Why I Disagree With Topgrading On Remaining Neutral In Interviews

The Topgrading blog published Interviewing Myth #3: Always Remain “Neutral” in Interviews  wherein they give you certain exceptions where you should show empathy or connection, but generally agree that you should stay neutral.

Here’s their original blog post.

But I remember watching a TV show with Mark Cuban called The Benefactor, in 2004, where he hosted people in a house in a competition to earn their 1st $1M investment in their company.

In the very 1st episode he began interviewing people. He took them into what looked like a recording studio and sat on a couch with them. He appeared very laid back and relaxed. He was not at all neutral. He showed interest and looked them in the eye, asking follow up questions with enthusiasm.

What was remarkable about this was the amount that people shared with him. They got comfortable quickly and instead of remaining neutral and guarded they tended to overshare. Sometimes their oversharing was very, very beneficial to the individual being interviewed. At other times it was not. They revealed more of their true nature faster when it felt like an informal conversation. The long and the short of it was that it was incredibly revealing and enabled Mr. Cuban to make better decisions about the candidates more quickly.

I then started trying to use this approach in my interviews. I would lean in, change the tone of my voice, congratulate or ask follow up questions with enthusiasm. I made a concerted effort to make the interview appear less formal. People opened up much faster. Again this helped me make better decisions about who would be the best fit for the team.

And lest you think this approach is manipulative, all parties benefit. Getting to the genuine person allows you to make better decisions about fit with the remainder of the team. You know the team and culture. They do not. Therefore it benefits the candidate as well. If they are not a great fit for the team, and they’re just performing for the interview, then they are not going to be happy over the long term.

Give it a try in your interviews. Make the setting a little bit less formal. Ask follow up questions and be conversational. Be curious about the candidate as well, beyond just the short answers they think they should give you. Getting to know more about them in a genuine way will help you better make better hiring decisions in your business.

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