Interview Like a Kid, Hire Like a Grown-up

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Preparing for an in-person interview can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences throughout the hiring process.

And interview nerves aren’t just limited to your candidate. As an interviewer, you’re probably eager to make a good impression and ask all of the right questions.

You might think that you should have your phasers set to “professional” when it comes to interviews, and while that’s true to a degree, you’d be surprised at how much more successful your interviews can be when you regress back to your Kindergarten mindset. The ironic thing about Kindergartners is that —while they’re just beginning their education — they’re already experts on so much.

Yep, that’s right: grab your finger paint and use your inside voice, because we’re going to tell you how interviewing like a kid can bring you some very grown-up triumphs in your hiring process.

1. Always ask “Why?”

Now, if you’ve spent any time around kids, you know that they aren’t afraid to ask questions (… and more questions, and MORE questions) until their curiosity is fully satisfied. If the candidate offers up a piece of his or her background (“I went to Ohio University for undergrad …”), why not ask why?

Keep in mind the tone with which kids as these types of questions (with genuine intent, not as a challenge), and you might open doors you had no idea were even there. Just, uh, try to shy away from too many “Why?” questions in a row. Rapid fire “Why?”s are only ever cute when they’re coming from a toddler, and … honestly? Even then, it’s not that cute.

If you’re lucky, your “Why?” questions will open up a whole treasure trove of information about your candidate, and might even reveal to you some skills, interests, and experiences that didn’t make it onto the résumé.

2. Play show and tell

Capitalizing on that opportunity means one thing: it’s time for show and tell. When you stumble across something about which your candidate seems knowledgeable and passionate, ask them to tell you more, to teach you about it.

Everyone you interview will be an expert on something, and asking them to explain their interests and expertise to you will show you how they communicate (and how they educate), and who knows — you might even learn something. Ew! Learning! KNOWLEDGE COOTIES!

Ahem. Sorry. It’s easy to over-borrow from the young’uns sometimes.

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3. Lose your attention span

If a candidate is taking longer than 30 seconds to answer a question (and isn’t being prompted by you for more information), then time is being wasted. Your average five-year-old would be wandering over the Play-Doh bucket after 30 seconds of listening to his peer drone on and on, so don’t play into long-winded responses from your interviewees. A time constraint on responses forces your candidate to think creatively and indicates how well they can cut to the chase (or, alternatively, how well they can dance around a question).

Interviewing is as much about how an interviewee response as it is about the content of that response. Prompt them to be succinct so you can quickly and efficiently get to the meat of the conversation.

4. Don’t sugar coat your business

Last but not least, adopt a childlike policy on honesty. Kids are connoisseurs at brutal honesty (“Yes, I know she said you look like a Weeble, ma’am, but she’s only 4 years-old.”) and it’s something to consider when bringing new people into your company. Always be aware of managing expectations; your office, like every other one, isn’t perfect. But it can be an incredibly rewarding place to pursue a great mission.

If you feel as though the candidate is disqualifying themselves in the interview, bring it up. If you can’t be honest from the get-go, you’re not setting yourself up well for any kind of potential relationship in the future. Be upfront with the fact that you want to make sure they’re a good fit in their role and your company, and make sure you point out it’s for their benefit as well as your own.

Not to mention the fact that withholding information is basically the same as lying, and if we’re playing by kids’ rules here, I’m afraid that means your pants are most unfortunately on fire. Deal with it.

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.

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