Conducting a Value-Added Interview

Let me ask you a question: How often do you engage in a conversation daily? 5, 10, 20 times or more? During these encounters, depending on who you’re speaking with, you’re most likely seeking information regarding some matter. It may be business or personal, lighthearted, or serious, or even confrontational. My point is: All day, every day, we are participating in conversations with various people; both people we know and people we don’t.

So why, when it comes to a formal interview with a potential candidate that may join and have a major impact on your organization, do we freeze up and have no idea how to conduct ourselves? Why do we resort back to a standard Q&A format, with no other intention than to create an uncomfortable environment in which both parties are unable to get a true understanding of one another?

After interviewing thousands of candidates over the last 15 years, I’ve found that no one likes to be put on the spot and made to feel uncomfortable or judged. Regardless of which side of the desk you’re sitting on, what we’re all looking for is to be met with a genuine, kind energy that allows us to open up and share our honest thoughts and beliefs.

I want to share with you a few simple ways in which you can make your interview process much more enjoyable, stress-free, and value added. By learning these best demonstrated practices, you can enter into an interview much more relaxed and in control.

First, build a light rapport. From the moment the candidate enters your office, extend your hand, a warm smile, and then share an anecdote. Always have one in your back pocket. For example, “Hi Judy, thank you so much for coming in today. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you blew off the interview and headed to the beach to enjoy this beautiful weather.” This puts the candidate at ease, releasing tension and opening it up for a few minutes of light banter.

From there, we want to gain control. Bring it back to the seriousness of the interview. Ask the candidate to have a seat, if they’d like some water, and then begin to set the agenda. Unlike most standard interviews, I conduct mine very differently. Instead of beginning with my questions, I ask the candidate to walk me through their resume from bottom to top, telling me a little bit about what they did, and why they left. I politely let them know I will be interrupting with questions. This process will allow you to see how confident the candidate is, what they’ve done, and if they’re uncomfortable talking about their reasons for leaving a job. This also gives you the opportunity to listen and ask really value-added questions. The more seasoned and higher level the position, the less talking the interviewer should have to do. At this point, the candidate should be able to clearly walk you through their career history with valid, specific examples.

Finally, begin speaking in detail about the position and responsibilities. Now that you have a better understanding of what the candidate has done in the past, you can better determine if they are the right fit. Encourage them to ask questions about the job, culture, and how they can seeing themselves fitting into the organization.  My intention is to never conduct a Q&A style interview. I don’t want to meet the candidate with standard, Googled interview questions, only to be handed cliché, Googled answers. I always want a conversation to ensue where I’m really getting to know a person.

Practice these simple changes the next time you interview a candidate and I guarantee the outcome will be much more eye-opening and value-added.

Gina DiStefano Fernandez, founder of GDF Coaching, LLC, was established after 15 years combined experience in executive level recruiting and working for one of the largest restaurant corporations in the world.  Gina holds a wealth of knowledge surrounding people development, hiring, leadership training, personal growth and career transition.  For more information, visit her website at

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