What’s your interview style? A case for conversation.

Karen Hitchcock Creative Gun Consulting

The only thing I plan on faking for the rest of my life is my hair color. But you can't fault a girl for that!

This week, I’ve been interviewing candidates for a graphic artist position for both my consulting company and for a new role/business venture (official details coming soon).

Because I’ve been freelancing for several years, it’s been a while since I’ve conducted “formal” interviews. Even though I love people, collaborating and generally chitty-chatting, I’ve never enjoyed being interviewed OR interviewing others. But I’ve never been able to articulate why.

In the past two weeks, I’ve figured it out. Interviews are no fun because everyone is uptight, on edge and trying their absolute hardest NOT to be themselves. No wonder hiring is so tricky and sometimes the employer or employee are disappointed after just a few weeks or months of work.

So I decided to try something different this time around. I refused to ask the standard questions that most of us have heard, like:

  • What is your greatest weakness? (Oh so glad you asked, I’d like to tell you all the ways I suck!)
  • If you were an animal, which one would you be? (A sloth, of course, because I rarely get anything done!)
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (In a gutter hitting rock bottom after working with you!)
  • Are you a team player? (No, I’m a one-woman show. It’s my way or the highway!)
  • Blah, blah, blah and blah?

Instead, when I connected with candidates to schedule, I said this:

“We’re going to have a conversation that will probably only last 30-40 minutes. I’ll tell you a little about the job and then let’s just chat and get to know each other. I don’t do formal interviews so just be yourself so we can see if we’re a good fit.”

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed these latest interviews. I was more relaxed because I wasn’t trying to force the conversation or “trick” a prospect into messing up and revealing the Achilles’ heel that would preclude them from working with me. Similarly, the candidates seemed more at ease and genuinely seemed to appreciate being out of the “hot seat.”

One person emailed me, “If more people had your interview style, better work would be getting done everywhere.”

I felt great when I got this email because, while one response has no statistical significance, it did confirm some thoughts I’ve had for a while and certainly validates my approach this time around.

When you stop trying to trick people or dupe people, they stop trying to dupe you too. And I think that’s kinda neat.

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3 Responses to What’s your interview style? A case for conversation.

  1. Amy Ackermann Peeler says:

    As an HR professional I like your approach! Interviews ARE hard for both interviewer and interviewee! “Fit” within the organization is so important and many times hardest to assess. I would not, however, be upholding the HR Professional’s Pledge (if there really were one…) without saying this: walk the fine line between getting to know a candidate and asking too much personal information that might bite you in the proverbial butt later. I have some great interview questions (and stories)–ask me and I might share a few. Just don’t get too personal….

  2. Hi Karen,

    I used to fall in love with someone’s resume/portfolio, only to find that they either aren’t the right cultural fit, not the desired work ethic, flat-out prima donna’s, etc.

    So I like making people jump some hurdles in order to earn the right to get to the interview. Maybe they have to answer some questions in writing or on line or in a recording. Maybe they have to fill out a pre-interview employment application. Most people won’t jump those hurdles (too wierd, they ‘so above’ this…). The ones who are open to trying new things, really wanting to work and be a part of your company – will. Make them work hard to get to the table – then have your really open and cool conversation about what you do and what you’re looking for.


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