The Art of Conversational Interviewing

golf practice

“Golf is a game that can’t be won, only played” (Bagger Vance).  We can strive to improve, and practice helps, but we’ll never beat the game of golf.  Hiring is like that.  We can and should get better at it, but we’ll still make mistakes.  We all know it, and history proves it to be true.


So…how do we make incremental progress toward better hiring?  That’s a deep well of topics to choose from, and we’ll carve on those topics in future blog articles.

Interviewing methods have long been a popular topic, so let’s start there with a focus on how we get the information we want from the people we are evaluating.  Some companies are rigid with their interview format, while others allow more freedom. Some hiring managers pride themselves on their “interview science” and may even feel they have honed their own method, but many often wonder where to start and what will really work.  


Regardless of who you are, this universal truth remains:  You have a job which you do everyday as your core competency…and hiring isn’t it.  I don’t mean to imply that you aren’t good at it and it may even be a regular part of your rhythm, but it’s not the reason your business exists, despite its importance to the outcome of that existence.  There are a myriad of other tasks commanding your attention moments before a candidate walks in the room…it takes a substantial shift in mindshare to suddenly become an interviewing savant in the middle of your day job.  


The natural solution for the required shift in mindshare is process. You pull out your “process” so that you can operate within the less familiar context of interviewing, then put it away to return to your real job.  Processes are great, and we should all have them for anything we expect to repeat at a high level of performance, but processes are also easy substitutes for relational engagement.  Herein lies the core interviewing issue and really the core overall hiring issue. We’ve traded relationship for process as our cornerstone hiring principle.  Before you deny it...stop, you know it’s true!  Of course, there are exceptions, and you’ll find that those people and organizations make much better hires.  


By now you are kind of suspicious that I’m getting ready to say that there is no silver bullet to better interviewing, but I’d argue that there is!  True, it’s more anti-method than method but there is a better way…


Think about the way we meet people in all walks of life (other than hiring!)  We talk, we trade ideas, we follow our curiosities, we have a conversation!  In the real world, the moment you subject a voluntary interaction to a transactional agenda you instantly erode the authenticity of the information exchanged.  Why would we expect it to work any differently in the hiring arena? Why would you expect meaningful information in response to your lopsided canned interview questions?  The net effect is that we end up hiring those who are the best at interviewing, rather than those who are the best at their jobs.


So here it is…if you want to make better hires, interview less and conversate more!  Conversational interviewing is a foundational principle at Corrigo.  While it may take a little longer, it not only works but is a lot more fun!  Like golf, you get better at it when you practice and commit to it.  Furthermore, it is compatible with virtually any process you want to put it place to contain it – provided you supply proper preparation for execution.  Conversational interviewing isn’t going to eliminate all of your bad hires, but you will make more good ones, and you will also close more deals with the talent you really want.


Article by Zack Troyer

Photos by Pexel & @artp_