Applying for a job is actually quite an arrogant thing to do. Think about it. When a candidate is sitting across the table from you during an interview, they're quietly saying, "Whether you have 1 or 100 other candidates for this position, I am the MOST qualified, and you should hire me." It's quite the statement, and in most cases a candidate exhibits the composure to back it up. But is this false bravado, or true belief?
When interviewing job candidates, it can be challenging to see through the "representative" we're all trained to put forth during interviews and other professional encounters. Confidence, self awareness, conviction, and cultural fit are great soft skills to possess no matter the job, so it's not good if you have a misperception that a candidate exhibits these qualities when in reality it's all a facade.
Luckily, it's hard for candidates to stay 100 percent composed through a 90-minute interview -- especially when they have something to hide. And when there's a crack in their facade, as an employer you shouldn't disregard this because chances are there's something you need to know that could sway your opinion of the candidate. When recruiting for positions that require important soft skills (example: sales reps) or when making key leadership hires, misreading critical soft skills and therefore making a bad hire can set back your company tremendously.
Here are four interview tactics that I admit are a little mean. They're designed to trick a candidate into telling you the real story -- not the story they think you want to hear. I admit these tactics might create unnecessary emotion during an interview, and you shouldn't incorporate them into every interview -- only those where you're not sure if a candidate is truly forthcoming.
1. The "another job" trick question.
This question is great for rooting out sales candidates who aren't committed to a career in sales, but it also works for any position where you suspect the candidate is unsure of what career they want to pursue. At the end of the interview for a sales position, ask the candidate, "What if I told you I think we may have another position on the Support team that I believe you might be perfect for, would you want us to consider you for that position, too?" If the candidate says "yes," beware--they're probably not committed to a career path.
2. Dropping the "Woefully Unqualified" Bomb.
If the ability to face rejection and have confidence are important skills to succeed in the job, this trick, if done right, will crumble a candidate's false composure. About halfway through the interview, stop and say, "I gotta tell you Mark, up to this point I'm feeling that you're just woefully unqualified for this position--to be candid. I held back, but I just don't want to waste our time." Then say nothing else. If Mark's face drops and he says, "Well, if that's what you think" and looks to wrap up, he could be lacking the confidence needed for your position. But if Mark stays composed and politely disagrees, he could be a fighter. After you get your reaction, in either case, start to smile and say, "I was just kidding, Mark!" and you'll both laugh it off. It's quite mean, and a little risky, but if you can keep a poker face, it's very effective.
3. Getting the Real “Breakup" Story.
If you're getting a sense that the candidate may struggle with workplace conflict and may have had serious issues with his previous boss, give them the space to open up. "Come on, that was your interview answer. We've all been there where our boss just doesn't get it. I have horror stories myself. Let's have a real conversation, what was your relationship with your last manager really like?" Everyone opens up after this question, but you need to pay attention to how much they open up. A candidate could hate their former boss, but still have the ability to explain the disagreements in a way that is less emotional and more matter-of-fact. Beware of candidates who see this as an open invitation to voraciously slam their former employer, as they will do the same to your company if anyone crosses them.
4. The Famous Zappos "Airport Driver."
Zappos has a lot of great hiring techniques, but this one still works because people simply do not pay attention. Have someone inconspicuous from your company pick up an out-of-town candidate from the airport. We all know that talkative driver who seems to keep asking questions--find someone in your company who can play this role. During the ride from the airport, have the driver politely probe the candidate with questions about the company and interview. On the way back, "How'd it go?" is a great start to the conversation, with more unapologetic probing. How the candidate treats the driver, and how the candidate speaks about the company will reveal a lot about her temperament. Even after a long interview, a person can respectfully ask the driver for quiet as they decompress. Zappos did not hire people who were mean to the driver.
Soft skills are very hard to assess during an interview, and there’s tons of evidence that they’re more critical to performance than hard skills. If you use tactics like these to trick candidates into revealing their true selves, and even recruiting software that helps assess soft skills, you you might avoid a bad hire — and ultimately that’s your intent when you go this dark side of interviewing. Hopefully that will help you sleep at night!