The Interview

There you sit, hands sweating.   You felt prepared on the train!  The elevator ride up was fine.  So why is your mind now a total blank?  What day is it?  You can’t even remember your name now.  What’s that?  Your hands are soaked.  Oh no, here comes someone…they want to shake your hand!  It’s dripping wet!  Through the fog your brain yells “Stand up, smile, reach for the hand!”  With a sense of fear and relief your stand up and stretch out your hand, your interview has started.

We have all been in this moment.  Everyone, from the president to the intern has been in an interview.  We have all had to prepare a resume, jot notes about our achievements, and rehearse an anecdote regarding a boss we liked or a project that failed.

But what about the other side?  Not everyone gets to interview someone.  This may be why there is not a lot of self-help that targets the interviewer.  While interviewing candidates is a deep subject that could span a year of blog posts, I want to talk about what I feel is the most important interviewing tip I can share.  It is empathy, more specifically Cognitive Empathy.  The capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state.

How to induce empathy in the interview?

As the interviewer it should be your goal to demonstrate empathy in your interviews.  Here are a few suggestions on how to do it.

  1. The first step is to be focused on the task at hand. You are meeting someone for the first time, be present in the moment.  You as the interviewer are making a first impression as much as you are reacting to the person you are meeting.  Keep in mind that this first impression is the only one you get!
  2. Tell your story. Your keen cognitive empathy is telling you the person you are meeting with is nervous.  If, in the introductions, you share your role, and your history at the firm, the candidate will be more at ease.  There is the added bonus of getting to know you better.
  3. Allow time for answers. This is a great way to display empathy to the candidate.  We all like to talk about ourselves, especially our successes.  Allowing time for the candidate to fully express themselves, keeping it about them, is a must!

How, then, does empathy help you?

What good is empathy, if not self-serving?  Just kidding.  The benefit to empathy in the interview process is, in many ways, beyond measure.

  1. It creates a better candidate experience. For firms and corporations big and small, the candidate experience is tied to the customer experience.  By creating a memorable interview experience, you might keep a customer.  Being empathetic is key to this success.
  2. The candidate gets to know you, and by proxy, your firm. If the candidate can leave the interview with a good understanding of their own interest and fit with the firm the candidate is more likely to become a long-term, successful employee.
  3. It allows for a more robust question and answer conversation. When the candidate is relaxed they share more.  By being empathic you put the candidate at ease.  As they open up you can get to know the real person, not the interview face.  This allows for better assessments.

These are just a few of the benefits that can be achieved when you approach an interview with empathy.  Just remember when you were in the interview chair.  By showing empathy to the candidate you can create a good interview experience that will lead to an outstanding employee!  If not an employee, you are creating good will in your marketplace.