Advanced Interviewing Skills

By : Don Tyler

Let’s face it, most of the people that we interview for open positions today have more experience being interviewed, than we do at being an interviewer. As an employer, that puts us at a  disadvantage, along with the growing list of questions we cannot legally ask during an interview.

Additionally, previous employers are becoming less willing to share information about their former employees for fear they will be sued for “interfering with a person’s right to employment….” or other forms of retaliation or defamation. Though employers can legally provide factual information about former employees, there is still understandable hesitation. Good employees are available, and our hiring process needs to ensure we will find the very best person from the candidates that have applied.

A face-to-face interview is our best resource to sift through the information and determine the difference between the fluff, the fodder, the flattery and the facts.

Reviewing their list of skills and experiences, calling their references and comparing all this information to your profile of the ideal candidate is a good start. Here are a few advanced techniques and strategies that will help ensure your interview process harvests the most thorough and accurate information on each candidate.

1. Don’t tell them the specific characteristics of the person you need to hire. If you say, “We’re looking for a hard-working, dependable person with good observation skills who really cares about our animals…” you’ve just told them the exact words to use to answer every question. Instead, use more general, open-ended questions such as, “Tell me about a time that you proved your work ethic to your employer, and provide as many details as possible….”Then, expect them to share relevant details and ask follow-up questions for more specifics.

2. Look at their job application very closely. Don’t just skim through it looking for specific experiences, skills or keywords. Search for any unemployment gaps between jobs that last for more than
a couple weeks. Ascertain what they were doing with their time in those gaps. Ask if they learned anything while being unemployed for that length of time. Their activities during these interim times will provide you with significant information about their character, work ethic, passions and motivations.

3. Listen for their tone during the conversation. Do they tend to speak in negative terms? When they talk about other people is it gossip, or just sharing information pertinent to the conversation? Do they speak respectfully of people in the neighborhood or in the industry? Who do they know, and what do they think about them as businesspeople and members of the community?

4. Observe their body language throughout the interview. Do certain types of questions make them uncomfortable? Does theirbody language coincide with what they are saying? Is their body language showing that they are engaged in the conversation, or do they seem aloof and distracted? Body language is often more revealing than their statements.

5. Concerning references, feel free to ask any questions appropriate to your needs but avoid asking about their family or other personal information which are not legal to ask during the interview. Though many will only give you basic information, it can be helpful to ask references for other individuals the candidate worked with at the company, their supervisor’s name, etc. Those further removed from leadership and perhaps even no longer with that company may be more open with their comments.

6. If they request that certain former employers not be contacted, ask why, and ask for details.

7. Check their social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites can provide a general  overview of the person’s interests, relationships and general activities. Don’t read too much into this information, but you may see some red flags as well as very positive information that can support your decision.

Keep in mind that on occasion, good employees simply don’t interview well. Think back to the process you used with the best employees you have ever hired and look for patterns that enhance your selection process.

Don Tyler is founder of Tyler & Associates Management Coaching. For additional assistance in your employee management and family business challenges, Don can be reached at, by calling 765-490-0353, or through his website at

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