Nothing is worse than sitting across the table from someone who may actually have potential for a position you are trying to fill and yet, you are finding it a struggle to connect or generate any meaningful conversation about whether or not this is a good match for either party. This happens more often than not to small business owners and sadly, it can end up being a major time waster for the employer and the candidate, neither of whom are usually in a position to be wasting time.
While the candidate has a responsibility to present themselves effectively, the employer also carries a responsibility for cultivating an engaging first impression of the organization that is clear on expectations and hopefully presents the work culture in a way that will motivate the candidate to pursue a position competitively. You may not be able to control the potential that exists within your candidate pool, but ultimately you are the one to control the tempo, direction, and success of the interview process itself.
Here are three ways to open the lines of communication and ensure you are giving your candidate every opportunity to shine, while also maximizing your valuable time devoted to the interview process.
The Off Topic Opening
Any worthy candidate is going to prepare themselves for the industry and work ethic related questions you'll be poised to ask, but beginning the interview with an off-topic question serves a dual purpose; to challenge the ability of the candidate to respond authentically, with transparency, while simultaneously breaking the ice and allowing the candidate to reveal something of personal interest.
This question should be open-ended, light, and not at all something they could predict having to think about during an interview.
"If you were given $10,000 to spend immediately, where would you go and what would you do?"
"If I came over to your house, what would I find on your nightstand?"
Compare and Contrast
This type of verbal analysis skill is not just for the SAT. Assuming you are interviewing someone who has had any type of job experience previous to your interview, one great way to generate conversation is by asking the candidate to compare or contrast observable scenarios about the position in question as it relates to their previous experience.
This might be differences or similarities in work environment, team dynamics, leadership roles, policies or procedures. Just always be sure to bring the focus back to the "now" and keep the conversation in line with thoughtful reflection, as opposed to comparing the value of the two different experiences.
Give Specific Feedback
Even in a scenario as hypothetical as an interview, everyone values feedback. You can encourage and develop the conversation beyond superficial responses and into the nitty gritty of the likelihood of this match, by giving consistent feedback throughout the interview using your tone, body language, and specific identification of what resonates - or conflicts - with the mission of your organization.
Keep some key phrases in mind to facilitate the conversation:
"I appreciate the example you gave..."
"A strength you've demonstrated that would serve you well here is..."
"What may be a challenge for you here is...."
Soon you'll be on your way to easily identifying and revealing the potential of each candidate so you can make a well informed decision about who to bring on board your team.