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Tips for Better Interviews

16 March 2021

Janie read Want to Really Get to Know Your Candidates? Interview for Emotional Intelligence by Erin Patton and was pleased to find an article with recommendations that mirror her own experience and practices for interviewing.

Tags: careers, janie read

As an HR professional, I’ve supported many hiring processes throughout my career. My interviewing experience began in my former role with Darden Executive Education as a participant in interview panels with other colleagues. After joining the Allison Partners team, I worked to earn my SHRM-CP certification, and have moved on to managing the hiring process for open positions within our team, as well as occasionally assisting clients with their hiring needs.

I’ve learned a lot through my experiences with different search processes over the years. The two things I have found to be the most critical are using open-ended interview questions to encourage your candidates to share more about themselves and their experience, and really listening to what they have to say. I know both tips sound pretty straightforward, but there’s more to it than you might realize.

I recently came across Want to Really Get to Know Your Candidates? Interview for Emotional Intelligence by Erin Patton on the SHRM website. I was excited to find an article with guidance that aligns so well with my experience. In her research, Patton talked with Jennifer Shirkani, CEO and President of Penumbra Talent Management Solutions, about some of her suggestions for crafting better interview questions. Shirkani’s top recommendation was to use behavior-based questions to assess the emotional intelligence of a candidate during the time you have with them. If you’re not familiar with this concept, emotional intelligence (EQ) is “the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions and respond appropriately based on that information.”

Shrikani stressed that using open-ended behavior-based questions and listening for specific examples is a way to get a better sense of a candidate’s EQ and how they might perform. I couldn’t agree more with this advice. One of my favorite questions from this article was “think of a time when you had an unexpected setback at work. Tell me about the details.” I love this question because it forces the candidate to discuss a time when things didn’t go well. I would follow-up by asking what (if anything) they might do differently if they could go back and handle the same situation again. Setbacks will happen in the workplace and getting a sense for how a candidate handles themselves when things don’t go as planned, and how well they learn from their mistakes can be a helpful indicator of performance.

In my experience, using behavior-based questions and listening for opportunities to ask follow-up questions is the best way to get a better sense of how someone might perform in the workplace. The key is that once you’ve asked the question, you have to really listen to the person’s response. It’s easy to jump ahead in your mind to where you think the conversation will go next, but if you’re focused on what you anticipate coming next, you might miss key insights from your candidates. My strategy for really listening to my candidates is to take very detailed notes during interviews. This not only helps me stay focused on the conversation in the moment, but it also helps me later when I’m trying to decide who should move on to the next phase of the hiring process. If you haven’t tried this approach, I encourage you to try one or two of the questions from the article during your next interview and really listen to what your candidate has to say. 


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