Human communication is a verbal and visual interchange of information: data, feelings, opinions and attitudes. Some of this information is transmitted purposefully, some unintentionally or suggestively. Some of it is received as intended, some through an interpretive screen. The most effective communication – the clearest transmission and reception – starts with being alert.

Though all communication is motivated by some personal agenda, an interview is more consciously goal-oriented for both parties. Know what you’re looking for; remember how to go about finding it. Understand the candidate will — and should — be trying to persuade you. Taking nothing for granted, you should be trying to persuade him or her on the merits of the opportunity at your company.

Build Rapport

Prepare appropriate reception: someone who will know the candidates’ names and schedules, welcome them with a smile and an offer for coffee, tea, water, etc.

After a firm handshake, the interviewer should remember the amenities: a “glad you could make it,” “how are you,” etc., and really listen and perhaps respond to the answers. Then if relevant, give out corporate literature and handouts.

You can build rapport with a receptive, friendly attitude, listening and eye contact.

Probe and Listen Actively

Where you lack understanding of someone’s needs, you will be unable to make an assessment or to be persuasive if you want eventually to convince someone to work there.

Probing starts with an attitude that you need to know the critical facts about a candidate’s skills and accomplishments, and understand his or her motivations and modus operandi. Your prepared interview questions should be followed up with requests for specific examples, and queries about what the candidate got out of, or how s/he felt in, a certain situation. (See Types of Questions.)


  1. How was it for you getting leadership responsibility for that division? Did it affect your ideas about career direction?
  2. What was your reaction when your Board of Directors told you that? How did you handle it?

Listening actively means engaging in what’s being said. At appropriate breaks, you reflect your understanding of what you hear, empathize, and/or probe further to expand or clarify what’s being said.

The most effective communication – the clearest transmission and reception – starts with being alert.

Citing Examples

Look for this from your candidate. Be mindful of citing examples when you make any assertions.

  1. Our event management security products have really made an impact. For example, one of our customers told us reports that used to take up to a week to compile now take 5 minutes, and they prioritize the events just as they want them.
  2. Yes, we do believe in professional development here. For example, we just went through 2 half days of interview training attended by everyone at this facility. (So don’t try and pull anything over on me!)


This classic selling technique is most effective when combined with citing examples. It should be employed when you’re attempting to persuade someone, or when a candidate’s attempting to persuade you.

Feature: Our company believes in supporting the professional growth and training needs

of its employees.

Example: For example, we just finished a company-wide interview training workshop.

Benefit: What that means for you is that you will have a budget for professional development, both for yourself and your organization. You said earlier you’re always wanting to improve yourself.

Tactful Directness

In every interview, the interviewer is also in part a corporate representative creating an impression that a candidate will convey to others. So it’s important to handle difficulties in interviews in a way that both gives you the best shot at resolving the problem, and that represents your company most appropriately.

Problem: Candidate rambles in his answers.

Passive Responses: Excuse yourself to get coffee. Let him ramble.

Aggressive Responses: Abruptly cut the interview short. Interrupt with next question.

Passive-Aggressive: Look at your watch in a blatant way. Heave an annoyed sigh.

Unprofessionally Assertive: “You really shouldn’t ramble.”

Tactfully Direct: “We’ve limited time, so we should both think about that with our answers.”

Sell your company and the role

Overcoming Objections

Whether you are attempting to persuade a candidate to accept another interview or an offer, or observing how a candidate handles your objections to his or her candidacy, it’s helpful to have considered the best ways to overcome objections.

Sometimes objections should not be overcome, for example, when certain basic qualifications are not met. If a candidate interviewing for a job demanding a lot of travel talks about how she is completely burned out on traveling, she shouldn’t be talked out of that.

To overcome an objection, first you must listen, and ensure that you 1) understand the nature of the objections, and 2) understand the model of what the objector really wants, which you can confirm through reflecting what you’ve heard.

Often, people’s objections stem from short-sighted assumptions or hidden biases. You must quickly evaluate the validity of the objection before marshaling your response.

If you are to respond, there are three basic rules to follow:

Don’t get defensive. A response differs from a defense.

Example: “It’s true our revenue has remained flat over the past couple of years. I understand your concern. But the good news is we’ve been transitioning the base of our business toward a growing Linux market, and we’ve been getting great feedback on that from the analyst community.”

Probe for the bedrock concerns at the foundation of the objection.

Again, some concerns may point out a mismatch, and shouldn’t be overcome.

Objection: You’re a small company.

Possible Concerns:

Will I have adequate resources?

How risky is this?

Is there enough structure for me?

Can you pay me enough?

Is there enough social diversity in the work force for me?

Position negatives from the objector’s model into positive differentiation.

Example: “You’re right, being small means we have limited resources. But consider that it also makes us value our relationships more, and give more personalized service to our customers, which generates a lot of loyalty. And it makes for a more entrepreneurial workplace, with greater opportunity for you to personally impact the overall course of our business. Of course, everyone started small.”

Summarizing and Giving Feedback

At the end of a session or a long period of interchange, summarizing what should be understood clarifies and reflects what’s been communicated. Offering specific feedback, particularly if you feel positively about a candidate, adds meat around the bones of your interest to go the next step, thus making it more natural to plan any necessary follow-up.

Even if you know a candidate will not be going the next step, you will find that s/he is likely to feel especially appreciative and respectful if you say so and can offer some tactfully direct feedback as to why. This creates excellent “buzz” about the company.

Knowing you intend to summarize and possibly offer feedback at the end can force you to listen more attentively throughout.

Action Plans

It is important at every stage in the process of developing a good candidate — or from the candidate’s standpoint, in developing the job prospect — to understand what it takes to achieve the next step. The artful way of gaining a commitment from a quality candidate — or an interviewer — on the fence is often during the feedback and summary at the end.

Example: “I like the fact you were the one in your current company who conceived how to overhaul your channels strategy. And your international experience would certainly help you here. I know we both have some questions we’ll need to resolve, but how would you like to come in next week and meet with one of our more active Board members? And we can talk about more of your concerns then.”

Managing Expectations

The concept of managing expectations is rooted in one prime directive: no surprises.

  • Don’t promise more than you can deliver, e.g. money, an early decision, etc.
  • Some aspects of the interview process for which you’ll need to manage expectations:
    • scheduling / follow-up
    • general range of income
    • sensitive information for which you need a non-disclosure
    • decision deadlines
  • Subtly or bluntly, address potential problems without delivering ultimatums. You needn’t come up with an alternative until later in the process. If, for example, you know from the start there is a huge gap between the budget for a position and the candidate’s financial needs, then it pays to say so and probe as to whether or not other aspects of the opportunity could compensate.

Interested in learning more?Get in touch