I work as an agile coach and a coach interview can be a very interesting experience, irrespective of which side of the table you are. This is primarily due to the unique experiences that can influence the interview experience. Not to mention, an interviewer has an upper hand given that s/he is the decision maker. I have been an interviewer for about 50+ candidates in the last 1+ year and recently went through the experience of being interviewed.
The experience of being interviewed presented me with an opportunity to introspect and assess the experience of being on either side of the table. Rather the interview gave me insight into what I should NOT be doing as an interviewer. At the end, I came up with the following key aspects of the interview process. Note that suggestions below focus on the behavioral and soft skills aspects of the interviewer and by no means are limited to the Agile Coach interview only.
Have a conversation and never take over – Great interviews are about great conversations. Interviewers can get tempted to ask questions in areas that they are most comfortable in, and in the process take over the conversation. This can easily turn into a self-boasting speech leaving the candidate high and dry with no opportunity to express self.
Be conscious about presenting the candidate with the opportunity to share stories and ideas in order to gauge his/her experience and job fit.
Listen – Listening can be the simplest but trickiest part of a conversation. The use of words, the body language, the tone can go a long way in conveying a whole lot about the interviewee. Flexible listening can help judge the need for cross-questioning, further probing or moving to a different topic.
Additionally, the ability to inject an unexpected pause can be a powerful tool in extracting more information on a topic being discussed.
As described by journalist Jim Lehrer:
“If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”
Refrain from creating a perception too soon – Looking at a candidate’s profile on LinkedIn, reading through the recommendations etc is a common way to know about the candidate ahead of time. While this is a great approach to gauge his/her experience and standing, one should not create a perception of the candidate on the basis of this information.
The beauty of perception is that you can adjust it based on your needs. Since perceptions can be a result of someone else’s opinion, it can limit the flexibility your mind can offer in assessing the candidate. So, focus on findings and leave perceptions aside.
Beware of how what book you are reading influences the interview – People like me who are avid readers constantly come across new ideas and opinions on topics. While these ideas and opinions are not ours, we can easily make them our own and throw it across to the interview to assess what they think. However; if you feel the topic is relevant and there is value in having a conversation, be transparent and mention the book and invite their opinion.
Refrain from selling the idea as your’s with an intention of demeaning the candidate. Be conscious of why you are bringing up the point and clarify expectations.
Be Curious – Curiosity is one of the most simple and most important attributes of a great interviewer. Curiosity influences how people are perceived and changes the mindset from that of someone looking at the negative aspects versus someone who is always curious and looking for opportunities and experiences to learn and grow.
As Dale Carnegie famously explains in his book titled “How to win friends and influence people”, the beauty of curiosity is that it makes you nearly irresistible to everyone around you.
Understand personality and style – One of the first things I do at the start of the interview is to ask the candidate to share his/her style of coaching and anything else that tells me about the personality that they carry. This helps set the stage for the questions and scenarios that follow. It also provides an opportunity to assess gaps in the style and personality explained and what emerges from the conversations to follow. While there can be commonalities in styles and personalities enforced through processes in technical or engineering roles when it comes to consulting, every individual has a unique style that typically works in alignment with the personality and in their unique circumstances.
I consider myself an introvert and have my own style which is based on empathy, relationships and ultimately a strong partnership which might be interpreted differently by an extrovert interviewer or someone with a strong personality.
Understand the personality up front for a more engaged conversation later.
Don’t forget your role as an interviewer – It can be quite easy for an interviewer to get on to a self-boasting ride and in the process loose opportunity to listen and assess the candidate. It is critical to remind yourself that you are the interviewer and the purpose of being together is to assess the person in front of you.
Throwing across your opinions, your style, and your solutions will lead to a one-way conversation. This might give you a temporary feeling of a winner but the core objective of the interview would have been lost.
Suspend your ego – Ego suspension is essential in cultivating the kind of curiosity that helps you connect with the person in front of you. Creating the opportunity for the interviewee to disagree with you is critical for a constructive conversation.
As author Tom Wolfe puts it, “the world is full of people with information-compulsion who want to tell you their stories. They want to tell you things that you don’t know. They’re some of the greatest allies that any writer has.”
Feedback – Not providing feedback or discussing next steps can be both rude and unprofessional. Getting feedback from the interviewer presents the opportunity for the interviewee to ask clarifying questions and in some cases remove any miscommunication that might have occurred during the discussion. In fact getting feedback about the interview from the candidate is easily important to enhance the experience for the next candidate.
To close out, while you read all the above points about the interview; wearing an interviewee’s hat will help assess the importance in a much better way.
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