Don't Miss Opportunities at Interview Time

5 min. read

Focus on passion, personality, and potential to build your dream team

The interview is an almost magical step in the process of hiring. It's the point where a candidate—only known though a resume or application information to that point—becomes a real person who you can meet and talk to. As hiring managers are well aware, the interview can change everything. A candidate who looks good on paper could prove to be a bad fit. While a candidate with weaker credentials can shine in the interview and show great potential for the position. Let's look at how we can leverage these opportunities and make great hiring decisions for your workplace.

Don't Chase Perfect Candidates

Acknowledging the opportunities of the interview opens the door to a change in the overall hiring approach. Hiring managers can be more agile and openminded, extending interview invitations to candidates who may not exactly fit the requirements or credentials.

As a recent Forbes article notes, you may do more harm than good by limiting your search to talent that meets an exact set of education, experience, and skills. Calling this kind of employee a "unicorn," the article explains three major reasons why chasing these perfect candidates is a bad idea.

  1. Unicorn candidates take much longer to find, and it could be months of waiting for one to bite. Meanwhile, candidates who could fit the role with some training or accommodations are available for interview right now.
  2. Unicorn candidates are at a high risk for poaching (being hired away by another employer). Candidates with powerful paper credentials and experience are in very high demand, and they know their value. Talent consultant Caitlin Weiser notes that you may have to pay a higher salary, and still face a higher risk that they get "swiped away from your organization by a competitor."
  3. Unicorn candidates are at a higher risk of wanting to leave because they are bored or are ambitious for a new challenge. These employees may expect a swift track of new responsibilities or even promotion. As Weiser points out, “the reality is you may not be able to support their long-term growth and development. Employees are more likely to leave a job if they are not being challenged and unicorn employees are no different.”

Let Purpose and Culture Lead the Interview

Let's say you take a chance on candidates who may need a little training or other development to fill the role. How do you choose the right one?

The best bet is to expose the candidate to your workplace's unique culture and purpose, then see how they respond. An employee who is enthusiastic about your company's core values and goals is much likelier to be happy, and a happier employee will always learn faster and be more productive than an unhappy employee.

Bring in the company purpose at the top. After warming up the interview with some icebreakers, tell the employee what your company's statement of purpose is and ask an open-ended question like "what do you think about that?" or "does this sound exciting to you?" You're looking for candidates who light up in response to this question, providing examples of how they see their values, passions, or previous pursuits relate to the purpose.

Then expose the candidate to some of your most unique or distinctive workplace characteristics. Do you have social activities or games that happen regularly in the workplace? Tell them about it and see if they like the sound of that. Do you have (work-appropriate) traditions, inside jokes, or funny names for things in the workplace? Introduce the candidate to some of these and see if they reply with a shrug or smile.

Above all, you are looking to predict how the employee will feel if they are made a part of your day-to-day workplace activities. If you can find someone who will jump in feet first, smiling and excited to learn, they will prove easy to train and develop. They will also be a joy to work with.

Make Space for Candidates to be Themselves

To accurately predict a candidate's fit, you have to make them comfortable and give them space to speak unprompted. Consider including an unstructured meet and greet with teams, where you can see the candidate engage in conversation with your existing employees. You can do these remotely or in-person, and either one is fine as long as you provide ample time and keep the mood light. Save your interview questions for the one-on-one phase of the interview.

If you have an office, try a tour, and don't focus too much on production areas and offices. Take candidates to your lunch or break rooms. Don't rush. Introduce them to people and just let them talk. You can also check in with employees after the visit, saying "hey, what did you think of the candidate we met today." Their reactions may help you settle on a clear picture of the candidate's future.

Amazing Workplace provides surveys that measure deeper factors of the employee experience, with rich results on how your teams feel about your culture, purpose, and leadership. These insights are key to building a workplace that attracts the best and most passionate talent. Reach out to us at, or jump right in with our Employee Happiness Survey here.