How to help job applicants relax and tell you more
By Mel Kleiman

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If a job applicant feels uncomfortable during the interview, for whatever reason, that person will tell you far less than a relaxed applicant. Here are some tips to getting the kind of in-depth information you need to make a sound hiring decision.
  1. Small talk: Open the discussion by asking if the person is comfortable and offering them a beverage. A couple of minutes spent on the weather or the local sports team will do wonders.
  2. Body language: Candidates will subconsciously be affected by and respond to your body language. When asking questions and interacting with applicants, use body language that is open and accepting (lean in toward them or keep your arms open and hands open, palms up).
  3. Find common interests: Look for ways that the interviewee and you are alike. These may be shared interests or experiences. Ideally, they are work-related; for example, you may both have a passion for (or even an aversion to) number crunching.
  4. Tell stories: About yourself and the company. Interesting stories will create a picture of your company as a great place to work and give the candidate insight into company's culture. It is also helpful to encourage applicants to tell you stories about themselves and their present and/or past jobs.
  5. Elicit more information: After an applicant answers a question, probe a bit before moving on. This is as simple as raising your eyebrows or saying: "What do you mean?" or "I don't understand" or even "Huh?" A puzzled look works, too. You'll be surprised at how much more you'll learn. Nonspecific, open-ended questions encourage prospective employees to speak freely. Try some of these conversation facilitators:
    • And?
    • Any regrets?
    • How did that work?
    • Are you sure?
    • Compared to what?
    • What else?
    • Tell me more about that.
    • And you've never had a problem with _______?
    • Could you be more specific?
    • How did/do you feel about that?
    • What makes you think that?
    • What didn't/did you like about that?
    • What did you do then?
    • If you could change one thing about that, what would it be?
    • What examples come to mind?
    • Why do you think you saw the results you did?
    • What happened next?
    • What concerned you most about that?
    • What did/do you hope to achieve?
    • If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would it do?
Mel Kleiman is a speaker, consultant and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best employees. He is one of only 650 speakers worldwide to have earned the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation and the president of Humetrics, a developer of recruiting, selection and retention systems and tools. Mel has written five books, including The 5 Firsts: A Simple System to Onboard and Engage Top Talent and publishes a regular blog.