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3 Great Reasons to Go Off Script in InterviewsWe’ve all done it. The interviews are over, the candidates have all gone home and it’s time to make a decision. Who should get the job? Whose life will you change by offering them the golden ticket to come and work for you? It’s crunch time but there is one little problem…

You can’t seem to make the decision.

Why not? Because you have unanswered questions; things you needed to ask but didn’t and you let them leave. As a result, you are feeling unsure or unclear about their ability to do the job. Or maybe you have a nagging feeling that something in their background just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, it’s less a nagging feeling and more that something critical has been left unsaid, leaving you unable to feel confident in your decision making.

Why does this happen? It happens because we are afraid to go off script. Somehow through the evolution of the interview process, we have developed this belief that every single candidate needs to be asked the exact same questions and we should never deviate from this questioning. Well, that may be necessary in unionized environments to ensure that the process isn’t grieved. However, in most of the organizations that we work with this isn’t necessary. In fact, using the exact same script of questions with each candidate can result in a very costly, very bad hiring decision.

Unique interview questions for each candidate can avoid very costly, very bad hiring decisions. Twitter_logo_blue

Here are three great reasons for off script interviews:

  1. An interview is not the place for misunderstandings. Not everyone you interview is skilled at answering questions in direct and clear ways. As a result, you are sometimes left with more questions than answers. Using probing questions that are directly related to the candidate’s answers ensures that you have clearly understood what the candidate is saying.
  1. Check for inconsistency. Asking a candidate something specific about their resume, or the examples that they have given, will give you an opportunity to check out the candidate’s facts. This ensures consistency between what they said they did and how they describe it to you. People who are embellishing the truth can have a hard time keeping the details accurate when asked about it in a variety of ways. If you think the details they are giving are suspect, it is time to go off script and delve deeper.
  1. It stops you from making assumptions. This sounds obvious but many times, a candidate’s answer to one question only brings up more questions for you. When we don’t ask the all-important clarifying question we’re left to draw our own conclusions. Are you curious about the large gap in the candidate’s work history? Ask about it. Does it seem strange that they are applying for a position that they seem overqualified for? Ask about it. Did they tell you a really cool story about their time in the Amazon hunting down exotic jungle animals? Don’t move on to the next question! Ask them for more details and get to know them better!

The best candidates will paint you a picture of them doing the job better than you could have possibly imagined. Those candidates are far and few between. Instead, you’re left with candidates who need some help from you as they navigate the interview questions and try and leave you with some idea of who they are. Do yourself and the candidate a favour, step outside the lines of the interview process every so often and ask more questions. Going off script isn’t going to get you into trouble – in fact, it could save you from making a horrible mistake or even better, it could help you find your next amazing employee.

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As you plan for your next interviews, think about ways you can delve deeper with your candidates and get to know them better. Don’t stop yourself the next time you are thinking about asking a question that isn’t on your list – that question may help you make the best decision of your career!

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