An Interviewer’s Guide to Job Interviewing

People who interview jobseekers for a living are usually NOT included in the group that makes employment decisions. That’s unfortunate since they are also the people who tend to have the expertise to spot prevaricators! On the plus side, the people who do make hiring decisions are people who are skilled in the technical aspects of their field and the managerial aspects of their work units; they possess the knowledge to recognize and select people who have the right abilities and skills to fill their job vacancies.

Sometime in your professional career, you’ll be asked to evaluate job applicants and give assessments of their candidacy for employment. Here are some tips to help you “hit the ground running”:

During the interview and selection process, it’s important to exercise unbiased judgment. This will necessitate that you actively exercise self awareness!
By that I mean, be aware of your personal feelings toward each applicant. That way, when your feelings start to creep into an applicant evaluation, you’ll be more likely to stay focused on the needs of your work unit as well as the behavioral qualities needed to compliment your team. Watch out for “snow jobs” and for candidate attempts to “butter you up”.

Most important of all, really listen to what the applicant is saying. Try not to hear what you think they’re saying because if they’re fabricating answers, candidate responses may sound like what you’re looking for even though they’re actually vague, all-encompassing answers. Sometimes you’ll run across candidate responses that are right “on spot” with the job you’re trying fill. Watch out of this too! The applicant’s responses may be inconsistent or non-sensical with statements they’ve made earlier in the interview. Fabricators are just hoping they’ve said enough or gotten close enough to what you’re looking for so you’ll “fill in the blanks” with what you want to hear.

A former police interrogater, Steven van Aperen, claims to be the “human lie detector”, Ironically he now teaches government agencies how to ascertain truthfulness in job applicants. According to Mr. van Aperen, the following are also good indicators of fabrication during a job interview … test them out for yourself:

  • When people are not being truthful, their gestures don’t coincide with their words. Their upper body stiffens, their voices get lower, their breathing slows and their blink rate increases. And, most telling of all, less-than-truthful applicants show a recognizable moment of relief when their interview is over.
    So, if you’re wondering if someone is too good to be true, perhaps a good tool for checking their truthfulness would be to seemingly and abruptly end an interview just to see if the applicant shifts posture or exhales in relaxation.
  • Less than truthful interview responses often contain “stiff” language. For example, one might say “I did not” rather than “I didn’t” or “It did not work” instead of “It didn’t work”. They may also refer to someone in the third-person when they give examples; a fabricator may say something like “that person” or “someone” (instead of using a person’s name) so they can distance themselves from their tales. Also, their examples are often peppered with unnecessary detail and they tend to look directly into your eyes more often than most (truthful people are more comfortable looking others straight in the eye 60 % of the time).
  • Truthful people tend to remember stories in their order of emotional prominence. Fabricators tend to deliver time-stamped stories so, if questioned in follow-up, fabricators tend to falter when asked to recount in more detail, a small part of their story.

If you want to use (or you already use) some of these techniques, be cautious. There are pitfalls to using them widespread or with exclusivity. For example, nerves play a large role during the interview so applicant behaviors may seem unusual to you. Some people are better at managing their nerves than others so a visible sigh of relief may just mean that they’re happy their perceived interrogation is over. Ms. van Aperan’s techniques are good wisdom but they really work best when you know the applicant’s normal behaviors.

Try to avoid making spot-decisions. Take copious notes during interviews and, when possible, collaborate with others who participated with you in the interview process. Consider reviewing and evaluating your notes only after finishing all the interviews for the day. Try to find ways to remove applicant personalities from their responses and examine the appropriateness of what they said relative to the job you’re trying to fill. Most important of all, avoid reading into applicant responses. If you don’t understand what was said, don’t make it more than it is. If you weren’t able to follow-up and get clarity during the interview, it’s better to give less credit to applicants on their verbal communication skills than to guess what they meant and get it wrong.

Please share the interviewing tips you’ve picked up along the way!

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Bill Brantley

“Ms. van Aperan’s techniques are good wisdom but they really work best when you know the applicant’s normal behaviors.”

The interview is usually when you first meet the applicant so when do you have a chance to observe the applicant’s normal behaviors so that you can establish a baseline?