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My definition of the executive recruiting process is getting married after four or five dates.

I share this because it speaks to the importance of the employment interview. There is an art to this interview and it is built around three principles:

  1. Share
  2. Gain
  3. Verify

This may sound like a no-brainer dab of information, but you would be amazed at how many job candidates who do not understand or even attempt to master the process.

iStock_000002144669SmallShare – As a general rule, people like to talk about themselves. I am no exception. My friends like to say I can chat up a brick wall. I begin each interview by asking the candidate what they know about me. This is not raw narcissism but an important question. My bio, along with those of the other members of the search team, are shared with the candidate in-depth Position Prospectus which the candidate receives weeks in advance of this meeting. If they say they do not know much about me, that is a bad sign because it means they did not thoroughly review the Prospectus which also includes far more important information concerning the position, performance expectations, and the hiring organization’s corporate culture.

I share information to prime the pump. I will tell the candidate some facts about myself that are not in my bio in hopes that she/he will feel comfortable sharing relevant insight into who they really are. I am listening for foundational values and authenticity. This attempt at openness/transparency is designed to support my second principle.

Gain – This is all about gathering information. Making an employment decision — recruitment — is an inherently flawed process. Consider this: making a choice about a spouse is one of the most important decisions in life. Studies show that couples date 2.5 years, on average, to determine if they want to marry. Once married, they will spend about 25 percent of their waking hours together. In making a decision about a new job, where they will spend 75 percent of their waking hours, candidates will base their judgment on four or five telephone calls and meetings, even when it means uprooting and moving across the country. While this seems backwards to me, it is the way of the world. The top recruiters try to mitigate this bizarre reality by gaining as much insight into a candidate as possible.

I use a conversational, non-prosecutorial tone supported by a series of structured questions based on the client’s requirements and performance expectations as well as the candidate’s DiSC(c) profile. We videotape part of that interview as part of our client presentation of candidates, again to help mitigate the risks of making a hiring mistake. The whole point of this nearly three-hour interview is to gain as much information as we possibly can about relevant experience, beliefs, values and style. Candidates are told in advance what we will be talking about. The candidates who come prepared almost always fare better than the people who show up with the belief that they can schmooze their way to employment.

Verify – As long as there is life on earth, there will be candidates who attempt to tell you what they think you want to hear. Some times their attempts are laughable. Many people think they are good at this, but very few really are. We attempt to verify statements and claims the candidate made on his resume, in the initial telephone or Face Time/Skype Interview and we probe to get candidates to explain their accomplishments — “walk me through the process you used to achieve these results. Be specific.” We are trying to be sure that the candidate is the real deal, not someone who will take sole credit for the work of a team or an entire organization. (Hint to candidates: very few Vice Presidents are solely responsible for a $25 million organizational turnaround.)

When candidates hear the truth-telling question, what will your references tell me about your success for this or that, it is an alert that their references will be queried regarding the answer a candidate has listed on his/her resume or in an initial screening interview.

Our research shows that the most qualified of the candidates only lands the job about 35 to 40 percent of the time. Qualified candidates who understand the recruiting/interviewing process and who do a better job telling their story are the most successful.