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A Resume Can Only Tell You So Much

By Cameron Herold, Author: Double Double & Meetings Suck | COO Alliance Founder. Originally published on Quora.

At a certain point, you need to speak to the person directly in order to gauge a candidate’s knowledge, character, temperament, and all the other things you can only learn about someone by speaking with them in person.

That said, I truly believe the standard, wishy-washy interviews that happen at many companies are a complete waste of time.

“Tell me about a time when you showed leadership in your former position.”

Give me a break.

Anyone with half-a-brain can memorize a few good answers or polish up an old job description to make their role seem consequential. Everyone who walks into your office should be capable of that.

If you really want to hire top-notch leaders, standard interview questions won’t cut it. You’re going to have to put in some extra work to weed out the fakes and hire the best.

1. Learn To Trust Your Gut

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

One thing I constantly tell interviewers is to trust their gut. Don’t ignore what your instincts are telling you. Nearly everyone lies at least a little during the interview, but you’re the one who has to sniff that out.

I once had a guy come in and interview as an expert in time management. This guy was flying through the standard interview questions. He was charming, articulate, and spot-on with his answers.

He seemed like just the person I’d want on my team.

But when I started asking him about putting his time management theories into practical use, he became a little evasive. When I asked for concrete examples, he deferred. My instincts were telling me to keep pushing him, so I asked to see his planner. A time management expert would have a meticulous planner, right?

He told me he’d left it in the car.

I told him I’d wait for him to go get it.

So he smiled, walked out to his car, got in, and drove off into the sunset.

If I hadn’t followed up on my intuition, he may have wound up in our office, rather than on the highway.

2. Get Used To Uncomfortable Situations

The reason I was able to smoke that guy out was because I wasn’t afraid of an uncomfortable situation.

Did it make things tense when I asked him to go get his planner? Sure. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known for sure if he was lying.

As a leader looking for other leaders, you can’t be afraid of awkward situations.

One of the best ways to get more information from an interviewee is to simply wait silently after they’re done answering a question. No one likes that pregnant silence. It’s uncomfortable. So most people will try to fill it. They’ll continue answering the question, provide extra information, and maybe even tell you something they didn’t mean to.

The benefit here is you get to see how that individual responds to that uncomfortable silence. Do they twist and squirm, or do they stay calm and wait you out?

I know this sounds like you’re provoking conflict, but you don’t have to conduct the entire interview like this. One or two examples will tell you everything you need to know about the person you’re interviewing.

3. Ask Unexpected Questions

“What’s your favorite movie of all time?”

I’m not kidding when I tell you that this is one of the best interview questions you could possibly ask. And sure, you can use it to weed out potential employees that have a bad taste in movies, but the real value is in seeing how they respond to the question.

It’s unexpected.

This question intentionally comes out of left field and requires them to think on their feet. If they’ve been practicing responses about their biggest weaknesses, or moments in time when they disagreed with a customer, now they have to change gears completely and tell you their favorite movie.

Do they know it off the top of their head? Do they take an oddly long time to think of an answer? Do they seem annoyed by the question, or do they take it in stride?

People prepare for interviews. That’s a good thing. You wouldn’t want an employee who won’t take the time to rehearse a few questions and answers. However, if you only use standard interview questions, you’re really only testing their ability to prepare for an interview.

But toss in an oddball question or two, and you have the perfect opportunity to observe their reaction, their thought process, and their level of comfort when dealing with the unexpected.

Feel free to improvise and tweak some of these strategies as you see fit, but just know, if you ask average interview questions, you’re going to wind up hiring average employees.

By Cameron Herold, Author: Double Double & Meetings Suck | COO Alliance Founder. Originally published on Quora.
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