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Interviewing 101 – No Hypotheticals and Go Deeper

When hiring, I’m trying an approach from 100 Strangers, 100 Days – to go deeper with proceeding questions. I start out with one question, and I ask follow-on questions that probe deeper. I do this to, hopefully, mitigate the candidate telling me what I “want” to hear.

I sat down with one of my sales coaches recently about his hiring strategy. He told me to never ask “hypotheticals.” He and I realize how easy it is for candidates to serve up an answer that we want to hear. An example of a hypothetical: “Tell me how you would handle a rejection.”

Similarly, simply asking the candidate to share a real experience without probing deeper can be misleading – “tell me how you have handled a lost deal – one that you had been working for months.” It’s too easy for candidates to serve up a similarly “wanted” answer. It’s important to dive at least 3 layers deeper with follow-on questions. You can even use the 5 Whys strategy.

In 100 Strangers, 100 Days, I started out asking the similar questions to each Stranger, but I felt the conversation really was like an interview, and it was difficult to determine the authenticity of responses. Meanwhile, I felt my meets with Strangers were very… sterile (“un-engaging”). After altering my  approach by asking a single question, and then asking follow-on questions based on the Stranger’s response, I felt Strangers really opened up. Our conversation flowed much smoother which enabled the Stranger to open up even more about all topics.

Asking follow-on questions coupled with explicit questions from his/ her experience allows you to drive down into what’s real beyond the original “sugar-coated” responses. This is a similar approach to sales. Successful sales approaches go beyond an initial response to get down to root causes and challenges.

It’s up to the interviewer to know how to poke and prod to get to answer s/he’s looking for – be it a skill, value, mission, other.

When interviewing or trying to sell, stay away from hypotheticals, and go beyond the first question. Build from the first question layers deeper.

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