I’ve met a lot of HR people over the years, and they’ve told me how they like to interview candidates. A few of them prefer to take a very aggressive stance, not unlike the interview episode of The Apprentice.
According to them, bombarding people with questions in an aggressive style will bring out the best in that person and show how they handle pressure. They will purposely fire a barrage of sometimes quite complex queries without waiting for an answer just to see what happens.
They believe that by piling on the pressure, the candidate might become confused and reveal information they normally wouldn’t and, therefore, you’ll get the best answers.
I don’t think this is necessarily true. I’ve been on the receiving end of this tactic when I was young, and I just couldn’t handle it at the time, and I crumbled. I just couldn’t answer the questions because my mind couldn’t cope. I knew I could do the job, but the techniques used made the interviewer just seem arrogant. I really didn’t want to work there.
In fact, I heard one story from a friend of mine who detests this tactic so much, she walked out of an interview. The people in front of her started firing questions at her, and it was obvious what they were up to. She simply held up her hand and said something that still makes me smile today:
“I’m sorry, but employment is a contract. As well as you being happy with me, I have to be happy to work here, and at the moment I can be sure that I wouldn’t want to work with you, so I’ll leave now.”
Apparently they were stunned. She just turned on her heels and walked out.
They later offered her the job. She declined.
No, these tactics do not get the best out of your candidates.
The problem with interviewing like this is that the interviewer becomes the overbearing ruler of the room, the alpha male or female, putting anyone else down. But really, were equals.
Some of the best interviewers I’ve seen will put the candidate at ease by simply asking a sensible question about the job. They’re looking to ensure that the person has the skills required and can work in a team. They’re not looking to ensure the person won’t fall in a heap if numerous people come up to their desk and start shouting at them.
The techniques that work
Full disclosure, there is no “technique”. It’s common sense.
The first thing to understand is that when interviewing, you should have a clear idea of the person you want for the job. You should understand the skills required, the experience needed and the qualifications they should have.
You should also have your questions lined up. Many that take an aggressive stance do so because they’re not prepared. They’re angry at themselves as well as others, and so this comes across as anger.
If you know what you’re after, you won’t need to take such a stance and you can, instead ask the questions knowing what answers you ultimately need.
Remember that the person in the room isn’t an enemy, they could become your best employee, so make sure you treat them with respect from the outset.