The Intuitive Interview – Using the Sixth Sense to Assess Fit

The Intuitive Interview – Using the Sixth Sense to Assess Fit


By Lucy Romoli

It is likely that at one time or another we’ve experienced decision making based on unconscious reasoning.  We may not be able to explain it, but we use it.  We refer to this as “a gut feeling”, an “inner voice”, or “a sixth sense”.

This unexplainable and very human attribute gleans more attention and appreciation in today’s work world.  A single Internet search reveals an abundance of articles, tests and publications aimed at developing and better understanding the inner voice.  With the expansion of innovations and rapid development of new technology the sixth sense is being tested, and groomed for growth.  Intuition, “the ability to acquire knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning” is marked by some to be “the highest form of intelligence.”

Intuition speaks loudly to us when interviewing candidates.  It urges us to dig deeper into a candidate’s background.  As an interviewer it’s our responsibility to validate this inner voice and be able to put evidence behind what we’re intuiting.

Over the years, The Hennessy Group has captured a methodology of interviewing that reinforces the use of intuition while also testing its validity.  The follow outline provides a progression of steps used to conduct an intuitive interview with candidates considered potential finalists.

Be Prepared

Setting time aside to prepare before the interview can help spark intuition and provide the rationalization that may be needed to explain your thoughts to others.

  1. Listen to your talent acquisition partner to understand how he/she sees the candidate fitting with your culture.
  2. Be clear about what the candidate does and doesn’t bring to the table based on what you know at that point of time.
  3. Define the most relevant part of the candidate’s background as it relates to your company’s needs.
  4. After reading the candidate’s evaluation and if there is something that doesn’t read well to you, be certain to discuss this with your acquisition partner prior to meeting the candidate.
  5. Highlight what attracts you about the potential finalist.
  6. Be prepared to tell the candidate what he/she needs to be and do to help bring the company’s vision to life. Are you able to:
    • Describe the desired outcome after the potential finalist candidate has been with the company for six months, 12 months or more?
    • Illustrate your company’s culture and/or explain how it needs to be reinforced or change?

Set the Stage

Meeting with a potential finalist is a balancing act between continuing to “sell” the opportunity and “testing” a candidate’s potential fit.  This calls for creating an environment of openness and where a free exchange of ideas and story-telling exists.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set aside the candidate’s cover letter and let him/her tell you about his/her interest in the opportunity.
  2. Demonstrate respect for what the candidate has achieved.
  3. Let the candidate know what attracts you about his/her background.
  4. Give the candidate the opportunity to describe his/her sense of your company’s vision. You may ask:
    • What barriers do you see?
    • What are two or three critical actions that need to take place before we see success?

The more you collaborate during an interview the greater your sense of a candidate’s fit.

  1. Ask the candidate to share his/her thoughts on a particular strategy.
  2. Invite the candidate to express his/her concern(s) and together carve out potential solutions.
  3. Draw the candidate into role playing about a particular customer or partnership issue.

Draw Out Motivation

A candidate’s interest in an opportunity goes beyond career development and an uptick in a compensation package.  Be prepared to ask the candidate to describe what nourishes his/her energy.

  1. In what kinds of environments do you do your best work?
  2. What discourages you the most?

Use your people-reading skills to look for congruency between the words and the body language.  You might ask one or more of the following questions:

  1. “What would you need from me to do your best job?”
  2. “What gives you the greatest pleasure in your work?”
  3. “What makes the hair on the back of your head stand up?”
  4. “How do you spend your time when you’re not at work?” (Highly motivated people have goals outside of work.)
  5. “Where have you failed and what did you learn from it?”
  6. “What are you most proud of in your career to date?”

Understand the Career Path

Your talent acquisition partner will have documented a candidate’s job history for you.  While you will become familiar with this in advance of meeting with a potential finalist, there is value in having a candidate tell you his/her side of the story.

  1. Whether it is a story of longevity or short-term employment, invite the candidate to explain his/her attitude about either.
  2. What the candidates chooses to point out will demonstrate accountability and self-reliance.
  3. You may learn more about his/her reactions to unexpected change as well as his/her approach for dealing with situations beyond his/her control.

There is value in going back to the beginning.  Early choices made in education and stories about a candidate’s upbringing can reveal fundamental motivators.  You might ask:

  1. How did you choose to attend ABC University?
  2. What did you experience during your childhood that has helped make you successful?

A candidate’s role model either in his/her private or professional life also provides clues to his/her motivators.  You may ask:

  1. Who influenced you the most while growing up?
    • Be certain to have the candidate explain the “why” behind this response.
  2. From whom did you learn the most during your early career years?
    • How does this influence you today?

Dig Deeper

At this point of the interview, you and the candidate should be even more comfortable with one another.  Conversation is fluid.  Additional questions that peek into the more personal side of the candidate can be asked with ease.  You might ask or say:

  1. How did you come to choose XXX University for your studies?
  2. Your resume reads that you have lived most of your life in the East Coast. How important is this to you?  Can you tell me more about this?
  3. What do you consider to be your most important personal qualities and from where do you think they originate?
  4. What would your employees be saying while they’re standing around the water cooler and talking about you?
  5. Now that you know what you know, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Be Up Front

Candidates will want to hear your thoughts on how you see them fitting with your needs.  Be upfront about matters that might have made you feel uneasy, as well as those that have given you a sense of reassurance.

  1. After sharing either opinion give the candidate an opportunity to respond.
  2. As always, use your people reading skills to check for congruency between words and body language.

Check in with Your Inner Voice

Having followed this progression you are ready to check back in and listen once again to your inner voice.  You might ask yourself:

  1. How do these responses alter or verify my initial thoughts?
  2. What does my inner voice say about the candidate’s fit?
  3. Do I want to spend more time with the candidate?
  4. Am I feeling encouraged or discouraged by this interview?

What’s been your experience? Please join the conversation by adding your comments below.

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