How To Nail A Job Interview—When You’re The Interviewer

Recruiter checking the candidate during job interview

Guest blogger Rex Conner is the author of What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business? The lead partner and owner of Mager Consortium, he applies the uniquely effective processes of Dr. Robert Mager to the entire spectrum of human performance in the workplace. Conner has witnessed the common violations of common sense while working as a trusted partner inside of more than 50 companies in dozens of industries over the last three decades.

For more information, visit, and connect with Conner on LinkedIn.

Stop asking questions and stop talking! There is a better way to nail the job interview as the interviewer.

Preparation for the interview will be different. Instead of identifying questions to ask, you will be identifying skills the potential employee needs that are not in the job’s training program. You won’t be asking about those skills, you’ll simply be saying, “Show me.”

Your effort is to keep the proverbial fish off of the trees. The applicable Albert Einstein quote is:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

People that are hired without having the skills they need to learn and to perform their jobs are the fish. They are geniuses in another area, but this job will end badly.


Your preparation. All of the tasks a person performs on the job require skills. A skill, in this context, is any ability that a humanoid has as a result of learning to do something. When you make a list of all of the skills a person needs on the job, you will then divide the list into two groups.

The first group of skills includes those for which you provide training before the person begins the job. Once you have this list, you can ignore it. You don’t need it for the job posting or for the interview.

Your focus is on the second group of skills; the skills that a person needs to bring with them to the job. They need to already possess these skills because they are:

  • Prerequisites for learning the trained skills, such as already being able to navigate a particular software so they can learn the specific application of that software during training

  • Used on the job, but not trained in the training program

These prerequisite skills are the skills that belong in the job posting, because this is how you are going to screen the job candidates.

Your preparation for the “interview” is to set the stage for the interviewee(s) to perform these prerequisite skills to the standard you establish. For example, if the prerequisite skill is to design a webpage using a specific software, give them the information or content that will be available when they are doing it on the job, give them access to that software, and let them design the page for you.

In addition to setting-up the demonstrations, you need to identify the standards to which the candidates must perform. For example, if the requirement is to read English, you still need an objective standard. You might have a set of instructions in English from the actual job so you can have the candidates demonstrate their ability to read and follow the instructions.

What about “soft skills?” You will hear, “We are concerned about the person fitting into our culture,” or “We need to make sure the candidate is a team-player,” or “They need to have strong communication skills.” This is definitely true!

As soon as you hear those words leave the lips of someone, have this conversation with them: “You’re right. They do need to _________________ (insert the soft skill). When you observe a person demonstrating ________________________ (fitting into our culture/being a team player/having strong communication skills), what are you observing them do?”

You simply make a list of the performances they describe. Take the necessary time to complete that conversation. It may be difficult and take some time, but it’s a worthwhile investment. The result will be a list of observable performances that define that particular soft skill. That list is the same as observable skills. Instead of talking about those soft skills, you can now have the job candidates demonstrate the observable performances that define the requirement.

The event. The goal is to have an entire interview be more of a “demoview.” For each skill that can be demonstrated, don’t talk about it; say “Show me.” The degree to which you can have the job candidates demonstrate prerequisite skills is the degree to which you can validate that the candidate qualifies for the job.

When you catch the demoview vision, you will be excited to find a way to have each required job skill that will not be trained, demonstrated by job applicants. You will be keeping the fish off of the trees. When you evaluate your own interviewing performance, your assessment will be a definite: “NAILED IT!”

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