Innovation Interviewing: New Game, New Rules

Updated: April 23, 2010

1- Shut up and listen: Every moment you speak is a moment your interviewee is silent. Unless you are interviewing someone who will be working for you as a mime, you aren't learning anything while you're talking.

2- Ask SPIN questions: Help your interviewee learn more about the position and company - while you're learning more about them - by asking value-centric questions. Try using what sales guru Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and many other books on business communication, calls 'Implication' and 'Need-payoff' questions. "What if you got this position and could do anything within reason to make it a success?" "Here's a recurring problem (describe it); how many kinds of adverse impact on our business can you identify?" This gives the candidate an opportunity to 'dig in' and actually sell themselves on the job opportunity, while giving you a view into their thinking and problem solving processes.

3 - Stick to a plan: Remember that an interview is a form of assessment. If every interview follows a different path, they will not result in accurate or reasonable comparisons between candidates. Not only do you need to ask the same questions of each interviewee, you need to interpret their answers in the same way. Furthermore, if you don't isolate the key message points and stay focused on them, it is all the more likely that the candidate's physical characteristics, gender, race, nationality, style of dress, etc. will creep into the assessment-and before you know it you will be adrift in unconscious biases that can lead to future trouble.

4 - Pick a team player:
Consider using an assessment that is designed to measure teaming characteristics. Hiring has always been focused primarily on the characteristics of the individual candidates. Ironically, how well they will perform on the team doesn't come to the fore until after the hire - and isn't recognized as a failing until after the 'bad hire' has done plenty of damage. You can't really ask people how they 'team' and expect a reliable answer, so you need a way to predict how they will behave.

5 - Take the high road: Even when you're having a tough day, remember that you are making decisions of critical importance to your organization. You have direct influence on building and maintaining a human infrastructure that will determine the success or failure of the entire organization. Take a deep breath, ask for a second opinion if you're unsure, and always keep learning.

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