Structure Your Interview to Find The Truth

Everything starts with the foundation

My job as a recruiter is to help my clients find the best person for their unique hiring needs. Part of that job involves follow-up after every interview to see how things unfolded. In almost every interview I can point out a fatal flaw: the hiring manager didn’t prepare. They didn’t think of questions ahead of time, and they ended up doing all the talking. In the end, the company knows nothing about the candidate and makes a hiring decision based on very poor information.

This failure to prepare stretches back to the start of the hiring process, all the way to the job description. A boring job description won’t set up the same foundation of expectations and talking points that a well-crafted one will. A good job description should identify the core competencies that are required for a role’s success. Good interview questions probe these core competencies and delve into behavioral discovery turn up outstanding amounts of valuable information.

Preparing the candidate for the interview

Whenever I’m interviewing a candidate in a high-level search, I always have a plan. I set the stage, walk the candidate through what to expect, and then step-by-step we go through that whole interview process. This way there are zero surprises. Be transparent with your candidates because you want to set them up for the success. Whatever reduces anxiety helps to bring out normal behavior in a candidate, which ultimately helps you make a better-informed decision. Rather than it being an interview, allow it to be a conversation.

Another valuable component to include in the interview, according to Scott Kuethen, CEO of Amtec Inc., is to let them know how important honesty is here. As a recruiter, I tell candidates that the worst thing that could happen is that they accept a job offer with your company and six months down the line they realize they’ve made a terrible mistake. Let’s take an honest look at what is good for you and your career.

Company preparation for the interview

On the company side, hiring managers need to have an extremely clear idea of what they’re looking for. What are the qualities and attributes, what past performances should we expect to find in the ideal person? The trick is to put that in writing and to develop questions around that to discover whether a candidate’s attributes align with your wishlist. You can easily search for behavioral interview questions and rework what you find to get the answers you need.

In the interview itself, make sure you’ve got a clear structure. There’s a beginning, middle, and maybe end with a facility tour. What other players are involved, who are asking what questions? Make sure everyone asks the questions that are decided and remember the answers received. I personally don’t like hypothetical questions as they tell you nothing meaningful. Ask them how they’ve handled difficult situations, dig deeper into their actions and understand what their behavior indicates about their character. PRepare ten solid interview questions that dig deep, and you’ll gain so much information that you never dreamed a candidate would be willing to share.

If you’re interviewing someone within your same industry, the danger of treading of proprietary information can loom over an interview. Addressing this upfront, letting them know they don’t need to answer those questions, will set them far more at ease. You can also give them an example of an answer for one of your interview questions -- it’ll always be different as these questions are open-ended. And when you have further questions ask them about the things they said. PEel back the onion layer by layer to find out who these people are. Keep a scorecard and measure their answers against the desired attributes/qualities you want. If multiple people are interviewing, they should fill out their own scorecard independently.

Knock questions out of the park

Most importantly, include a knock-out question in your interview that will help you easily identify the people who would not do well at your company. Something like, “Can you describe a decision you had to make to protect the profitability of the company? How did you feel about the strategy you developed?” Present it early on, and if the candidate doesn’t successfully answer, you can wrap things up early, respectfully, and let them know they won’t quite be a fit. Don’t ghost them, let them know straight up.

At the very end, give the candidate an opportunity to ask their own questions -- that’s what makes the interview a true dialogue. This is where real engagement lies, and if there’s a positive connection, you’ll learn much more about this person. Their answers can inform some needs you might have overlooked, some processes in your hiring process that neede more definition. Hiring isn’t about ego, its’ about careers. All questions are good questions, and all lessons are good lessons. Wrap up with a review of how things went, make sure everyone is satisfied with the candidate’s answers and clearly outline the next steps.

Scott Kuethen is the CEO at Amtec, Inc., a professional recruiting organization specializing in placing professionals in Contract and Regular-Full-Time positions with companies ranging from small entrepreneurial start-ups to the fortune 100. He is an avid teacher, and writer in the areas of talent acquisition and selection, organizational planning, and business management. Scott’s life purpose is helping people find meaning in their work.

In his spare time, Scott enjoys photography, SCUBA diving, swimming, drone flying, and other activities that keep him young-minded.


Rick Girard is the Founder & CEO of Stride Search, an Orange County-based recruiting and consulting firm.  Rick brings world-class leadership to firms across the nation to meet highly challenging business and talent acquisition objectives. With expertise in creative sourcing, consultative management and winning placement strategies, Rick Girard plants the hiring seeds for his partners’ success.

While not running a School for Gifted Mutants as Professor X, Rick hosts Hire Power Radio Show, a weekly series on which serves as an entrepreneur’s resource to solve the most difficult hiring challenges. When not on the air, Rick regularly gives talks and writes valuable content for Hiring Managers and Job Seekers alike. His mission: elevate and sharpen the industry standards of exclusive professional search.

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