Think Muhammad Ali, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dr. Dre...and even Mikhail Gorboachev. What if I told you that these disparate characters all share one common experience, one unifying thread that weaves and twists its way through history to tie these icons together?

In my podcast series Getting Goosebumps, I spoke to the man who managed to charm them all: Cal Fussman.  A legendary journalist and New York Times bestselling author, Cal Fussman is unique. Through a distinctive interview style, Fussman is able to strip generational icons down to their innermost selves, revealing the true nature of some of society's most grandiose figures.

As Fussman explains, the approach that won him so many stellar meetings isn't far removed from the art of the recruitment interview. Working closely with HR professionals to compare interview techniques and refresh ideas, Fussman has found that the right questions always evoke emotion, authenticity and truth - regardless of the setting or context.

Job interviews offer recruiters a window into the hearts and minds of prospective candidates. With a natural structure and the right methodology, recruiters can rise above the generic, stale mass of questions that plague the industry. In the war for talent, elevated insight and lasting impressions make all the difference between success and failure.

So, what can Fussman teach you about hiring? Here are the secret tricks that allowed one man to carve out an illustrious career interviewing some of the world's greatest leaders and visionaries.

1. Aim for the heart

The foundation of Fussman's interview style is clear. As he says, "To extract personal stories, you need to ask questions that aim for the heart."  In the recruitment arena, this means asking simple questions that offer people a genuine chance to explore themselves and take you along their journey.

Whether it's Leonardo DiCaprio or your next candidate, something as simple as "Why is your best friend your best friend?" will guide them along a path of nostalgia that reveals innate character traits and potential workplace characteristics.

When interviewing Dr.Dre, Fussman asked, "When was the last time you didn't sleep because you were so passionate about a project?"

Now, your next Front End Developer isn't likely to be working on the same sort of projects as Dr.Dre, but the power of the question is clear. By asking someone to explore their passions, they're likely to give you an honest and interesting answer that isn't pre-planned. Fussman explains, "There aren't good answers or bad answers to it, there are revealing answers."

2. Use your time wisely

Fussman reflected on the panic of finding himself with only ten minutes to interview Mikhail Gorbachev. To make an impact, he made sure to use each moment wisely. Fussman began with questions that dug deeper into Gorbachev's childhood, and as he sat back and listened, he let the stories unfold with effortless ease.

As they became more and more engrossed in the story, Gorbachev willingly extended the interview, giving Fussman the opportunity of a lifetime.

3. Listen to learn 

After talking to recruiters about their interview process, Fussman said, "I found a 100 percent overlap. There is really no difference. You're just trying to go from the heart of somebody to the head, which will lead to the soul."

When Fussman interviews, his method requires just 5 percent talking and 95 percent listening. Yet, he quickly points out that if you ask HR managers their ratio, they tend to say 50:50. By listening 95 percent of the time, you're likely to end up with twice as much material to work with when it comes to making your hiring decision.

4. Ask the big question last

During an interview, there may be one burning question that you believe will elicit a strong, powerful and emotional response. Instead of leading with your best material, Fussman suggests that you save it for last. This allows the interviewer valuable time to build rapport and establish a connection. 

As candidates build trust with you and begin to open up their story, you're far more likely to feel comfortable asking the big questions. Vice versa, the candidate will also feel comfortable answering it. As Fussman poignantly notes, "You should be almost like the biographer. You're not trying to trick them in any way. You're just trying to understand who they are."

That, at the end of the day, is the biggest challenge for the recruiter - to truly understand who your candidates are. Dare to be different and chances are you'll create a lasting impact in the minds of others.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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