Get the best out of the candidate

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

I was interested in the collaborative interview style you recommended last week. Could you give me some more details on how this might play out? How might I, as an interviewer, conduct this kind of interview? My business is a tourism one and I am about to interview for a marketing manager to lead a big promotional push. (EF, email).

A: An excellent question. I would treat the interview almost as a first meeting with the candidate after they’ve got the job, writes Liam Horan, Career Communications Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Set up a real-life scenario. Tell them, for example, that you are not getting enough school tours through the doors. How might they tackle the schools market? What campaigns would they run? What messages would they generate?

In fact, if you wish, tell them to take ten minutes to scribble some notes before venturing their ideas.

You could even leave the room during this time. Remember, you want to bring out the best in them – not just put the pressure on to see if the sweat patches form and the voice goes shaky. Many’s the great candidate suffered from a shaking voice and a sweaty patch: they should not be overlooked just because of that.

Interviews should not be buzzer rounds. Judge candidates on the quality of their answers rather than the rapidity with which they punch them out.

Come back into the room after five minutes. So what if they have been on Google or even telephoned somebody in the intervening five minutes: the willingness and capacity to find something via online sources, or phone a friend for guidance, should not be underestimated.

When you go back into the room, they should have four or five ideas – and, if they don’t, the silence will tell its own story too. As they unfurl those ideas to you, engage in creative brainstorming – not just subjecting them to a forensic analysis that puts them on the back foot, makes them feel defensive and kills the very atmosphere of collaboration you are trying to create.

The ideas the candidate presents to you could easily engage both of you for the next half an hour as you discuss them, fine-tune them and, in some cases, dismiss them. Be open, ask and answer questions, give and take.

During that half hour, you should get a very strong sense of the creativity and attitude they bring to their work.

In my view, it really is as simple as that.

In that half hour you should also get a strong feel for how well you believe you can work with this person – do you like them? Do they prick your creativity into action? Do they bring out the best in you?

I appreciate that half an hour is not enough, but I would strongly wager that in this way is infinitely more useful than the more commonly enacted ‘firing squad interviews’ we experience. You will be doing your reference checks too, of course.

A candidate may fear they will give away their best ideas. In almost all cases, I think this is an unnecessary worry. The interviewer is entitled to see what you’re about: and if you don’t present ideas, you leave the way open for your rivals to steal a march on you.

Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.

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