Using Semi-Formal Interviewing to Uncover More About Candidates

Intentionally create informal moments to see more sides of a potential hire

On my way to our conference room, I passed the sales candidate we were about to interview.  She was seated cross-legged, back straight, her formal heels neatly together on the floor.  Glancing at her portfolio, she tried to look busy as she waited until the 10am interview.

Knowing I was a part of the panel, I did my best to scurry on by so not to “taint” my opinion in any way.  But, then something interesting happened: she SAID something to me.

A casual comment about the upcoming Ohio State game—apparently my OSU pullover revealed me a fan.  We spoke for a few minutes.  As we found things in common, her whole demeanor relaxed.  She was funny, intelligent, and was able to persuade me that Saquon Barkley “could be” the best running back in college ball.

Just a few minutes later, I saw her in the conference room.  Her interview began as all others do with an awkward period of silence followed by questions around the table.   She did remarkably, unremarkably well.

At the end of the day as we reflected on the candidates’ answers, all I seemed to remember was that casual conversation about the Buckeyes.  Her most remarkable time was the “semi-formal” pre-interview conversation where she was able to relate to me—just like I wanted our sales hire to do with our clients.

Creating Semi-Formal Opportunities to Relate to Candidates

In today’s hiring market, there is a trend towards informal interviewing.  Getting to know a candidate at a coffee shop or golf course makes sense.  It’s easy to see the benefits to this type of laid-back interview, but sometimes a totally informal interview is not realistic.

For many companies, it’s also important to host a professional interview, meet co-workers within the company environment, and hear how candidates answer more traditional questions.

Here are three ways companies can host a formal interview while intentionally creating informal opportunities to relate to candidates.

  • Give a tour of the office—this can be done before or after the formal interview and is a great way to have informal conversation one on one or in a small group. It also gives the candidate a true picture of the work environment.  Engage with staff as you tour and introduce the candidate.
  • Set a candidate up in the conference room AHEAD of the interview time. Instead of a candidate waiting in a lobby, place the candidate in the conference room as the panel staggers in.  This creates an opportunity for casual conversation before the interview.  It’s also interesting to see how a candidate includes a new person into a casual conversation as he/she arrives.
  • Create relational interview questions- add in some fun questions like: what is the most interesting place you’ve traveled, what is your favorite Starbucks drink, what do you like to do on the weekends?

At Artemis Consultants, we want to create the very best fit, and this includes getting to know a candidate beyond rote interview questioning.  Using our PinPoint process, we can help you determine the best interviewing environment for your company to make a long-lasting hire.