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Tell Me More, Tell Me Why

Mar 2019

Marcie Glenn

As a recruiter, people often ask me, “What’s the best way to know you’re hiring the right person?” Well, that’s a great question but to be honest, there is no “magic wand” for finding the right person but there are some helpful tools that allow us to do a better job of uncovering the right candidate for the job.

The interview process can be a tricky one; we’ve all heard stories of people who interview extremely well but then don’t perform as well once hired. On the other hand, there are those whose interview skills are not as strong but they grow into top-performing employees. How does this happen? What was missed in the interview?

There is a standard set of questions that many prospective employers use during the interview process. Those questions include: Tell me about yourself, Why should I hire you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Just to name a few. The primary purpose of these questions is to learn as much as you can about the candidate in a very small window of time, that will help you make the best decision. Since these questions are so typical, people have come to expect them and therefore practice how they will answer them for the interview. However, these “typical” interview questions are rather open-ended, so in the context of conducting an interview, it’s important to be looking for opportunities to insert the “tell me more” or “tell me why” prompt in order to get past what may be very rehearsed answers and dig a little deeper to get the best sense of the candidate. You want to reveal the true behaviors, motivators, and abilities that are exemplified when you ask them to elaborate.


A prospective employer can greatly enhance the interview process by implementing some very effective tools that can lead to identifying the right candidate.

First, take some time to outline the five primary skills that are needed to do the job. Next, develop a temperament profile of the type of personality qualities that are important for success in the position. This is the most crucial step in the process, but often overlooked due to time constraints.  Once these are complete consider structuring the interview a little differently. Here are some ideas.

  • Take them out of the interview zone by meeting for coffee and conducting an initial interview there. A more relaxed environment may provide a better “window” into who the candidate really is. In the course of the conversation, watch for opportunities to probe deeper with “tell me more.”
  • Give them the opportunity to talk about something that is personally important to them. These conversations can offer helpful insight as to whether or not they are a good fit for the job.
  • Based on the position, design a portion of the interview to include a task they would be doing on the job, such as a power-point for a typical meeting; planning and managing a project from beginning to end or solving a problem they would likely encounter on the job. Assign the project and see how quickly they can complete it. Observe how they go about it; did they need a lot of hand-holding or were they resourceful? These are important observations that can “tell me more” about the candidate.
  • Involve other employees who are not part of the hiring process. For example, have a staff member greet them and walk them back to the interview site. The staff member may have some keen insight to share just from those few minutes.
  • Have them sit with an employee who currently does the job for which they are interviewing. This gives the candidate an opportunity to observe the daily tasks and ask questions. The feedback from the employee should “tell me more” about the candidate.

True, these interview practices do require more preparation on the part of the employer, but they can be great tools for getting to the heart of the matter:  Determining who is the best for the job, not just who is best at interviewing.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper on this subject, feel free to contact us to talk about your recruiting and hiring process.

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