The 14 interviewing skills that I include in this article will help you in any recruiting situation for any position. They are universal, and many of them are just helpful listening skills that will improve your recruiting, coaching and parenting. 

Years ago, my worst communication skill was listening. I did not understand its powers or its skills, and this was apparent on the job and at home. Today, while not perfect, it is my best skill in the sales process and in recruiting and coaching. The following 14 skills will improve your interviewing, and they will help you make better hiring decisions by providing more accurate and targeted information revealed by the candidate.

The 14 Interviewing Skills

  1. Ask open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, how, describe, or tell. (These open-ended questions will keep the candidate away from answering questions with “Yes” or “No,” and they will cause them to give answers with more words and information.)
  2. Ask structured questions. (These require answers, which are scored for a targeted character quality, attitude, motivation, personality trait, or skill. Remember: no unfavorable information = a poor interview.) 
  3. Ask anchored questions. (Ex. What goal is important for you to accomplish by the first of the year?)
  4. Ask layered questions to reveal the truth. (A candidate’s initial responses can either be embellished or not yet thought out by the candidate.)
    1. Why is that important?
    2. How much time do you have left for completion?
    3. How will you (or are you) measuring progress?
    4. Tell me how you came to that decision.
    5. What did you learn?
    6. How will that help?
    7. Tell me how you prioritize those.
    8. Please explain how.
  5. Listen 80% and Talk 20% of the time. (If you talk too much and dominate the interview, it’s the candidate that ends up in control. If they talk most of the time, then you control the interview, and you learn more about the candidate.)
  6. Take notes.
  7. Keep your emotions in check.
  8. Stay on track and refrain from telling your own personal stories. 
  9. Do not grill someone.
  10. Do not save the candidate. (Allow silence before responses.  Rephrase questions if necessary.)
  11. Sell the interview. (It’s OK to smile and to have a high-brow not low-brow facial expression.)
  12. Play down problems revealed by the candidate.
  13. Look for clues to mental ability, motivation, and maturity.
  14. Look for past performance as a predictor of future performance. (Past performance in anything is a predictor of future performance.)

Many of these skills, like listening 80% and talking 20%, are important skills in any sales process or interpersonal situation you may experience. Years ago, I taught interpersonal communications in college, and, no matter which book I chose for my class, the most important communication skill taught was listening. But many people do not realize that the corollary skill is asking great questions. In recruiting, these are questions that reveal a candidate’s true character—their honesty, hard work ethic, personal responsibility, concern for others, and motivation to achieve good things for themselves and those around them.

If you work on these skills and make them habits, you will get better at increasing your ability to hire and coach great sales reps. These skills will also help you develop stronger relationships with your friends and your loved ones at home. 

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