one of the reasons it's so important to ask questions during the interview. YOu get the manager talking, and asking the right questions gets you more information you can use at the follow up or second interview. I talk more about that here:
Best of luck,
Peggy McKee

working girl

I try to talk as little as possible when I'm the candidate, for the exact same reasons - if you were interviewing me it would be really quiet. :-)

Simon Meth

I agree if what's happening is really an interview. Shut up and listen and prompt the candidate to talk about what interests you. However, there is a place for a recruiter to be speaking and that is in providing information that the candidate wants to hear. That includes company information, job opportunity, and benefits. After all, recruitment is sales and there needs to be some selling going on, especially when the market recovers and candidates are no longer so desperate for jobs. In sales the greatest tool you have is listening so interviewing and sales are truly not at odds...

dawn hrdlica-burke  @dawnHRrocks

Love this--nuff said. I'm doing a training in three weeks on this very subject with a group of seasoned sales managers.

I'm gonna reference this post....

No worries--you'll get full props!

Jim aka Evil Skippy at Work

Great article. When I used to conduct interviews, I wrote "SHUT UP!" on the top of every page (in messy, small writing that I could read but no candidate could decipher from the other side of the desk). This helped keep me from talking too much. I learned to embrace the "awkward pauses" and, as a result, the candidates talked more. I tried to teach other interviewers this lesson, some with success and others not so much. One other manager in particular, with whom I sometimes conducted group interviews, never stopped talking. I once asked her what the candidate actually said, and she replied, "I just remember that we clicked. What he said is not as important as my instincts." She wondered why she kept having to replace people.

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