Try These 3 Ideas For More Successful Employment Interviews

Over the last 20 years I have participated in countless interviews – even conducted a few myself. But recently I have been thinking more deeply about what an interview really is about.


I think if you hire solely based on an interview, you deserve the inevitably painful experience you will get. I also think if you do not recognise that interviews are simply one part of a relationship that needs to have started before you sit with the interviewee, then you really should not be hiring anyone. For anything.

Also – if you use the words ‘resource’, ‘candidates’, ‘work for’ on a regular basis to seriously describe the invitation of people to help you with your need, then please consider getting someone else who doesn’t think this way to do your hiring on your behalf.

Mike’s advice: Use interviews only as part of a balanced approach to evaluating whether you want to start working with someone – not if they will be great forever. Consider try out periods as part of your approach and taking candidates to lunch to better understand them as people.

#1 Engage Before

If you have a person who – on paper at least – seems interesting enough to want to talk to further, then reach out to them. Don’t invite them to an interview. Invite them to lunch, if it is convenient. Or a phone call that is about their day. Invest some time to understand them , discover your shared interests and make that the subject of the conversation. Or simply ask them for help on a challenge you are facing right now – how might they advise you to proceed. Engage.

Why do this?

Because you are building a relationship – not buying a spanner.

Because interviews can be daunting and they really shouldn’t be and this anxiety rarely brings the best out of people.

Finally, because your goal isn’t only to fill a role but to find a collaborator.

#2 Collaborate During

When you see someone sitting opposite you, perhaps dressed in their sunday best, trying to be acceptable to you enough for you to give them a job, what actually is going through your mind? What is going through theirs?

What is often going to mine – when I have sat on both sides of the table is – “I wonder how we can figure out stuff together – stuff they need and I need and how we can be awesome together”.

When I go into interviews now, I’ve recently started using a variation of the Lean Coffee format,  I say:

We have limited time and to help us each get what we really want from this conversation, I’d like to invite you to share what your top 3 things you want to have learnt about me before this time ends. I also have my top 3 things I would like to know and I’ll add them to the list and we work from the top down on the most valuable things. Are you willing to do this with me?

Mostly they say “yes’ and that is what we do. When I’m providing information to them to answer their need, I regularly ask if I am helping them meet it or simply talking too much!

This is a form of collaboration and facilitation of a valuable time. It is valuable because it is short and each person wants to get some key assumptions validated. It doesn’t matter who does the facilitation but it is a great idea that it is the interviewer and much more important that it happens versus who does it.

Collaboration also means not making anyone look bad. So questions designed to ‘catch’ the other person out are simply ineffective as a means to test knowledge, much less passion.

#3 Engage After

This is probably the most under appreciated idea ever!

It seems everyone is so caught up in the interview, they throw everything they have at it and don’t think about what happens beyond the interview.

Yet many people – yes even very smart and passionate ones, need time to consider how something went and form opinions after the fact. Unless you are hiring for split second decision making like a fighter pilot – who ,incidentally, are mostly trained, not born – then make it easier for the interviewee to come back later. As an employer, learn to value that quality – contemplation – as a beautiful skill.

Many career advisers suggest that interviewees do the ‘polite’ thing and write an appreciation to the interviewer. This is a good idea too – but it persists the ‘work for’ culture that encourages people looking for employment to do all the gratitude.

So, however the interview went, engage after it with a simple email:

hi Mike, thanks for coming to our offices and chatting through your experiences and how you can help us with our current challenges and contribute to our growth plans. I hope we answered your questions, you certainly helped us with our assumptions.

Engaging after is wonderful because it achieves a number of great things.

First, it invites the interviewee to come back with ideas and insights that have come from contemplation and greater learning.

Secondly, it communicates that you are different sort of employer – one that cares about relationships and the wellbeing of the person.

Finally, it also provides a great opportunity to offer some feedback and invite some too. Remember this interviewee is a valuable and objective user of your organisation and will have experiences that can help you improve – at least on how you hire.

So always offer feedback:

Mike, I enjoyed the conversation, though for it to have been really valuable for me, I would have liked that you listened more and talked less.

And always invite feedback:

Mike,  as a personal favor, I wonder if you could share one thing that I could have improved to make our time more valuable and enjoyable for you.

This is often enough – if you have an idea of what happens next then share that. If nothing happens next because you have decided not to offer them a role, then say that also. But the relationship has been built and is healthy for where it is at.

Whatever you do. DO NOT SIMPLY GO SILENT.

Bonus: 3 Things That Might Happen If You Try These 3 Things

  1. You might have to spend more time than you are doing now to find the people you need. I haven’t done any deep research into this, but my circumstantial exploration says it isn’t actually that much more. But you will use that time differently. If you are too ‘busy’, then ask yourself whether you need to do less or get help to do it.
  2. You might have to think more deeply about what kind of people you want to work with – collectively as a group – before you venture out to find them.
    If you do not particularly know or care about collaboration then you might want to start there.
  3. You might, very likely,  do fewer interviews and be more successful with each one that you do. Now wouldn’t that be lovely. So in the end, the marginally higher investment in time delivers higher success rate, better quality of collaborators and stronger relationships.

What ideas do you find useful in improving the hiring experience. I would love to learn and share.  If you try these 3 ideas, I would be really happy to hear how they worked for you.

Please share this with others.

