Your goal in any job interview is to get your candidates talking so that they reveal what they’re truly like behind their interview persona. Your job is to move candidates past their scripted responses and into their unvarnished truths. That’s hard enough to do in a face-to-face job interview, so of course, it’s that much harder during video job interviews.
If we only need to test candidates’ technical skills, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about having deep and revelatory conversations. But as we know from the landmark study Why New Hires Fail, new hires are about eight times more likely to fail for having the wrong attitude than they are for lacking technical skills.
This means that if you’re not doing a deep dive into a candidate’s attitudes, you’re missing the major risk factors that will likely cause them to become a failed hire.
The key to revealing a candidate’s attitudes is to get them talking, and the fastest way to do that is with this sentence:
I’m really looking forward to our conversation and I’m really excited to learn all about you; so I’d like to spend the next XX minutes learning more about you and then we’ll leave the last XX minutes for you to learn more about us.
This sentence may seem simple, but it accomplishes three critically important goals.
First, it sets a clear expectation that you want this candidate to talk, but it does so nicely by expressing how excited we are to learn all about them. It plants a seed in the candidate’s brain that they should share liberally and keep talking because this interviewer is excited to learn about them.
You need your candidates to talk and talk and keep talking. Because it’s only once you get past their rehearsed answers that you actually start to reveal their underlying (and true) attitudes. And once you move beyond their canned responses, a candidate’s language will reveal powerful clues about their likely success or failure at your company.
In our study Words That Cost You The Job Interview, we performed text analytics on more than 20,000 answers to interview questions. And the differences between good and bad answers were striking.
For example, bad interview answers use the word “you” 392% more than good interview answers, and “they” 90% more. Imagine that we asked a candidate to describe a time when they received tough feedback from a boss. A bad interview answer might be, “when you get tough feedback, you should always seek more information.” But a good answer might say, “last month I received some tough feedback, and here’s what I did about that…”
Notice how the bad answer avoids giving a specific example? And notice how they essentially give a hypothetical answer to a very specific question? Those are troubling signs. By contrast, the good answer doesn’t dodge the question, offering a specific example instead.
Bad interview answers also contain 104% more present tense verbs, 40% more adverbs, 92% more negative emotions, and 103% more absolutes. There’s much more to the study, but you get the idea; the words that candidates choose send powerful signals about their likely success as new hires.
A second reason that this sentence is so important to use in video interviews is that it subtly, but firmly, establishes who’s in control of the interview. Many candidates have been taught to ask their interviewer questions as a means of turning the tables and gaining control of the interview. But if you let that happen, you’re no longer able to accurately assess the candidate, through their language or otherwise.
When you establish clear boundaries upfront, you can avoid much of the jockeying for power that might otherwise take place during the interview. You’ve clearly said that you’re going to spend around twenty or thirty (or whatever number you choose) minutes learning about them. And you’ve also made clear that you’re reserving ten or twenty (or whatever) minutes at the end for them to ask you questions. So if they try to ask you questions outside of that time slot, you can simply say, “let’s save that question for later.”
The third reason this sentence works so well is that it forces the interviewer to leave the recruiting pitch until the end of the interview. One of the biggest mistakes that interviewers make is that they try to combine interviewing and recruiting. But combining those tasks means that neither one is performed well.
When we’re interviewing, we need to stop talking and start listening. An interviewer shouldn’t do more than 10% of the talking during the interviewing portion. Imagine that you’re interviewing a candidate for 30 minutes and recruiting them for 15 minutes. During the 30 minutes interviewing portion, the interviewer should not speak more than three minutes.
That’s an incredibly painful limitation for most hiring managers. But when you use our simple sentence at the beginning of the interview, you’re establishing boundaries for yourself that will help to keep you on track.
Source: Mark Murphy via Forbes