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Mastering the art of interviewing: when to shine and when to let others shine

Navigating the Dynamics of Leadership Interviews

Navigating the Dynamics of Leadership Interviews

As leaders, we often enter interviews with dual objectives: to assess the candidate and to make a positive impression. It's a delicate balance, especially when our own eagerness to display competence can overshadow the interview's true purpose. Recently, I learned a valuable lesson about the subtleties of this dynamic and how to better let candidates showcase their strengths.

A Revelatory Interview Experience

During the interview with "Sophie" (a pseudonym for privacy), I aimed to create an open and engaging dialogue. My questions were designed not just to probe her technical skills but also to understand her personality and how she might fit within our team. I thought my approach was friendly and inclusive, involving a mix of smart questions that showcased not only the role's complexity but also my own understanding and expertise.

However, when Sophie was hesitant to engage fully after being hired, it prompted a discussion that brought a surprising insight. She admitted that during the interview, my style, though unintentionally, came across as somewhat intimidating. She felt that the complexity of my inquiries and the elaborateness of my language, while impressive, made her question her own value in the conversation.

Understanding When to Let Others Shine

This feedback was a wake-up call that reshaped my approach to interviewing. Here’s how I refined my strategy to focus more on the candidates and less on my performance.

Interviewing to let others shine:

Simplify your language: Keep the interview questions straightforward and accessible. This isn’t about dumbing down the conversation but about ensuring that the candidate feels confident in expressing complex ideas in their own words.

Focus on the candidate: Make the interview about the candidate’s achievements, ideas, and potential contributions. Frame questions in a way that gives them the stage to showcase their capabilities and insights.

Curb the urge to showcase: It's natural to want to demonstrate your own knowledge, especially when you are also trying to make a good impression. However, remind yourself that the primary goal is to discover and appreciate the candidate's qualities, not to affirm your own.

Tips for Making a Positive Impression Without Overshadowing the Candidate

Be welcoming and attentive: Show genuine interest in the candidate’s responses. A nod, a smile, and an encouraging word can go a long way in making them feel valued.

Encourage their questions: An interview should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Inviting the candidate to ask questions about the role, the team, or the company not only engages them but also demonstrates your openness and interest in a two-way fit.

Express empathy and understanding: Acknowledge the pressures of the interview process and reassure the candidate that the goal is to explore a potential partnership based on mutual strengths and fit.

Conclusion: Fostering a Collaborative Interview Atmosphere

The art of interviewing is as much about listening as it is about asking the right questions. By allowing candidates to express themselves freely and confidently, we not only make them feel at ease but also gain a clearer, more authentic understanding of their potential.

If you're looking to enhance your interviewing techniques or want to discuss effective leadership communication, let’s connect. Together, we can ensure that our interviews reflect our commitment to nurturing talent and building strong, supportive teams.

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