Building the Proper Atmosphere (Part 2)

In our last post we started discussing the value of creating the right atmosphere and tone for interviewing candidates. Talented people with choices are often influenced by what they hear about your organization from others, so it’s important that every candidate leaves with the feeling that he or she has been fully heard and fairly treated.  Think of the number of people you personally interview each year.  Multiply that by everyone else in your organization who interviews and you’re talking about the equivalent of a major public relations campaign!  Building the proper atmosphere is an important part of how to hire employees.

More and Better Data and a More Natural Response

Having pointed out how the interview can affect the goodwill and reputation of your organization, it’s also important to focus on the following point: if you create a conversational tone and a relatively informal atmosphere, you’ll get more information, better quality information, and a more natural picture of your candidates.  When a candidate feels comfortable, he or she is more likely to answer your questions and offer additional information.  This spontaneous information is highly predictive data as it goes beyond the candidate’s prepared presentation, beyond an intellectual answer to the original question.  In some respects you could say that creating the condition for spontaneous responses gets the results interviewers are groping for when they start off the interview with, “so tell me about yourself.”

Let’s look at a typical 40-minute interview in which a candidate is asked question, she answers, she is asked another question, she answers; another question, another answer.  It’s a bit impersonal and not conversational, but it seems pretty efficient:  a lot is covered in a short period of time.  But suppose you also do something to create the kind of tone or mood in the interview makes it seem more conversational.  You’re still asking all the same questions and you’ll get the same information, but if the candidate feels comfortable she may add, “well, of course that’s the way it was supposed to work, but, I must say, this bureaucratic structure there drove me crazy.”  Or, “one of the reasons why I got out of that place was…” or, “one of the things that really frustrated me was…”  These are subtleties about her, things she hadn’t prepared to talk about in advance.  She begins to emerge as a person: what bothers her, how she deals with issues.  You couldn’t even think of the questions to ask to get at these subtleties, which emerge more of their own accord if you create the proper tone or mood.

Positive rapport gives you the opportunity to get details not ordinarily available, things you would never think to ask about.  And, though we call them “details,” they may be of key importance in distinguishing one candidate from another or in signaling the areas that will call for further probing later in the interview.


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