Think Like A Coach to Improve Your Interviewing Process

Face it, your interviews are boring and stale and probably pretty ineffective. You ask the same kinds of questions. You do the same limited preparation. You just want to find someone who is reasonable, so you can just be done with interviewing.

In my informal poll of the many CEO groups I speak to, nearly two thirds of them say they, and their organizations, don’t like interviewing. They do it because they have to. They do it out of habit instead of intention. And their results show it. Low engagement. High turnover rates. Poor workplace culture.

So, shift with me for a moment to understand how a coach prepares and hosts a coaching call or meeting to learn from it for improved interviewing and hiring success.

First, coaches prepare to coach. In our preparation for every client, we first look inside ourselves and center ourselves; we work on being present and ready to deal with whatever comes up in our coaching sessions. We eliminate distractions, clear our minds, become aware of our biases and choose to be ready to gather and use the information in our coaching session to help our clients. We do this on purpose. We are tuned in, ready and thinking.

Let’s use this approach with the interview. To interview well, you must be ready to interview. This means you must be present, clear and eliminate any distractions that will take you away from the purpose of the interview, which is to gather enough of the right information to determine whether this candidate could fit the role and your company. For that, you must make the time to fully understand the role – what it does, its performance expectations, its performance success attributes and your role in the interview process – and understand the workplace or organizational culture – what it believes, its mission, its values and its focus on customers.

Second, as coaches, we gather information. Jumping right into issues is generally too much too soon for a coaching conversation. Using a few well-thought out questions like, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” or, “What challenge have you successfully dealt with today?” sets a positive tone and encourages the client to talk. Talking is how they share information, which is necessary to help a coach to determine what to ask and do next.

It is the same in an interview. With clarity of the attributes, skills and experience you need a candidate to have to be the right fit for the role, create the interview – the meaningful interview questions and activities – to deliver this information. Today’s interviews need to include activities to provide greater information about a candidate’s abilities; it’s more than simply asking them what they would do or have done in a particular situation. Though questions are important, gather greater information about behaviors and skill levels by having candidates demonstrate their abilities through activities. These could include providing feedback, creating a spreadsheet/memo, selling a product, assessing a challenge or problem, etc. The purpose of the interview is to gather information, so ensure each component or segment of the interview delivers meaningful information. I call it the Prove-it-to-Me Interview.

Third, as coaches we assess what we hear from our clients to determine what to say and do next. Well-crafted questions and intentional listening prepare us to be fully present in the responses from clients. From that information, we can then guide, challenge, support or encourage – whatever we feel the situation requires – to help the client move closer to their goal.

In the interview, use the information gathered from the questions and activities to assess and evaluate the candidate’s skills and abilities. Those involved in interviewing must know what successful responses or behaviors look like to effectively evaluate. Be ready to drill down into any candidate’s responses the way a coach does to fully understand, to be able to wisely assess for fit and alignment. Then, as an interview team, come together to share your assessment and evaluation of each candidate.

Those who interview can learn a lot about interviewing from coaching. The process shares similar goals of being fully present, understanding the situation and gathering and assessing information. What in your interviewing could benefit from coach-like thinking?

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in how you interview. Then, using the ideas presented, make improvements to your interview process to hire talent that is well-aligned to their roles. Small improvements that result in hiring the right people can yield exceptional organizational results.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Stop Promoting the Wrong People into Management Roles

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