Change the Pace of the Interview

Scott Kuethen, our CEO, has a favorite question to ask candidates toward the beginning of each interview. It’s not a magical question–it doesn’t even have to do with their work experience! But it does have the desired effect. It tends to put candidates at ease and change the pace of the interview.

Shorten Your List

Jeff Haden, a businessman and columnist for, makes a great observation. We tend to believe that the more interview questions we ask, the more we will learn from the candidate. But this may not actually be the case. By hurrying through a long list of questions, you may not be giving the candidate an opportunity to disclose the kind of information you’re really seeking.

Listen More Slowly

Haden recounts an excerpt from Change-Friendly Leadership by Rodger Dean Duncan, recommending that you learn to listen more slowly to change the pace of the interview.  Listening slowly involves curbing your own impatience to get through your whole list of questions and giving the candidate sufficient psychological breathing room. By treating the interview more as a conversation with a purpose than as a sterile interrogation, the tone of the exchange softens into two people just talking, which enables you to get to know the candidate better.

Give the Candidate Some Space

To get a job seeker to really open up, shares Haden, you must ask a good question, listen attentively to the answer, then wait five seconds before saying anything. In those five potentially awkward seconds, your candidate will “fill the space: with an additional example, a more detailed explanation, a completely different perspective on the question.” In some cases, he or she may reveal something positive. In others, the ensuing dialogue may reveal a negative bent which you might not have known about had you not taken five seconds to breathe.

Ask Behavioral Interview Questions

To listen slowly, however, you must first direct the candidate to talk about the kind of information you need. It is much different for a candidate to tell what he or she might do (“How would you handle…”) than to talk about the time he or she actually faced a conflict or solved a problem. Likewise, it’s pointless to lead them straight to the answer you hope to hear (“You do know Microsoft Office really well, I hope?”). That’s why we always recommend asking open-ended, behavioral questions. A person’s past performance is the best predictor of future behavior.

Start With a Disarming Question

But the first question Kuethen loves to ask isn’t your typical behavioral “Tell me about a time when…” question. Instead, it’s usually, “What was your favorite subject or sport in high school?” It’s disarming and unexpectedly normal compared to the high-level grilling a candidate might have been anticipating. It sets the tone for a more everyday conversation, and can change the pace of the interview from a high-speed interrogation to a leisurely discussion about life’s victories and struggles. Such a relaxed dialogue is more likely to reveal the type of person your candidate honestly is.

Wouldn’t you really like to get into the head and heart of your next job seeker? Then put the candidate at ease, ask the right kind of questions, and count to five before responding. Who knows what information you might find out that you least expected? Plus, with all those extra breaths you take, you might actually enjoy the interview just a little bit more.

Do you need help acquiring top professionals? Let Amtec actively market your job opportunities, connect you to passive and active job seekers, and assist with offer negotiations. Click here or call (714) 993-1900 to start your search.

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