The right candidates for the right job!

Interviewing – Talk Less

How To Talk Only 25% Of The Time

Do you spend more time talking than listening when you interview? Interviewing experts say that the most effective and efficient interviews are those in which the interviewer talks only 25% of the time!

After years of interviewing, I believe I finally have it right! I’ve learned listen with the thoroughness of a counselor, and assess individual skills and attributes with a photographer’s eye for nuance.

The hard part, of course, is to do all this while only talking 25% of the time and while doing the other 50 things I’m responsible for each day! We all know why we need to make time for interviewing – so we don’t have to keep doing all the jobs of those positions we haven’t yet filled! We also know why we should only talk 25% of the time – if we talk too much, how will we learn all that we need to know about the applicant. You do, of course, need to talk some or how will the applicant learn all that they need to know about the job and the company?

If you find yourself talking too much, examine the reasons

  • Some of us talk too much during an interview because we didn’t plan the questions and assessment methods we’d use and are winging it. We figure if we just keep talking, the applicant will never know that we actually forgot they were even coming today – much less prepared for them! Some of us have had some pretty interesting interviews like:
  • The time the applicant was shown to my office while I was getting water. When I entered my office, the applicant was going through the papers on my desk – she said she was trying to learn more about me and the company!
  • Or the time the applicant came early for an interview and demanded that I see him immediately. I was finishing another interview and told a staff person to ask him to wait until the scheduled appointment time. The staff person called back, obviously upset, and asked me to please come out front. There, I encountered the applicant, who told me in no uncertain terms how rude it was for me to have kept him waiting – and even slammed his fist on the desk, when stating that he made a lot more money than I did and it was unconscionable to be kept waiting. I obviously did a rather poor job of pre-screening that one.

These type of experiences tend to make us want to talk more so we feel in control. However, you can be in control and keep your talk time to 25% by doing a small amount of pre-interview planning.

  • Set criteria for the position (this could be your job description or job analysis – make sure to update it – or you can write a list of what you’re looking for based on what they’ll need to do).
  • Gain information about the applicant based on the criteria before the interview – save yourself and the applicant time by pre-interviewing by phone and mail. Ask questions like “What do you have to offer our company?” “If you had this job what would you expect yourself to be doing every day?” You’ll get a better picture of this applicant than the standard, “Why do you want this job?” “Tell me about yourself” questions. Ask for and check references (check them before the interview and save time, plus you can use information from the references to probe).
  • Think about the time and the location – allow sufficient time so that neither you nor the applicant feels rushed. Consider not only how long you’ll need for the interview, but also what time of day and what day of the week would be best. If you are super busy in the morning, you won’t get what you need from a morning interview. Now, if the applicant sounds like they meet your criteria, call them in for an interview.
  • Plan the questions you’ll ask and assessments you’ll have them do, as well as anyone on your staff you want them to meet and talk with (be sure your staff people plan their questions too), and anything you want to show them. Pre-interview planning—gaining information before the interview, planning the best time and place and the questions, assessments and others to meet—will allow you to control your percentage of time talking about the position and your operation, so you can spend as much time listening and probing as possible.

The way to get the applicant to talk more? Ask as many open ended questions as possible. Instead of “Did you have a good attendance record on your last job?,” try “What was your attendance record on your last job?” Instead of “Are you interested in learning how to use new equipment?,” try “What new equipment are you interested in learning?” or “Tell me about the kinds of equipment you’ve worked with in the past and why you enjoyed using them”. Avoid questions that are leading or can’t possibly produce a truthful answer, like “How did you get along with your co-workers?” Only ask questions that are job related – i.e., that you “need to know” the answer to. There is a great deal of information we “need to know” about applicants. If we ask for this information using all encompassing questions, we may be asking for information we don’t need to know in order to determine if the applicant is the best one for the job.

We need to make our questions more pinpointed – first by determining the essential functions of the job, then by designing questions that address only those issues. For example, if the job requires someone who is 21 or older, you don’t need to know how old they are – you only need to know if they’re 21 or older. So ask “Are you 21 or older?” If you ask “How old are you?,” they tell you 42, and you don’t hire them, you run the risk of being accused that you didn’t hire them because of their age—whether you took that into account or not—and you’ll be in the position of proving that age had nothing to do with your decision. Save yourself time and money by asking only specific “need to know” questions. This will also indicate to the applicant that you’ve prepared for them and they’ll feel better about you and your operation!

