Benchmark Business Group

Allow Discomfort In The Interview Process

May 8, 2023

When business owners talk about conducting interviews, it’s not unusual for them to make statements like:

  • I want the candidate to feel welcomed and comfortable.
  • I like the conversation to feel less informal.
  • We want to show that our culture is…. (fun, welcoming, nice, friendly, like a family) etc.

Providing a good experience to candidates and showcasing your culture is a good strategy. However, there are benefits to having some uncomfortable moments within an interview:

  • It helps reveal a candidate's nature: When someone is uncomfortable, they are more likely to reveal their natural reaction. This can include how they react to stress, how they handle difficult questions, and how they communicate under pressure. If an interviewee is too comfortable, they may not show their full range of skills or personality traits.
  • It tests a candidate's adaptability: Many roles require individuals to be adaptable and able to handle change. If a candidate cannot handle the discomfort of an interview, it raises questions about their ability to handle challenges and unexpected situations on the job.
  • It’s sometimes necessary: Not every part of a role is fun, exciting, or even comfortable. A candidate deserves to know what they might run into, and the business deserves to know how the candidate might handle those parts of the role. For instance, someone in sales might need to make collections calls. Someone in the service might have to tell a client that their credit card is declined. They might be in charge of telling a client or even co-worker about a policy that needs to be upheld.

We suggest working with a BBG Business Coach to create a good balance in an interview that leaves candidates wanting to work for your business, but also has the needed uncomfortable moments. To get started, use these tips:

  • Don’t rush to fill the silence. Let the candidate fill the silence, because often what they say in those uncomfortable moments of silence will add value into understanding who they are and how they think.
  • Ask tough questions that don’t have clear answers. For instance, a candidate who needs to make account receivable calls might be asked, “You’re calling to collect on a client that is 60 days past their payment. When you reach them, they explain they have a medical issue that is not curable. What do you do and why?” There’s no exact right answer to this question. It’s tough. It’s emotional. But in asking it you’ll understand the candidate’s thought process and if their mindset fits with your business and that role.
  • Use “Prove It” as your mantra. If the role needs them to be detail oriented, then you should test that skill in the interview. Give them a memo with mistakes and ask them to take 5 minutes to correct it. If they need to be able to learn fast, take 5 minutes to teach them something simple, encourage them to take notes and later in the interview ask them to tell you what they learned. If they need to be able to teach a skill set, ask them to take 5 minutes to prepare and then teach you something they know about. There are many ways to get creative!

By creating a slightly uncomfortable environment, both you and the candidate get a better sense if they are right for the open role and your business.

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