Want to Know What Your Interviewees are Saying about You?

Greeting Interview Candidate

How confidential are your interviews? Many would reply that their interviews were entirely confidential: notes are always filed away afterwards and the discussion is never divulged to others.

But what about your interviewees? If you believe that they reciprocate your confidentiality, then prepare yourself for a shock. Many openly share their interviews with others, not only questions asked, but even exercises or presentation topics as well. Within hours, your process might be openly available online for all to see.

Websites, such as, for example, Glassdoor, are often the first port of call for some applicants facing an interview. If they’re lucky, they’ll discover just what questions they may be asked or the nature of a task or exercise that they will have to undertake as well.

But before we all start to panic, let’s take a deep breath and reassure ourselves over this. In all honesty, most interviews carry the same questions. Agreed, they may approach the subject from different angles, but responses usually lead towards the same target.

And the practice isn’t really ‘new’ as such. A very few – dare I say, unscrupulous recruitment agencies – have always quietly passed on debriefs from previous candidates to someone else going for the same role.

So what can we do when faced by ‘pre-briefed’ interviewees? 

1.    Stick with ‘past performance’ questions. Even if they already know the question, they’re still going to have to present evidence of their experience in this area, which takes us neatly to…

2.    Probe responses fully! Dig away at their answer and test whether it really adds up. Is it credible? Does their experience ring true?

3.    Use ‘contrary evidence’ in your questioning. Just been told by your applicant how successful a project they completed was? Now ask them to talk you through a project that wasn’t successful.

4.    Occasionally ask for second examples. Most candidates will have brainstormed your competences and thought of examples to offer as evidence. Don’t explore the one that is initially proffered, ask for another.

5.    Start an organisational ‘question bank’ for each competency. Take the same competency but probe it with different questions. For example, if I wanted to discuss the candidate’s courage, I might ask “Tell me about a time you took charge of a group and convinced them to do something entirely different?” or “Describe a situation you withdrew from because it was contrary to your values or principles?”

6.    Get online and see what people are saying about you. What questions are they relaying to others? Will you need to change an exercise? But remember – for each individual post you recruit for - that your questions and exercises must be the same or you might face accusations of discrimination.

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