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Authentic Interviewing Focuses on the Person

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Steve Blank’s July 3o post, Lying on Your Resume, apparently struck a nerve with his followers. A flurry of comments, predominantly on integrity, ensued.

Blank’s post is well worth reading. Early in his career, a recruiter recommended that Blank misrepresent his credentials to a potential employer. He disregarded the advice and got creative instead.

Blank’s updated resume opened the door for an interview with Ben Wegbreit, the VP of Sales and Marketing at Convergent Technologies. When the question about college came up, Blank experienced an uncomfortable moment while Wegbreit considered his lack of credentials. Then, Wegbreit asked Blank to hit the whiteboard. And that’s the real lesson buried in the July 30 blog.

Resumes Open Doors, People Get Jobs

Wegbreit demonstrated his talent for building healthy organizations and high performing teams by looking past the diploma (or lack thereof) to measure the value of the person. Does the candidate fit your company with respect to core values, business philosophies, and complementary strengths? Does (s)he have enough of the expertise you need now and the aptitude to grow?

The ability to earn a diploma does not predict success in the workplace. People learn best by doing. In fact, human intuition develops from the experience gained through repeated cycles of success and failure. The traditional ‘drill and kill’ method of teaching leaves graduates without the experiential elements they’ll need to acquire in order to excel in their chosen fields.

“Tell me about a time you tried something and failed,” is one of my favorite interview questions. How applicants respond tells volumes about character.

The candidates who are willing to open up and talk about their failures typically sit back, laugh, and then tell amusing stories that drove home valuable lessons. These people grow from experience—good and bad. On the other side of the spectrum, some applicants wiggle in their seats and then say they can’t think of anything. Guess which candidates get job offers?

Bi-directional Interviews

A question that invites vulnerability creates authentic moments during the interview process if both people open up and speak honestly. Making a connection helps assess chemistry, fit with other team members, and adaptability. I freely share some of my own tales, which helps candidates figure out whether or not they want to be part of the team. These bi-directional interviews lay the foundation for trust.

Like Wegbreit, I have also used the whiteboard as an interviewing tool. It not only allows the candidate to showcase what they know, it gives insight into their thought processes. When you’re in a startup contemplating doing things that have not been done before, how people solve problems matters.

So, while I think integrity was one of Blank’s key message, it wasn’t the only one. More employers need to look at the person behind the paper.

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