Featured image by: dennis crowleyCC BY 2.0

3 Things Recruiters Could Do to Deliver A More Valuable Service

Recently I have been looking for some paid work. Things are quiet on my own ventures, with my partners and previous clients and so, as part of my strategy, I hit my last resort – the open market.

And what I discovered scared me.

Before I carry on , this is where I’m coming from:

A recruiter has ONE job to do  – of all the things they think they are doing, only one really counts – building and nurturing relationships – all kinds of relationships but especially with hirers and with candidates. To help this relationship thrive they might specialise in a space and learn the lingo, join communities etc. But fundamentally when it comes to making the ‘sale’, it is the relationship above all else.

Anyway, the last time I had to resort to the open-market option was at least 5 years ago. So much has changed , and much of it for the worse.

I considered what the pain points of my experience were and I would like to share those in a positive way to help recruiters who care to improve. Also I want to help employers who use recruiters to get more value from the services they use.

Frankly the alternative would take me away from things I care more about – but if it didn’t I would build it and put every recruitment agency out of business, at least in the UK and at least in the tech sector.

FYI Employers –  you are possibly missing out on fantastic employees because the recruiters you engaged don’t know their ass from their elbows and don’t reply emails or pick up the phone to talk with them.

Rant over, here are the 3 top things recruiters could do differently.

#1 – Use Better Job Boards

Side rant:

I mean seriously, we have the internet and computing power that lets us unravel the secret of DNA and we have commercial space travel but we all mostly still find work via job boards? What the hell??

There are so many job boards out there. There are even job boards of job boards – that scrape or otherwise aggregate the jobs from other job boards into their platform.

It seems someone decided that blanketing the world with 3139 copies of each of the 9 jobs available was the way for reach. Really what it ends up doing is cluttering up the internet and increasing the amount of false positive emails recruiters get.

So, for goodness sake pick a job board that doesn’t scrape but has brilliant SEO so you can be found. Oh and pick one that shows how long the job ad has been active for – I wasted so much time on jobs that weren’t live anymore.

Whilst you are at it – don’t make me submit my CV and an application form through some weird site that I don’t really know who gets my details or makes me have to sign up to get to you. Simply show me your email and a phone number and lets get the relationship started.

#2 – Reply every email from an interested candidate within a day.Every one!

Remember the ONE job recruiters have to do? Well, imagine my horror when I emailed 5 recruiters in response to their job ads and not a single one replied me. Not a single one.

An email  – even a super short one – that said “I read your profile but …, sorry…” or “I read your profile, I think you’d be perfect, can we speak more between 3pm and 5pm tomorrow” – would suffice. No comms is bad comms.

Recruitment is a funny game. Recruiters are not paid for the search but for filling the roles. Recruiters are not paid by the person filling the role. So they essentially have two customers. The person who has the money and the person who has to be happy to take the role. In my experience of being the latter, the relationship is what swings it.

So if your customer sends you an email – do you simply refuse to acknowledge or respond to it – especially one that requests a reply or a phone call. What business runs like this? How might that work in a store? Would the store salesperson simply remain mute to every question you asked until you walked out of the store in exasperation? Hell no.

So every email that comes from a customer – you answer. In a timely and respectful way. If you are doing other things that prevent you from do this – do less.

#3 – Organise your day better so that you are available for a conversation

The number of recruiters that never seem to be at their desks to take a call is astounding – even at multiple times of the working day.

Again, actual communication is essential for the relationships on which recruitment is fundamentally based. Remember – you have ONE job to do.

If you won’t engage via email or take and return phone calls, how on earth are you building this relationship.

At least 3 recruiters seemed to be in meetings all day. If this were unavoidable, then return the calls later or pass the job on to a colleague to stop either the candidate of the employer from wasting their time.

It turns out lots of other people have the same frustrations with recruitment agents. At least in the UK and at least in the software sector.

I spoke with 18 people – both candidates and employers – who all have similar tales of their recent experiences. They have a lot more complaints including those that inspired the above.  Frustrations including very poor domain knowledge, misinformation, poor support in prepping for interviews, high commissions/fees, uncrupulous practices like luring people to submit CVs for phantom jobs.

Special Thanks

To Testing Circle, Aston Carter, Mortimer Spinks and MA Worldwide for inspiring the improvements in this post and for saving me and anyone I influence, the time of ever doing business with them.

Very special thanks to Thomas Walding at SquareOne for being the single black swan that saved the entire industry from being total crap.


If you are in the UK or use a UK based recruitment agency and you are not impressed with their conduct – you can request that they completely delete you from their systems so that no one can contact you or pimp your CV and they are obliged to comply under the Data Protection Act. Ask them to confirm they have done this.

I’d love to hear your tips for recruiters or even employers to improve how they recruit for their roles. It is time this whole experience was better. Help me.

Featured image By: aussiegallCC BY 2.0

Would you recommend a company you've worked or are working with to a friend?

The world seems all skewed to the ’employer’ – clearly because they are doing all ’employees’ a favour by hiring them 😉

But seriously though, I think it is high time that people looking for work should be able to easily search organisations seeking people to work with using recommendations, endorsements etc. to determine if they would really want to work with them. If social media is going to make a difference, it surely should start in the world of work.

I would like to disrupt how people find work because I deeply believe this skewed world is keeping the world of work soulless and joyless. And that sucks, let’s change it.

As I start to explore this, I’d like some help to understand how people feel about the organisations they work with and whether they might even want to work with organisations that their friends work with.