Can you share a secret?
We’ve all heard that with 2 ears and 1 mouth, we should try using them in that ratio (except when called upon to deliver a speech!)
But I want to share an interview secret with you. All very hush, hush, so I’m trusting in your discretion to keep the secret.
And here it is. One of the most powerful tips for success as an interviewer.
Really. Hush your mouth.
Unless this is a situation where you need to woo the candidate (usually in the first connections of a headhunt scenario), you need to learn to zip it.
The interview is not about you. It's not about you opining on any random topic. It’s not an excuse to show off your knowledge (believe me, if you ask the right quality of questions, your knowledge will be assumed by the candidate).
The spotlight should be firmly on the candidate. You potentially want to hire them. So keep the time focussed on them.
As a guide, if you speak for more than 20% of the total time allotted for the interview, you’re probably talking too much. Either your questions are convoluted or they’re geared for quantity and not quality of answer. Your introduction and/or wrap up is too long. Or you need to rethink the sharing of your many opinions and stories.
By all means communicate the context to the role but keep it relevant and of use to the candidate.
Be clear on what you really need to know about this person, and prepare in advance with appropriate questions that will give you meaningful (rather than glib) answers.
Ask simple, direct questions so the candidate can clearly understand what kind of skill / knowledge you want to know more about (avoid multi part questions – you’re not being fair if you just confuse a candidate).
Answer their questions simply and honestly and be sure to manage expectations on what the next steps might be. You might at this time volunteer some concise coaching or insights to help candidates in the next interview round, if you’re planning to progress them.
The interview is an equal investment of time for you and the candidate but a candidate expects to be given the chance to “sell” themselves. And a candidate expects you to be able to walk away from the event knowing as much as possible about what they could deliver to the role.
In an ideal world, it should feel like an equal information exchange, more of a discussion than a traditional question and answer interview. And with preparation and practice you, as the interviewer, can still achieve this perception without talking for half of time.
So shut it. Zip it. Bite your tongue. And focus the time on a proper investigation of the candidate’s suitability for the vacant role. I guarantee it will go a long way towards improving the quality of your hires.