Five Ways to Better Assess a Candidate During the Job Interview

The dreaded job interview. These days, both the interviewer and the interviewee are being assessed. The construction labor shortage seems to have given candidates a certain bravado during interviews. It is common to hear about candidates texting during an interview and showing up late or not at all. When they do show up on time and are present during the meeting, it can be difficult to assess what they will bring to the job. Here are five signs to look for to see if a candidate is all talk or if they can walk the walk.

1. Redirection

Have you ever had a candidate launch into a story about their glory days at a previous employer? Sharing lengthy details about a big project they spent a lot of time on is a common response, even if it’s completely unrelated to what was asked. The more details in the story, the more likely they’re redirecting and avoiding the original question. As an interviewer, it’s important to redirect their redirection.

Follow up their response with “that was a great story about xxx, now about the question.” It’s possible they were inspired to share their story because the question reminded them of it. If they can follow it up with relevant information, it’s quite possible they may be able to do what they say they can do.

2. Memorized Answers

Today’s candidates are more prepared than they used to be. A web search for “top construction interview questions” will reveal millions of results with guidelines for answering. Spending a few minutes studying excellent responses can make an average candidate appear exemplary, even though their real talent may be memorization.

With the candidate pool so educated about interviewing, they know what interviewers want to hear. Younger generations switch jobs every 3.2 years—they’ve had no choice but to become professional interviewers. Asking for examples and specifics will help the interview panel determine if the candidate is all talk. Unique questions can also lead to authentic candidate responses.

3. Overconfidence

Professional job seekers (aka job hoppers) know how to tell great stories and woo an interviewer. Some interviewers are looking for a self-assured candidate. For example, hiring a foreman requires a candidate with strong leadership; however, there’s a fine line between confidence and overconfidence.

When the interview focuses on specific behavioral questions, it’s much more difficult for candidates to have canned responses. Regardless, many job seekers have go-to stories that highlight one or two things they’ve done well over the years.

To combat this, talk about the job they are applying for, instead of focusing on their past performance. Identify key areas where other employees have struggled to perform and ask how they will overcome these challenges. This knocks them off balance and requires them to think on their feet—a desirable trait for many employers.

4. Humility

Don’t mistake being humble for incompetence. Unless the candidate will be secluded in a cave, they will need to work with other members of the team. Giving credit to others could be a sign that they know how to work well with others.

On the other hand, someone who talks about their effort without acknowledging the team could be hiding behind a history of poor performance. Dig deeper to learn about their performance when working in a team environment.

If the candidate is blurring the line between humility and incompetence, call it out. Poor performers know they lack the skills to do a great job. Explore their failures and discuss how they’ve overcome them. It’s vital to determine competence during the interview.

5. Mix Things Up

Avoid traditional interview questions. The idea that past performance is a clear indicator of future success is an outdated way of thinking. Too often, someone isn’t able to perform because of their situation or the company culture. Conversely, if someone worked for an employer with little measurement or defined process, it may have been easy for them to “succeed” since success was based on gut feelings.

Look to the existing team and best employees. Find out what they would want to ask a candidate. Most likely, the current team will have ideas that relate directly to the job. Including them in the process will also gain a certain level of buy-in for the new hire. There’s nothing worse than hiring someone who brings the entire team down.

A quality interview will identify the wrong people for the position. Use these tactics during the next round of interviews to determine if the candidate is all talk or if they can walk the walk.

Written by Ryan Englin Core Matters

Ryan Englin is the founder and CEO of Core Matters. Core Matters is a recruitment marketing agency that creates and supports effective recruiting systems for small and medium businesses. By focusing on the employee experience, the recruiting systems create a steady stream of job seeking applicants even in a tough job market.


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