Today's posting highlights some common recruiter behaviors that we demonstrate consciously and subconsciously. Recognizing and understanding these behavioral traits will make you a stronger and more informed interviewer. So go forth with this insider knowledge and knock you next interview out of the park.
Techniques recruiters sometimes use subconsciously
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 by Reut Schwartz-Hebron
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After years of interviewing and hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to practice, you are an expert when it comes to sensing who is sitting right in front of you. You are so good at it that sometimes you surprise yourself with how quickly you pick up on things about candidates inside and outside of an interview session.
That's intuition and, if it's built on a feedback loop, it's one of the best tools at your disposal when you need to identify traits and uncover delicate and important factors such as authenticity and flexibility.
The difficult part is that you can't share this type of knowledge with new recruiters. Intuition and other automatic and subconscious thinking patterns (yes, intuition is a thinking pattern) often seem out of reach, and we assume the only way for people to learn them is to go through a learning process similar to the one we had to go through ourselves.
There are certain things we can't trace and, hence, we can't teach. We can't trace the values we assign certain behaviors. When you notice a certain behavior during an interview and you instantly have a value assigned to that behavior (say you notice the candidate drumming his or her fingers on the table and you instantly know it is a sign of resistance to authority) the value-assigning part is out of our reach. You don't know why you interpret a certain behavior in a specific way; if someone asked you to explain most of these conclusions, you probably wouldn't know what to tell him. But, what you are actually doing is a lot more than assigning value to a specific behavior. Your mind is noticing gesture, tone of voice, and combining those and other clues to produce a conclusion.
We can't teach new recruiters which values to assign. Though there are many theories that try, the result is a long list of combinations which, even if we put validity aside, are too numerous to remember and apply. But we can teach recruiters where to look for signs and how to practice combining them. Though experience and feedback loops are indispensable, knowing where to look cuts the learning curve dramatically.
Here are seven techniques you are probably using without knowing:
Make the Most out of the Resume. Expert interviewers prepare well. They read and re-read a candidates' resumes, treating these documents like a detective would a crime scene: Anything can be a clue, but nothing is valid until it is supported by concrete evidence. They look at the resumes for anything that could be even slightly off, and they assign meaning to the length of the sentences, the richness of the language, the use of space on the page, repeated words or themes, and much more. Expert recruiters build the most unsympathetic theories as they read through a resume, but they stay clear of coming to any conclusions.
Use Introspection as a Mirroring Technique. Introspection is often used by experts to identify areas that need attention. By assessing their own reaction to the candidate's behavior, interviewers can pinpoint manipulations of different kinds. If, for instance, a candidate is triggering a protective response in the interviewer, the interviewer (alerted by his or her own emotional response) can track back the behavior or response that triggered the reaction and assign it meaning.
Peruse Emotional Triggers. We are most authentic, exposing our basic assumptions and values, when we are emotional. Any reaction that is off balance, and that includes an excess of positive or negative response (you are just as emotionally vulnerable when your team wins as when your team loses), falls into this category. Experienced interviewers notice emotional responses and follow their paths with additional questions that intensify emotions to asses the candidate's evasive values, attitudes, and basic assumptions.
Collect Contradictions. Anything that might seem like a contradiction that comes up through context or content is a great place to dig. When candidates have seemingly contradicting areas of interest or have invested time in contradicting efforts, expert interviewers pick up on that and ask for interpretations. The same principle applies to content, when things that have been said earlier could be interpreted as being contradictory to things that are being said now. It's not so much the explanation that interests experts, but the way in which the response is presented. The response is a great telling sign about abilities like handling criticism, working with authority, accepting ambiguity, and much more.
Collate Repetitions. Certain behaviors mean very little by themselves, but put together with other behaviors, when a pattern is created, they are very indicative of a personal of professional trait. Let's look back at the example of drumming on the table. That behavior, if interpreted by itself, could mean many things. It could, in fact, mean the exact opposite of a defiant candidate and indicate insecurity and shyness. How did you know it was one and not the other? You looked at one behavior and created a pattern.
Look for Core Reasons. Direct answers are often just the beginning of a long discovery trail. An effective interview feels more like a conversation to the candidate because the interviewer is focusing and stretching the understanding of the candidate's basic assumptions through a certain example. Most soft skills can be located in pretty much any discussion, and as the interviewer asks core questions like why, the answers become more revealing.
Detach Yourself of Your Own Emotional Limitations. Like therapists or anthropologists, interviewers must know how to leave their own imbalances and limitations outside the interviewing room. To interview well means to have control of the emotional responses you are trying to elicit. I know recruiters and managers who build up tension and as soon as they feel they made the candidate uncomfortable, they back away and try to soften the blow. That, of course, requires your new interviewers to be aware of their own limitations, but they'll master this knowledge a lot faster if they know what to look for.
All of these techniques are expert skills that can easily be taught to a novice. All you need to do is provide practice, coupled with a feedback loop. If you can do that, mastery will come about faster than you could ever imagine.
Reut Schwartz-Hebron (reut@ThinkingExpert.com) is an international speaker, author, and trainer. She is the owner of MetaConsulting Solutions, LLC, an innovative training company that specializes in providing novices with expert thinking skills, shortening beginners’ learning curves, and increasing productivity of experienced executives by training them to use a new set of thinking skills. Reut is also the president of the KindExcellence institute (www.KindExcellence.com), an organization devoted to promoting kindness through business results in corporate America. She is the author of "Outswim the Sharks," and is personally dedicated to developing high value human asset management solutions and training executives to use core skills to increase productivity and recruit, attract, and retain top talent.