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Learning to Extract Hidden Talent in the Interview



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Why Recruiters & Hiring Managers Should Act As Leaders in the Interview

In a job interview, we expect candidates to put their best foot forward and show us why we should select them over all the other applicants.  We often base our judgments on how well they present themselves and their abilities, without truly knowing if they will live up to their own hype.

But, the reality for job seekers is that for most, interviewing is a skill—and one that is often rusty when they approach the job search.  It’s not something they do every day and can be associated with feelings of stress, inadequacy, fear of the unknown, and so many more emotions that can factor into their performance.  And that performance doesn’t always reflect how they will fare on the job.

Sometimes, we follow our gut instincts on a person, sometimes we factor in assessments and tests and past performance into our final hiring decision.  But as an interviewer, if we really want to make a better hiring decision, taking a leadership position in the interview can help raise the bar for our job candidates and help us to have more information to evaluate in to make our final hiring decision.

As a leader in our work, we try to bring out the best in our teams and colleagues: reinforcing great work, identifying talents, and providing opportunities for others to shine.  But, in the interview, we’re often more focused on reasons to disqualify a candidate rather than focusing on identifying positive attributes.

And if we are looking for positive attributes, all too often we sit back waiting for a candidate to wow us, sidelined by things like our own note taking, with many outside distractions on our minds, not truly engaged until that one candidate makes us sit up and pay attention.

What if, in order to uncover their true talents, we approached the interview as if each candidate was already a member of our team?

But, where do we start?  How do we achieve this?

Start simple.  First, pay attention and make direct eye contact. Some candidates may shy away from your gaze, but eye contact is important to creating a human connection and can open up conversation with a candidate.  But, make sure the message you send with your gaze is supportive and open.

Eye contact can be one of your strongest signals to a candidate.  It can indicate interest, intrigue, build trust, and convey confidence in what the job seeker is saying.  It can also do the opposite, so be aware of the message you’re sending to the person across the table at all times, and work to bring out their best.

Second, learn to look past your own bias in the interview.  We’re often attracted to like-minded people.  Take time to understand the similarities and differences between candidates and yourself.  In doing so, you may be able to realize that you were leaning to one candidate because they reminded you of yourself, versus another candidate with a better overall fit in skills and attitude.  Look to see how a job seeker’s differences might compliment the current team and if they are able to be embraced.

Third, change up your process and provide opportunities for different types of interactions and allow others to weigh in on the selection process.  If you’ve narrowed the field down to a few candidates, this could involve introducing the candidates to other team members and allowing them a chance to sit one on one shadowing a colleague, skyping with a potential direct reports, or going for a walk with a candidate.  See how they interact and get input and insights from those they came into contact with.

Sometimes changing the setting and the routine allows for new opportunities and fresh discoveries to be made.  A less threatening environment can open a candidate up, and talking while taking part in an activity can create more dynamic engagement.

Find out what drives them.  Resolve yourself to ask some deeper questions in the job interview.  Have a vision for the role and share this openly to give job seekers a chance to see how they fit into that vision.  Find out what jobseekers find motivating and where their curiosity lies in their work.  Pay attention to when you might spark a candidate’s interest and encourage them to share to see what you can uncover.

This is especially true when interviewing introverts as they may not always come forward right away, but if you spark the right thought and make them comfortable, a short tangent may just reveal that they’re the missing piece to your team has been in search of.

Lead by example in the interview.  All too often job seekers feel as though they’re being tricked in the interview with certain questions or they may not be certain what sort of response you’re looking for.  After asking certain questions, it might be appropriate to share a response from your own experience to give them an example of what you’re looking for.  If they follow your cues, you know they’re paying attention and will get a better response to evaluate. You’ll also create a bond in sharing your experience that may lead to a more honest and non-generic answer.

Create opportunities in the interview and make it a win-win situation.  Even if you know you may not hire the individual you’re interviewing, provide something of value.  Offer to connect with them on LinkedIn and be a resource.  Allow them a chance to engage with others in the organization. Give them some advice based on insights you’ve learned.

Provide them a positive experience with you and the brand.  After all, every candidate has the potential to be a mouthpiece for your company and how they respond to their experience could bring you more talent.  It could also lead to the candidate to eventually revealing themselves over time as better fit for a future role by allowing them the chance to stay in touch and show their loyalty and interest in being a part of the organization.

These are just a few small ways to start opening yourself up to being a leader in the interview to uncover hidden talents.  In the same way many third party recruiters often coach their candidates, you can extract the best from each candidate by being the best leader, and sometimes coach, you can be as an interviewer.

What additional ways can an interviewer take a leadership role and to uncover hidden talent in the interview?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Robin Rayburn

About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

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