No matter how skilled or experienced an interviewer you might be, most job interviews eventually turn into question-and-answer sessions. You ask, the candidate answers, you ask the next question.
After all, the more (different) questions you ask, the more you learn about the candidate.
Problem is, most job candidates come prepared. They know the most common job interview questions and have answers at the ready. To truly understand the candidate's experience, skills, and cultural fit, you need to dig deeper.
How? Take a page from the hostage-negotiation playbook. Chris Voss, a longtime FBI hostage negotiator and author of the bestselling book Never Split the Difference says, "If there were such thing as a Jedi mind trick in negotiation, it would be this: The principle of mirroring."
Mirroring is simple. Just repeat back three or four key words from what the other person just saidpreferably the last three or four words.
For example, say you ask a candidate one of the most common behavioral interview questions: "Tell me about a time you had to raise an uncomfortable issue with your boss."
The candidate describes raising an issue about a poorly-designed process, and ends with, "... but my boss wasn't very happy with me."
Your mirror response, stated as a question, with your voice rising at the end to emphasize curiosity: "Wasn't very happy?"
Do that, and you accomplish at least two things. One, you show you're actually listening. Briefly repeating what the other person says proves you're paying attention. Two, you clearly show you want to know more... and the candidate will give you more. (And then you can mirror that answer.)
As Voss says, "People love to be mirrored. They love to be encouraged to go on."
Mirroring also sounds more conversational. Asking follow-up questions is important but can also seem interrogative: "What did you do next?" "How did he respond?" "How did that turn out?"
Each also sounds potentially judgmental.What the candidate did, how the person responded, how things turned out -- the answers could be positive or negative.
But mirroring takes "judgment" out of the equation. Mirroring is encouraging. Mirroring says, "That's interesting. Tell me more."
Say you ask a sales candidate to describe the toughest sales call she ever made.
Candidate: "... but I pushed through."
You: "Pushed through?"
Candidate: "... until I realized what his real needs were."
You: "His real needs?"
You get the point. Keep mirroring -- without being too obvious -- and you'll learn how the candidate navigated the call, built rapport, dealt with rejection, found the right strategy, etc.
By simply repeating the last three or four words the candidate says, you'll turn what could have been a question-and-answer session into an engaging conversation.
And get a better sense of his or her perspective, motivation, outlook, and cultural fit.