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Don’t just ask questions: Here are six ways to learn more about candidates

We largely expect the interview process to consist of a skill test and additional questions. But a good point comes from Lazlo Bock in an article for The Wire: relying on those two factors alone can prevent you learning more about candidates.
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An interviewer decides from the get-go whether they like an interviewee, and spends the rest of the time confirming it in his/her head. It’s perhaps a harsh assessment, but it would definitely impede your ability to learn more about candidates.

As Bock explained: “Psychologists call this confirmation bias, ‘the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs’. In other words, 99.4 per cent of the interview is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds.”

There could be a saving grace though. It’s what Bock calls “thin slices” – small moments of observation that influence bigger decisions, be it your handshake, posture or way of speaking. That’s why questions alone won’t tell you whether they’re a good fit for your company.

Here are six ways employers tried getting around the problem to learn more about candidates – especially their habits and personality.

(1) Thomas Edison

Edison may be known for a great many things, but it’s his recruitment process that has recently garnered attention. He had candidates answer 150 excruciating questions, unwilling to hire those who couldn’t get far.

Spanning the likes of “Who was Roman emperor when Jesus was born” and “What material did Chile export to the Allies during the war,” we can assume he placed much emphasis on factual knowledge. But there’s something he did afterwards in an effort to learn more about candidates.

He would make them eat soup, presenting them with the option of salt. Many refer to it as the salt test. Essentially, it looked to weed out those who added salt without having first tried the soup. Assumptions weren’t something Edison was keen to have on his team.

(2) Speaker and ghost writer Jeff Haden

Haden once dedicated an article to finding out more about candidates. In it, he suggested people behaved differently during interviews. But he had his ways of finding the “jerks”.

“Interviewees give you their best,” he wrote. “But how do they act when they aren’t trying to impress you? What candidates do while they’re waiting in your lobby can tell you a lot. So I would ask the receptionist how she was treated. I found out what they did while they waited in the lobby.

“I asked if there were any chance encounters with other employees. Occasionally I picked up a disconnect between the show a candidate put on and the way they acted around those they weren’t trying to impress. After all, a nice guy in the lobby may not be a nice guy on the job, but a jerk in the lobby will always be a jerk on the job.”

Find out on the next page why NASCAR champion Chad Knaus look at candidates’ cars.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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