Conversations with Candidates

From my early days I recognized an underlying power-play when interviewing candidates and applicants (the difference is a piece for another day). Alongside this I thought (and still think) how totally divorced this process is from the real world of day-to-day management and leadership.

The very word ‘interview’ should replaced (in my own mind at least) with the phrase ‘conversation with a purpose’.

So what to do?

Fortunately I came across (can’t remember where) a way of equalizing the relationship and in doing so helping to arrive at better outcomes. Essentially this was by removing (even out of this non-operational activity) fear and replacing it with trust which should be the aim of all leaders.

My mind-set now views the ‘candidate’ as a ‘consultant’.

It’s amazing how that small change in perspective can make an interview more successful.

As an interviewer (that word again!) you have an enormous amount of power over a candidate – especially if you’re also the hiring manager.

It’s true that we tend to listen more and be less judgmental of people we consider to be our ‘betters’. This is why we are more deferential towards customers and supervisors than we are to suppliers and subordinates. In fact we still do this almost instinctively when we talk with lawyers and doctors. Is it any wonder therefore that when we treat candidates with this same degree of respect, they open up more quickly and their answers are longer and more insightful?

So what I advise is that when we sit down with candidates for the first time:

  • be sincerely interested in their answers

  • ask follow-up questions that demonstrate active listening

  • ask for their advice on job-related problems

  • be ready with positive feedback

Unless you talk too much – this is will not result in oversell.

If all else fails, imagine yourself actually paying the candidate for advice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well this simple change of attitude can open the floodgates of communication. A two-way conversation that is more likely to result in truth and a contribution to better outcomes.

If nothing else this less confrontational approach will also lead to an altogether more pleasant and satisfactory meeting between two resourceful humans rather than one being viewed as a human resource.

This has helped me. I hope it at least gives you food for thought.

Trevor Lee, EP International


2 comments on “Conversations with Candidates

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  2. Bob Corlett says:


    This is genius. What a simple, effective way to open your mind to a real “conversation with a purpose.” Thanks for sharing this.


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