Interviewing the "Well-Read, Well-Drilled" Applicant

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In an earlier Hiring Tip, I mentioned being in a Barnes and Nobles bookstore. I was checking out the “hiring” section and I noticed there were 80-100 different books on this important subject.

For the most part, these were current books on hiring. Older titles don’t last very long unless they are very good sellers.

The books were separated into two subjects:

— Tips for the employer

— Tips for prospective employees

They seemed pretty evenly split between the two.

If the job you’re offering requires a significant skill set, there’s a fairly good chance the person sitting in front of you has read one or more of these books to help them through the hiring interview.

It’s conceivable your applicant has even been drilled on how to answer many of the questions you are going to ask.

So how do you get past the “polished version” of your candidate and get to the “real” person sitting across from you?

Many of my earlier Hiring Tips provided questions that are capable of catching your applicant a bit by surprise. You’re not trying to embarrass the applicant, you just want to get an “unrehearsed” answer.” So feel free to read or listen to those earlier tips. You’ll find quite a few ideas there.

But I have a suggestion here that you can take into every interview with you.

If you feel you’re getting a rehearsed response:


If a response sounds too polished, ask your applicant to tell you more about what they were thinking at the time. Ask about a second and third instance.

There’s also a “silent” digging approach:

If they can’t “remember” a time they had to deal with an angry customer, you could say, “Okay, I’ll give you some time to recall one” and then just sit there for 15, 20, or even 30 (incredibly quiet) seconds. Often their recall will return.

You could even be so bold as to ask the applicant:

“Mary, have you read up on how to conduct yourself in a hiring interview?”


“Mary, have you worked with someone who drilled you on how to answer these various questions?”

If the answer to either is in the affirmative, you could say, “Well, I certainly applaud you wanting to present yourself here as best you can. Can you also understand that I want to know as much as I can about someone before hiring them? Can you see that, from my end, I want to make sure they are the right fit for this company?”

Most applicants will see the logic in that, so you could go so far as to say, “Mary, with that in mind, if you could just let me know what YOU feel about these various topics we’re discussing and put aside any rehearsed versions, I’d really appreciate it.”

This approach may produce a peeved Mary, but it’s also possible Mary may like the idea of just shooting straight with you.

Either way, you need to know as much as you can about the real Mary, so just keep digging. You’ll get very good at this.

As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

Our three minute video will help you hire the right people.

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