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Are you a ‘Firing Line’ Interviewer?

Being an interviewer is a unique opportunity. How do you handle it?

Are you kind and engaging?

Are your questions geared to find what’s ‘right’ in a person?

Are you seeking desperately to not pick the wrong candidate?

Are you expecting perfection in your next hire?

Both sides of the table

I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been the interviewer and the interviewee. Here’s what I’ve observed.

Many interviewers are scared to death

That’s right. The one with the ‘perceived power’ (the interviewer) in the interaction is scared to death. They are scared to death that they are going to pick the wrong candidate.

I participated in some interviews recently. Here’s what some ‘scared to death questions’ that I’ve heard asked:

  • Why didn’t you stay at your last position longer?

  • It seems like your experience doesn’t quite fit the position – why are you interviewing with us?

  • You’ve changed positions in the past – how would we know you are going to stay with us long term?

  • I’ve heard that ‘insert company’ has a great salary and benefits package – why did you leave them?

  • Why did you get fired in your last position? (by the way – they assumed it…the person had not been fired)

  • Many of us have been in this company many years, why should we risk hiring you as a new person? (by the way – not entirely true…their VP stayed with them 2 years and then left for a better position)

The Firing Line

If you ask questions like this, it’s comparable to being on the ‘firing line’ for an interviewee. You are pushing them into a corner. You look ridiculous. And…you show that you are scared to death that you are going to fail at picking the right person. You are showing that you are afraid of making a mistake and that you aren’t able to take risks.

At one point in my career, I went through 5 different interviews with the same company. Yes – 5 interviews!

In the last interview, I was with the leader of the business in one country and the overall business leader on another continent. The position was lower than average pay. It wasn’t a very highly respected company. It had been open a year or more. It was with a good (but not a great) company.

The questions from the business leader were all fear based.

How come you’ve changed jobs often?

Why do you want to leave your current position?

Can you tell me about conflicts you’ve had with other people?

You’ve had ‘higher’ positions in the past – why would you want this position?

Are you going to really be happy in a lower position?

For this interviewer, it was all about ‘Let’s find out what’s wrong with this person’. It also showed me very clearly that he didn’t respect the position (or the person who would be in it) because he called it ‘lower’ several times. By the way – he had changed positions himself multiple times, so the whole line of questioning was quite hypocritical.

Positive Interviews – Are they possible???

Does it sound ridiculous to have an interview focused more positively?

It can’t be any more ridiculous that putting someone on the firing line. It can’t be any worse than hanging out there for everyone to see that you are full of fear and that you don’t respect the person you are interviewing.

Positive Questions:

How about asking positive questions and let the person be more at ease as they talk about themselves?

  • What do you feel you’ve excelled at in your career?

  • What position have you enjoyed and why did you enjoy it?

  • What are your people-leadership strengths?

  • What is your biggest success in life thus far?

  • What are you most proud of in your career?

  • What are your best strengths?

  • How could you use those strengths in this position if we hired you?

  • What do you like about our company? Have you heard good things about us in the industry?

The people you are interviewing will tell you all kinds of things if you ask positive questions and express a genuine interest in them.

Put your interviewers at ease – don’t put them on the firing line.



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