Make your candidate feel uncomfortable: you’ll be glad you did!

By Paula Meir, Author of Your Life, Your Way: A Practical Guide To Getting Your S**t Together

Some candidates are very good at interviewing. Gifted communicators, who play well into the recruiting managers psyche, they can tune into their wavelength with ease and before you know it there is a meeting of minds.

Is this a good thing?

Well, hopefully, they can do the job too but it’s important we stress testing these types of candidates. We have several ways to get the ‘low down’ on candidates through social media platforms which can sometimes be both amusing and shocking in equal measure (it never fails to surprise me what some people will publicly post).

But how do we get under the bonnet of the occasionally superficial façade that some candidates create? Questions that might feel a bit uncomfortable are a good thing. Here are three areas to consider: –

  1. Ask questions about the softer skills of judgment, resilience, robustness, coping with ambiguity and ability to manage their own internal experience.
  1. How successful are they at influencing and engaging without authority. It is important to understand how they do this so it allows you to get a feel on how they interact with others and indeed if they are successful at it.
  1. Ask for personal examples of interaction when it didn’t go so well, and what they could have done better. Understanding a candidate’s ability to be able to self-reflect, take accountability, course correct, and know what they need to develop immediately shows an emotional intelligence they will need along with their technical ability to be successful.

I have had candidates get uncomfortable and visibly annoyed when their well-rehearsed interview and question answering doesn’t quite go to plan. This is where you see the real behaviours and personality coming through, not necessarily through their words but through their physical appearance – here are a few: –

  • Red colouring necks
  • Blinking
  • Fidgeting
  • Head rubbing
  • A look of ‘this might not be going so well’

It might feel uncomfortable for them, if it does, keep on asking and peeling back the onion layer by layer respectfully, and watch how they manage themselves.

These are all good indicators to pay attention to. None of us are perfect, that’s not what a good recruiting manager should be looking for, what we need is a self-aware individual who understands what makes them tick (inside and out), what they do well, but also what they need to watch out for in themselves AND more importantly how to course correct when things don’t go so well.

Transparency, honesty and above all authenticity is what you need to see, whether the story is perfect or not (if it’s perfect I would worry about that too!).

Once employed, if they are in times of pressure and stress this is what you are likely to see. Also, paying attention to how they manage the recruitment process is also important to what you will get if you hire them. Sparse communication, or delays in email responses or phone calls, impatience when they haven’t had the offer documentation yet whilst they are meant to be on their best behaviour does not bode well. I once had a very senior executive get quite aggressive over the time the process was taking to go through several stages, and it was concerning.

We didn’t end up extending the offer and a few days after he was fired from the position he held with his existing employer!!

It’s okay to make a candidate uncomfortable, it might save you a lot of time and money.

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