Close Your Mouth, Open Your Mind

Chaper 3 Pg’s 73-74 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

The most serious mistake in the interview process is for an interviewer to do all of the talking. Indeed, the best interviews are those where the candidate speaks 95 percent of the time or more. “Active listening,” a term coined by psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers, is the key to a quality interview. Obviously, the questions are important, but the more critical aspect is the answers. Once you understand an answer, it can often lead to another question that probes a bit further. If you are speaking, then it is very difficult for you to be listening. Unfortunately, all too often when people are listening, they are probably listening to themselves. You already know about yourself. Your goal must be to learn about the candidate.

 Close your mouth, open your ears, engage your brain, and then ask a question. Listen to the response, process the answer, and then ask follow-up questions. This is the sequence of activity required for active listening. If you do anything else, you are interviewing yourself. Never underestimate the value of follow-up questions. Do not accept a candidate’s “sound bite.” You must focus on the details of the answer and on getting both a broad and a deep understanding of how the candidate succeeded in previous work environments. Ask open-ended questions that require real answers from real experiences. Ask questions like, “Give me an example of how you managed your worst customer problem,” or, “Tell me about your most challenging experiences during the time you spent at Mega Corporation as a financial analyst,” or, “Tell me about your first job and how you interfaced with your first boss.”

 Vague questions breed vague answers. Never ask a question that allows a candidate to give a theoretical or conceptual answer unless you are looking for critical thinking skills. Questions like, “What is a good employee?” may yield intellectual insight into employee management but will not give you specific insights into a candidate’s behavior. Instead you might try something like, “When you last had a fellow associate who was not getting the job done effectively and was getting you and your unit into difficulty with management, how did you handle the problem?” What you want are answers that shed light on what candidates have actually done and how they achieved results. Remember, you are looking for winners, and the only way to find them is to probe for their successes and how they achieved them.

 In chapter 1, we described the differences between love and like. That message is a running theme throughout this book, and it has direct application in the interview. You cannot afford to like a candidate. You must always be on guard against strongly liking a résumé before you have the opportunity to interview the candidate. It is very easy to agree to that statement but much harder to walk it out. But you must enter an interview with an open mind. You can’t afford not to.

  Just as important, you must not allow yourself to be influenced by liking a candidate during your interview. This is even more difficult. We all have had the experience of meeting a person and, within seconds, feeling “chemistry” with that person that seems to establish a bond. Remember, you are hiring the whole person. Liking a candidate can severely constrain the objectivity you need to determine the individual’s fit for the specific job, the team, or the corporate world. Certainly, if the chemistry is bad, it may portend a relationship problem in the future.

 But good chemistry is not a predictor of high-quality job performance. In fact, strong positive chemistry frequently has an adverse impact on a leader’s ability to effectively manage an associate. You probably should avoid hiring people you do not like, but do not simply hire all candidates you like, either. Hire those you love because they are humans. Hire those who, through past experiences, have demonstrated they have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors they need to help you achieve great results for the organization. Any other reasons should fall way down the list of selection criteria.

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