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Advanced interview strategies

Funnel Down Technique

If she hesitates, whether from pondering the question or not wanting to share the answer, it might be tempting to fill in the silence. Don’t. An awkward pause (I’ve seen them go on or an eternity) usually gives way to valuable outpouring. Thanks to the Funnel Technique, I quickly terminated an interview with “Janet” and saved both of us valuable time.

Get real with role-playing

Can you imagine a director casting an actress in a starring role based solely on how well she talked about how talented she is? He needs to see her in character. That’s why our hiring honchos asked candidates to act out theoretical—but real-world— situations. For a customer-service job, for instance, the interviewer assumed the role of an angry customer. Trying to crack management? We thrust him into an employee conflict or budget dilemma. Sales? We asked him to sell us a tire or chrome-plated valve stem. We weren’t looking for the next De Nero; we just wanted to toss it back and forth for a few minutes.

Offers and counteroffers

Convinced it’s a magical match? Be ready to pop the question as the second or third interview winds down. First, gauge his interest. Ask, “Do you think this position is a good fit for you?” Follow up with, “Are you interested in pursuing it?” If yes, say, “Great. We think it’s a good match, too.”

Next, confirm his compensation expectations. “What I heard earlier is that you’d be comfortable with a salary range of $X to $X. Is that right?” Now that you’re both on the same page, close the sale. “So, if we offered you this position for $X with a start date of month/ day, would you accept it?” If so, say, “Then that’s what we’d like to do. You’ll start on month/day with a salary of $X.”

There’s one more crucial piece of business to take care of before shaking hands and directing your new teammate to HR for orientation. If your new hire is as good as you think he is, you may have to fight a counteroffer from a jealous employer in the throes of re-falling in love. This sample script can help prep the prospect and get a stronger seal on the deal.

Solicit feedback

Refine your hiring process by gleaning info from:

The Candidate. After the interview, ask him what he liked and disliked about the process at other companies he’s interviewed with. Simply posing the question is flattering. Most people will be happy to share their experiences.

You’re Employees. Ask them to grade your hiring process. Now that they’re in the fold, they’ll fill you in on what surprised them and what made them sweat.

Last Thought

Some applicants I interviewed were tentative: “Well, in that situation, I guess I’d say . . .” I’d stop him and say, “No, I’m the customer and you’re the salesman. Let’s get in character.” After a pause, he’d start again, “Okay, here’s how I would handle it . . .” Again I’d interrupt. “No, I don’t want you to tell me how you’d handle it, I want you to show me how you’d handle it.” Nobody ever walked out on me, but some found it difficult to get into the spirit of the exercise. I paid attention to that. Unwillingness to project into a different mindset spoke volumes about a prospect’s comfort zone, creativity, and ability to think on his feet. No matter, every “audition” yielded valuable information.

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