The face-to-face interview with a prospective candidate is the most important component of the employment process. 

Explore, clarify, and confirm are three important objectives that drive my preparation for the face-to-face interview. 

In the Topgrading© system that I have adapted for retained search, the face-to-face interview lasts about 3.5 to 4 hours and covers the entire range of Topgrading©
competencies:  intellectual, personal, interpersonal,  management,  leadership, and motivational.  This interview includes 30 minutes in which we video tape the candidate answering select questions that are particularly relevant to the position for which we are recruiting.  This video will be edited down to about a 15-minute summary that will be shown to the client as part of the candidate analysis presentation.

You may not be interviewing the next CEO of a health system or the Senior Vice President of Operations and three to four hours may not be practical. However, if you are planning to make a mission-critical hiring decision based on a 30-minute interview, you are playing the employment equivalent of Russian roulette.

Regardless of who is conducting the primary face-to-face interview, the CEO or the department hiring authority, the most important aspect of the recruitment, aside from having a panel of qualified candidates, is to be prepared.  Effective interviews do not happen by accident.  Do your homework.

In addition to doing your homework – a characteristic of a best-in-class recruiting system at each step of the process – you should develop an interviewing strategy.  Whether it is
a team or panel interview, or whether three or four people spend an hour or so with the candidate one-on-one, your strategy should focus on identifying the critical questions covering the aforementioned competencies, especially as they relate to relevant experience, style, presence, personality, chemistry, etc.  You should be trying to confirm that what you have learned, or has been learned by others, from the resume review, the telephone interview and any personal or behavior and values assessments.  At JohnGSelf Associates, we use DiSC©and employ a Certified Behavioral Analyst who has also talked with the candidate and filed comments and suggestions for the face-to-face interview. 

Here are some suggestions to consider.  Remember, this critical session with the candidate is an interview for exploration, confirmation, clarification.

Is A Reason Good Candidates Are Good. At this stage of the
interview process you should be talking to the best of the best.  Most are adept at anticipating and
communicating.  Good candidates sense a
pattern in the interview questions and they can anticipate what you are looking
for and how you will react to a question.  A
wise client once remarked: “Be sure the person we interview is going to be
the same person who shows up for work!”  Good
candidates are competitive, not dishonest. 
If they want the job, they will work hard in the interview.  You have to work equally hard to be sure that
the candidate you are interviewing can deliver the value and results you



  Always insert a pattern-breaking question to disrupt
the flow.  An example: What could you stop doing in your daily
routine that would help you become a more productive and effective leader?

Most, after recovering, will talk about not
being a slave to email, or being more careful with the administration of their “open
door policy.”  However, for an important moment or two, you have broken the rhythm of the interview and forced to the
candidate to get back on their toes.

the Bad Things.  Candidates, just like
the organizations that are recruiting them, are loathe to reveal their
negatives.  Candidates, exactly like the
organizations that are recruiting them, have weaknesses and quirks.  Far too often both sides go to great lengths
to enhance their favorables and downplay their negatives.




  I like to offset this with a series of what are called truth serum questions. For example:  When we talk to your references, what will
they tell us about your strengths? Or, if
I talked to several of your former assistants and direct reports, how would
they respond if we share with them what you list as your strengths?  There is always a moment when the candidate, who is aware of our detailed background checks — something that we remind them of throughout the process — is not sure who we will talk to. 

Is Important.  Consistency is a key
attribute in leadership.  Inconsistent
executives and managers can wreak havoc on an organization. 




 To measure a candidate’s consistency, I will “revisit”
a candidate’s earlier comments with the same questions reframed.  Very few interviewers can wing
this.  You must give careful
thought to developing a sequence of questions on various issues.  For example, one of the questions that seems to throw otherwise good candidates into a spin and prompt a less than a stellar answer is:Tell
me what your weaknesses?  Candidates
just cannot seem to help themselves.  Frankly, the “I work too much”  common response just
does not work for me.  I usually resist
the temptation to editorialize and wait for an opportune time to raise the
issue again with a reframed question: When I talk with your supervisors and subordinates, how will they describe your weaknesses?  Or, Earlier 
we discussed your approach to communicating with your team and key
stakeholders.  When we talk to the people
you worked with in the past, what will they tell us about your style and your
effectiveness as a good communicator?

I have seen search consultants and clients
interview candidates and take not one note. 
I am not sure how they plan to remember what the candidate said and how they said it when
reconstructing the interview, but I suspect if there is an interview feedback
form – and there most assuredly should be – I am not sure it will be that

Most recruiters, especially those working in an internal recruiting department, say they do not have the time for such in-depth interviews, or such a thorough process.  Perhaps their management and executive turnover rate is much better than the national average — 40 percent of all externally recruited candidates leave or are forced out or quit within 18 months, according to several studies.

Remember, effective interviews do not
happen.  Given the astronomical cost of a
mis-hire, preparationseems like a small price to pay. 


©  2010 John Gregory.



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