Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel prize for Economics in 2002, notes that humans are notoriously imperfect at judging their own performance. And he is more than qualified to give interview advice! One of the first research projects he worked on involved a military organization that had only a 5% success rate when it came to finding the right candidates. (He improved their results dramatically with a simple technique which I will tell you about later.)
My stat, based on twenty years of recruiting, is that 95% of candidates when asked about how they did in an interview, will answer that they did exceptionally well. While only about 20% actually get hired.
Even stranger, candidates who are generally unsure or more self-critical about their performance in interviews, almost always seem to do better. What’s that all about?
All I can tell you is that many interviews I have sat in on over the years have something in common. Candidates aren’t typically reading even the most basic of human cues. And the biggest reason for that? They’re not really listening.
(Maybe it works the same way on a blind date. People are so busy nervously talking about themselves that they miss what the other person is really asking. This can lead to very awkward moments - or very funny rom-com movie plots.)
So here comes the sports analogy the title hinted at.
A good interview isn’t like playing tennis match where you stand back and wait for the questions to come at you like a served ball. And then smash it back as hard as you can.
Interviews that really work are more like football plays where you’re the quarterback. Where you are actively involved in running the ball, calling the play and keeping an eye on the defense. So, here's some very important interview advice: Look around. See what the other team is up to. Then be strategic and when you finally understand the play, take a deep breath, and throw as accurately as you can.
We tell candidates to listen very carefully to questions and never answer until they fully understand. Interviews are not timed events. And interviewers don’t mind if you give pause and careful consideration to their questions. Or ask follow ups before diving in.
You can even try a technique used by the pros. While you are mustering your response, fill the space with a comment like “That’s a great question” or “I was hoping someone would ask me that.” Give the interviewer some credit too. Their job isn’t easy either.
And Mr. Kahneman from the intro? His client was the Israeli army and they were interviewing new recruits to determine who was officer material. Interviewers who were using their gut instincts to decide weren’t very successful. So Kahneman had them ask specific questions based on skills they were hiring for and scoring each candidate while they were being interviewed. He turned a popularity contest into a more scientific process. And it tripled the success of the project.
Companies are lot smarter today about hiring. Make sure you are telling them what they need to know to hire you. In the end, that great new job may be more about listening than just selling yourself.
By Russ Smith, Randstad Technologies, Winnipeg