Build great Teams – People management

Productive Interview – Use Power Wisely – A Case Study

Productive Interview – Use Power Wisely - A Case Study

When you have a shortlist of promising candidates to bring in for an in-person interview, make sure you conduct a productive interview. Your goal is to find out if they have the attributes you need, whilst letting them find out more about the job and company.

I have often talked to clients about power. Making sure they realize they hold the power in an interview. That means not giving up questioning until you find out what you want to know. But power is tricky. It’s not something to wield in a way that makes the interview an unpleasant experience for the candidate. That might put them off joining your company even if you think they’re perfect. This article looks at an experience one of my clients had that could have put a great candidate off.

The Initial Situation – Productive Interview By Luck

When Stuart, was looking for an experienced engineer he interviewed four great candidates, including Alex, who he ultimately hired. But talking to Alex after she joined, the interview was not a pleasant experience. Luckily, Alex knew one of the other employees and had independent information about what it was like to work for Stuart. So despite her interview experience, when she was offered the job she took it. She admitted that she did have second thoughts based on her personal experience at the interview. Had she not known more about the company she would probably have turned the job down.

So what did Stuart do to make the interview experience so objectionable? Well simply put, he used the interview as an opportunity to wield power. He came across as dictatorial and bordering on rude (which is not how Stuart is usually). He asked a lot of in-depth technical questions, but didn’t let Alex think about how to provide the best answer. Stuart kept cutting her off and moving on to the next question. Alex didn’t feel she was given a good opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge and was worried that would affect the outcome. That made her nervous for the rest of the interview.

Stuart also asked alternating questions that appeared to Alex as sensible one minute and way out there the next. One minute she was being asked about what she thought were the benefits and disadvantages of working in a team, which seemed perfectly relevant. The next minute she was being asked to describe what sort of animal best represented her. That threw her off her stride and made her even more nervous about the next question. All-in-all, not a productive interview!

What We Did – Added Objectivity

After talking to Alex about her experience, I spoke with Stuart to get his perspective of the same interview. What Stuart described matched what Alex described, so that made me to ask Stuart why? Why did Stuart think that trying to catch Alex and the other candidates out would help him make a good decision?

Stuart admitted he thought it made him look clever and important, but agreed that probably wasn’t what the candidates thought. By interrupting, he was not letting the candidate provide the information he needed to make a good decision. We edited his interview questions so they now lead to objective information he can use to make a good decision. Stuart knows exactly what each question will help him find out. We also practiced interviewing so he could learn to give candidate a chance to answer! Even better, he now leaves pauses which candidate usually fill by providing additional information he might otherwise not have got.

What We Did – Summary

You need to help candidates provide you with information you can use to decide if they will be the right fit for your company. That can only be done while you have the candidate in front of you. You need to treat all candidates the same way and give each of them a real opportunity to show what they can do.

We made sure that Stuart understood what he was looking for. His interview questions are now set up to lead him to find out if candidates have the attributes he needs. He has practiced interviewing to make sure he can give each candidate the best opportunity. His interviews now let them stay calm and focussed on providing useful information. That means Stuart can make decisions based on ‘good’ information. He can now conduct a productive interview which is a positive experience for the candidate. The interview is a two-way process. You are interviewing them, but they are also deciding on the basis of all their interactions with your company whether they want to work with and for you.

My Question To You

How do you think your interview feel to a candidate? How comfortable are you interviewing candidates? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


About the Author:

Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

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