Reading Between the Lines: What a Candidate’s Interview Answers Reveal

As many hiring managers have discovered, the interview can be nearly as nerve-wracking for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee. When you’re not sure how to “read between the lines” of candidate answers, every rehearsed response can start to sound the same.

How do you decide among several candidates who have done their homework, planned their responses, and all sound like they’d be a great fit for your company? Take a closer look at their interview answers:

Review the cornerstones of your company’s culture.

What characterizes your organization’s culture, attitude, and day-to-day workflow? Start by listing the top five to seven qualities that come to mind.

Then, with this list in front of you, go back over a candidate’s interview answers. Look for evidence that the candidate shares these values or has demonstrated them in the past – and use evidence that they have not as a “red flag.” For instance, if a candidate spent time talking about their self-sufficient, independent approach, but the first item on your culture list is “cooperation,” the candidate may not be the right fit for you.

Listen to how the candidate answers certain questions – not just what they say.

Behavioral questions focus on how a candidate responded in the past as a key to how the candidate will respond to a similar situation in the future. Because they ask for a story, they give you material that allows you to read between the lines – if you’re ready for it.

For example, suppose that you asked a candidate to tell you about a time they had to deal with a conflict at work. The answer you received rambled, placed the blame on several other individuals, and never mentioned how the conflict was resolved. Even if the candidate’s version of events is one hundred percent accurate, the delivery tells you that the candidate avoids taking responsibility and doesn’t consider conflict resolution a priority.

Go off topic.

At least once during the interview, ask about a project or hobby the candidate has tackled outside of work. What do they do when they’ve taken off their “professional hat” for the day? The choice of activity, as well as how enthusiastically they describe it, will tell you a lot about their interests, focus, and passion. For instance, a musician who plays in a band or other ensemble is likely to be detail oriented and to appreciate teamwork, while an athlete who goes rock-climbing on the weekends is more likely to be an independent, risk-taking type.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our experienced recruiters strive to refer the best talent for each client and their unique company culture, so you can focus on the interview process. Contact us today to learn more.

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