Interviews Should Be Intense

Interviews Should Be Intense

What questions do you ask in interviews?

“What’s your biggest fault?”

“Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor.”


With all due respect to the highly trained HR insiders out there, I think traditional, wishy-washy interviews suck.

It’s my experience that sticking to the pre-approved, PC interview script means the interviewee only says what he or she thinks you want to hear, and you end up missing out on asking a lot of the questions you wanted to ask.

Interviews should be serious, personal and, yes, intense.

Am I suggesting you hang a bare light bulb and polish up on your waterboarding skills? Not quite.

But staffing your company is too important to get caught up in political correctness. Avoiding potentially awkward situations can end up coming back to haunt you. Besides, once the person is hired, things are going to get a lot more intense than the interview, so you’d best see how they deal with it before offering them a contract. Am I right?

The secret to successful one-on-one interviews is balancing a professional, respectful approach and getting the information you want.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that in an interview, almost everybody lies (or at least exaggerates). The key is to listen to your gut, and dig deeper when it tells you something is fishy.

I still remember interviewing for an expert in Time Management. One candidate was standing out. In his interview, he talked about the theory of time management so articulately, and he could have written textbooks on the subject.

Then I asked him a few questions about putting his theories into practical use. He was a bit elusive but kept up his knowledgeable front. With my intuition buzzing, I pressed him for concrete examples. The candidate continued to squirm and twist. Finally, I asked to see his day planner. “Uh, it’s in my car…” he stammered. So naturally, I asked him to grab it. The one-time front-runner for the job smiled and went to his car, and promptly drove off into the sunset. (True story!)

Had I stuck to the script, or shied away from an uncomfortable situation, there is an excellent chance this guy could have charmed his way into the job.

Another useful technique they might not teach you in HR school is the use of pregnant pauses. I’ll even count up to 10 in my head after the applicant finishes the answer to see if they volunteer more info.

Sure, you can sometimes cut the awkward silence with a knife, but the information you can garner not only from the additional answers you’ll hear but also from how the individual responds to the pause is invaluable.

I don’t mean to come off as an adversarial interview. But I also don’t think it’s a touchy-feely conversation about feelings either. It’s a job interview, and sometimes you have to get down, dirty and intense.

The COO Alliance is here to help with these, and many other, challenges facing COOs today. For more information, and to apply, click here.

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