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The talent revolution - episode 21 - Chris kyriacou onevelley

Interviews are Awkward—But They Don’t Have to Be

March 22nd, 2022 5 minute read
Tom Hacquoil
Tom Hacquoil
We all know that interviews are inherently uncomfortable. Each side evaluates the other to see if there’s a possibility for long-term collaboration, and that comes with some growing pains—especially in a traditional interview setting.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Chris Kyriacou has known for a long time that the traditional hiring process is broken. He’s fed up with processes that ignore the whole person, creating fertile ground for biases and snap judgments.

Fortunately, early in Chris’s career, he caught a glimpse of how interviews could happen differently. 

In a third or fourth interview round, he was asked to complete a “flip the script” interview, questioning his potential team for an hour. “Within five to ten minutes in this format, they know if you’re genuinely interested,” says Chris. 

The gentle feedback that came from this interview—like the request to speak more slowly and clearly—forced Chris to slow down and think carefully before he spoke. Slowing down put him more at ease, which made him think, “Shouldn’t all interviews be this way?”

Read on for some of Chris’s top tips on how to get the best results from your interview process. 

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How to interview better

Chris has been hard at work making candidates’ lives better for a long time now. As the People Operations Manager at OneValley, he’s got the street cred to back up his advice. Here are his top tips for improving how today’s businesses interview and hire talent.

  • Try to disqualify: “There’s a lot of hesitation to disqualify candidates in our current job market,” says Chris. “But actually, it’s very helpful if you do.” Actively promote who you are, including the ugly bits. Your aim should be to talk candidates out of applying if they aren’t a good fit. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and theirs—and if you make a bad hire, you’ll end up right back where you started.
  • Give the game away: Release your interview questions in advance or list sample questions on your website. Sharing the questions in advance gives candidates time to consider their best answers—and you can be even more critical of those answers, because you they won’t be off the cuff.
  • Third-party perspective questioning: The intention here is to determine how well candidates can think outside of themselves. It also helps people answer more freely because they’re speaking for others. For example, instead of asking a candidate to tell you about themselves, you might ask, “How would a colleague or a manager who knows you well describe you?” Or, “What will your references say about you when I call them?” Subtle changes in the way questions are phrased can completely change the way candidates answer, moving away from canned responses toward more honest responses. 

Measure what matters

Ironically, the ability to interview well is an almost useless skill in most jobs. Some roles require lots of in-person contact, with the ability to think on your feet—sales, for instance. But for the most part, when we look for strong interview skills, we’re effectively testing for something that won’t matter at all when a candidate shows up to work.

In many ways, interviewing is like dating. The skills that make someone great at dating don’t always transfer well to relationships—and the same is true of interviews. 

So Chris and his team at OneValley are bucking the system. They don’t require cover letters anymore, for instance. “We’re as fed up with reading them as candidates are with writing them,” says Chris. 

Instead, they ask a few simple questions on their application form. Candidates can share their top accomplishments, what excites and worries them about the job, and their core values—all of the things you’d expect to see in a cover letter, but focused more on the answer than the format.

Never settle for second place

One of Chris’s top pieces of recruitment advice is this: don’t hire your second choice candidate. 

If your first choice turns down your offer, it’s tempting to believe that your second choice will be just as acceptable. But actually, Chris says, there’s a distinct dropoff in success rates. “We found that in every situation where we made the decision to go with the second choice candidate, it was always a huge cost to us. It was a net negative.”

By the time you’ve reached the final interview round, you’ve probably narrowed your potential candidates down to two or three anyway. The purpose of the final interview is to select your top choice from that group. 

“That’s one of the lessons I couldn’t more strongly recommend to people. If there’s any sort of drop-off between your first and second choice candidate, do not go with the second candidate. I know your heart feels heavy at the idea of restarting the whole process again, but it will be worth it. Otherwise, you’ll just be back there in three months’ time.”

Find the best candidates with assessments

Assessments are a far better predictor of a candidate’s success than their CV or educational background. But many employers push back on the idea of requiring assessments, particularly because the market is so competitive these days. 

While blanket use of assessments might make you cringe, don’t discount them entirely—it’s not an all or nothing. Assessments are a fantastic predictor of job success and a great way to reduce bias.

Chris shared advice on how to use assessments effectively, even for highly competitive roles:

  • Focus on good employer branding: Strong employer branding is a powerful motivator. When candidates actively want to work for you, they’ll go the extra mile to get there.
  • Require assessments wisely: For roles where you know you’ll get hundreds or thousands of applications, it’s not a colossal risk to use an assessment as a filter. Chris calls this a “seriousness fee,” helping to separate truly engaged candidates from the ones using the “hit and hope” shotgun strategy. 
  • Make assessments optional: If you’re worried about driving candidates away for highly competitive or senior roles, make the assessment optional. You’ll get more insight, identify the candidates who are most engaged, and provide a leg up to whoever completes them.
  • Let people re-take the test: OneValley allows candidates to re-take assessments as many times as they want. “We want to see your best self.  We’re not trying to catch you out,” Chris says. The goal is to identify maximum potential, not to see how well someone performs under pressure.
  • Save them for later: You don’t have to use an assessment as a pre-interview filter. Bring them into later interview rounds to narrow your candidate pool once you know who’s in the running. That said, using assessments early in the process can be a great way to surface people who might otherwise get lost in the shuffle.
About the author
Tom Hacquoil
Tom Hacquoil
Tom is the CEO at Pinpoint and he's passionate about building world-class teams.

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