I’ve ran a number of workshops over the recent past to add interview proficiency onto sales managers skillsets.
The modern preference tends to be for a short series of ninety-minute to two-hour sessions, over the course of a few weeks or so.
When starting I have asked the typical training session kick-off question. What do they hope to take from our time together on this? Unsurprisingly, the most common response is pretty much to get given some devilish questions to contort the candidate.
Most people have heard of ‘oddball questions’. Mental teasers the like of which are often collated annually by recruitment agencies and the like (a sample includes Glassdoor, Forbes, Michael Page). These now face a backlash. Many recruiters that used to trumpet these have ditched them. The present feeling is that they veer towards stoking the ego of the interviewer, rather than truly getting to the core of the candidate through exposure of lateral thinking.
Still, every now and then a goodie does crop up. So best not to completely cancel them off your list. But do use with caution.
What I’ve tended to try and imbue though is that there is an overlooked element.
Look beyond the mere questions.
Sales Managers sometimes expect a barrage of belters to be fed them. Optimum answers duly eluded to alongside.
I feel a rebalance ought take place. Which is one reason why the 25 minutes I listened to Cal Fussman was well spent.
His qualifications are impressive. Through creating the long-running Esquire magazine column, What I’ve Learned. Interviewing cagey celebrities he realised there was potential crossover between how he coaxed truth and depth from reluctant interviewees and how business people could improve their hiring factfind. His hunch was spot on.
So here are a trio of takeaways from his words on this platform for the aspirant sales manager turned demon interviewer.
1 Set A Safe Stage
I’ve been privy to many a high pressure interview room. From panels to deliberate coldness to the questioner thinking they’re auditioning as the latest politics tv attack dog. This apparently is misjudged. Experience very much suggests that the safer the environment, the more comfortable they feel, the less guarded they become and you gain a truer picture of them. This can even extended to how you set out the room. A ‘no’ to the traditional behind-a-big-desk treatment. Also in this vein – and perhaps most tellingly – he recommends that you do not obviously and often refer to notes. As what this tends to do is reinforce the notion that they’re in an interview and again, making you less likely to get to their core.
2 Related Follow-ups
Don’t treat the exercise as if you’re running through a market research questionnaire in the local shopping centre. Each standalone, unrelated question dulls the flow. Learn to ask questions genuinely based on their first answer. Probe specifically using language just spoken and you’ll delve way deeper and clearer.
3 ID Passion
Well, nice to hear proof a killer question can have its place… He loves regaling his penny-drop from interviewing Dr Dre. A producer who changed pop music, bringing Eminem to the masses. He’d found talking to business people that they battled with losing the cash that failed recruitment drained them of. Especially with how to identify those with the passion levels that both matched theirs and which could be transferred to the job in hand.
The question he found opened a window to this being;
“what’s the longest you’ve gone without sleeping in order to finish up a project?”
Whilst there is the point to make about spotting the unwanted destruction wrought by the “last minute merchant“, with development I sense you can very much develop any answer to the crux of their esprit d’elan.