Record the applicant’s information as you gain it on a checklist of the criteria required for someone in the position. The job description or job analysis works well for this. Doing this will ensure that you’ll be comparing apples to apples when you make your hiring decision, and allows you to explain/prove why you chose one applicant over the other. Also, if you’re taking notes, you look more like a listener and you can’t talk so much!

Be a great interviewer by talking only 25% of the interview time!

5 traits you should look for in every person you hire

A recent survey conducted by Universum, an employer branding firm, has identified the top five most important personality traits that employers look for in job applicants. Here are the results:

  1. Professionalism: 86% look for employees that possess a highly professional attitude.
  2. High-energy: 78% want employees to be energetic and passionate.
  3. Confidence: 61% only hire people who are sure of themselves.
  4. Self-monitoring: 58% require the ability to work independently and excel without direct supervision.
  5. Intellectual curiosity: 57% seek individuals who can problem solve and are excited about learning new concepts.

Do you agree? What core personality traits do you look for in potential employees?

At Coastal Connections, we listen to the qualities you require and recruit accordingly. Potential candidates are sent through a series of behavior-based interviews and tests to be sure we’re sending you people who possess the personality, skills, and other qualifications your company needs.

To Ask, or Not to Ask?

Legal alternatives to illegal interview questions

How old are you?
Do you have, or do you plan to have, children?
How many sick days did you take last year?

Most hiring managers would love to ask these revealing (although, unfortunately, illegal) questions when interviewing job candidates. But as we all know, asking improper interview questions can lead to discrimination or wrongful-discharge lawsuits. So how do you get the information you need without putting your company at risk?

Protect yourself and your organization from legal trouble by carefully planning your interview questions. Start by conducting a job analysis to objectively identify the core competencies required for the position. Then, develop a list of behavior-based interview questions to identify those competencies. When broaching sensitive issues such as age, marital status or disabilities, consider the following legal alternatives to illegal interview questions:

Root concern: Legal ability to work
Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen?
Legal: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
While you can’t ask about citizenship, you can ask whether or not the candidate is authorized for work–and legally able to work for your company.

Root concern: Work availability
Illegal: What religion are you?
Legal: Are you able to work with our required schedule?
At all costs, refrain from asking any questions about religion. To find out whether or not a candidate’s religious practices may interfere with his ability to work when you need him to, just ask directly when he’s able to work.

Root concern: Long-term commitment
Illegal: How many years do you plan to work before retiring?
Also Illegal: If you get pregnant, will you come back after maternity leave?
Legal: What are your long-term career goals?
Although you may be concerned about hiring an older worker (just to have him retire in a year or two), or a young woman who plans to get pregnant in the next year (just to have her quit once she has the baby), you can’t legally dismiss applicants for these reasons. As an alternative, ask candidates about their career plans for the future–you can effectively gauge long-term commitment level without discriminating.

Root concern: Work availability
Illegal: Do you have children? How old are they?
Legal: Are you able to travel or work overtime on short notice? Are you able to go camping with the best equipment from Survival Cooking and tell your boss you will be making a trip to see the place with short notice?
Again, if what you really want to know is whether family obligations will interfere with work availability, be direct.

Root concern: Ability to perform on-the-job
Illegal: Do you smoke or drink?
Legal: Have you ever been disciplined for violating company policies forbidding the use of alcohol or tobacco products?
You probably want to avoid hiring someone with a chronic drinking problem, or who will take cigarette breaks every hour. In addition to being disruptive, these habits may affect your company’s insurance rates. Instead of asking directly, find out if they’ve had trouble with company health policies in the past, so people try to maintain themselves healthy with fitness programs from sites like

Root concern: Flexibility, ability to meet new challenges
Illegal: How do you feel about managing men/women?
Legal: Can you describe a situation where you’ve had to take on new tasks or roles?
Both questions will help you gauge a candidate’s adaptability, but only the second is acceptable.

Root concern: Physical ability to perform a job
Illegal: Do you have any disabilities?
Legal: Are you able to perform the specific duties of this position, with or without reasonable accommodations?
Physical or mental disabilities may adversely impact a candidate’s ability to perform a job. However, it is illegal to ask about disabilities. To avoid discriminating, focus questions on the candidate’s ability to carry out job responsibilities.