When was the last time you had a first date?
Chances are – it’s been awhile. Let me remind you of what it feels like and how you behave:
- You wear your favorite outfit (which you pick out well in advance).
- You are on your best behavior – you smile often, laugh at the right time and listen intently.
- You try to impress – you want the date to go well and put effort into making it a success.
- You ignore initial problems or concerns – you file them under “anomaly” and look for the good and the potential.
A 1st date represents the best of your best. You pull out all the stops and seek to impress. If we maintained “1st date behavior” well into marriage, the divorce rate would plummet. However, we don’t. In fact, an article I found claims only 12% of 1st dates evolve into a serious relationship. Why? Because as dating continues – the shine tarnishes and the real person appears.
Let’s look at some 10th date behavior:
- He forgot we were going out tonight.
- She shows up late without calling.
- Texting during dinner is commonplace.
- Listening is sporadic at best (especially if you are in a sports bar with 10 televisions).
- Burps are known to surface with little notice (or editing).
You get the point. By the 10th date – the “real” person shows up. The good intentions and window dressing fall to the wayside and the “this is who I am – I can’t change” person is in his/her full glory!
So why am I taking you down this trail of dating behavior? Because I see this dynamic every day. No, I don’t stalk my daughters on dates (although I like the idea), I watch people interview.
Interviews are painfully similar to first dates.
Interviews are hard.
What makes them challenging is the opposing agendas. On one hand, we want to impress and ‘seduce’ the candidate (e.g., 1st date behavior). On the other hand, we must challenge and confront to see if this is someone we can ‘marry’ (e.g., 10th date behavior).
In my experience, too many leaders default to 1st date behavior when interviewing. Not surprisingly, the candidate does the same. Consequently, everyone is on his/her best behavior. You listen, you smile, you wear your best suit and sit up straight. You both hope for a great fit – one really wants the job and the other really wants an employee. Desire blinds objectivity.
My lesson for the day – it doesn’t work! You need to interview like it is the 10th date.
How to interview like it is your 10th date:
- Dig Deep: To be effective in interviews you must get below the initial answer. Peel back the onion and get into specifics and examples. Most candidates have a “sound bite” answer ready to go – don’t stop there. Ask for more. As you dig deeper, the 1st date soundbite dissolves and you see what is (or isn’t) there. Never stop with the first answer.
- Make them Prove it: Too many candidates are quick to espouse a skill or ability – test it where possible. If they say they are good at sales – have them sell you a coffee mug (on the spot). If they say they are extremely organized – ask to see their desktop, calendar or other real example. I often have candidates tell me they are good at “reading people.” My response is, “Great, read me.” While they often stumble, I see their “people reading skills” in action.
- Start a Fight: Most workplaces are dynamic, stressful and demanding. Conflict is a necessary element of getting things done. As such, instead of only showing your helpful 1st date personality – start a “fight.” Pick something the candidate says or does and challenge it. Disagree. Tell them they are wrong. The goal is to stimulate a constructive debate and see what they do. Do they get defensive, do they shut down, do they escalate? Their approach to this mini-fight provides an indication of what they’re like as an employee.
- Show your “Morning Face”: Don’t present your self, your company or the job in its’ full and beautiful glory. Be real. Let them know your quirks, explain how lean the company operates and they’ll have many demands on their time. Let them know the pressure to expect. In HR terms, this is a ‘realistic job preview.‘ For me, it is honesty. Candidates need to know your “morning worst” and not be scared away. Learn the candidate’s “worst” as well.
- Try to Break Up: It is interesting to watch what happens when you try to “break up” with a candidate. Telling them during the interview that you just can’t see the fit is a technique to do so. Tell them you can’t “see” the fit – you just aren’t sure why they are the right person and watch what they do. Can they “sell” you? Do they probe to learn more? Do they give up, thank you for your time and leave? This shows how committed they are to the potential relationship and let’s you watch as they try to convince you.
Hiring is hard. Don’t make it impossible by relying solely on 1st date behavior. While there are many things you can add to the selection process to help find great candidates, interviewing like it’s the 10th date is a skill every leader should have.
You take time to interview – you might as well get some real value out of it!