Nervous, uptight people will tell you almost nothing, while relaxed, engaged people will tell you almost anything.
This is why professional interviewers make it point to take the time to get job applicants to relax and open up.
Always start an interview with everyday small talk (the weather, the local sports team, the commute). If the applicant is still a little up tight, compliment the person on something you noticed on their application or resume.
What if the candidate can’t relax?
Ask a question about an outside interest. Be sure to start with the easiest interview questions. (The best being: “Tell me about your very first paying job and what you learned from it.”)
If the person can’t relax, don’t feel you need to take them out of consideration. An awkward interview doesn’t mean a candidate can’t excel at the job. A lack of conversational skills in no way signals a lack of expertise.
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Ho-hum interviewers feel it’s the candidate’s responsibility to be “on.” Professional interviewers know it’s their responsibility to get the best from every applicant.
This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog.