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How to Put Your Candidates at Ease and Negate Interview Fears

Even though Halloween has past, fall can still feel like a spooky time of year, especially for interview candidates. According to a recent study for Everest College conducted by Harris Interactive, 92 percent of job seekers fear something about the interview process.

Scaredy cat candidates are unlikely to impress in the interview, which doesn’t mean they couldn’t actually add value to your company. You need to find a way to put your interviewees at ease so you can evaluate personality, fit, and skills instead of nerves.

According to the study, the three most common fears involve being over- or under-qualified, being too jittery, and being stumped by an employer’s question. Whether the  interview is in person or through online video interviewing, you need to figure out a way to address these common interview fears.

Just because a candidate is confident doesn’t mean they’re also the right person for your company. A great candidate might flub the interview if they’re too scared, meaning your company misses out on the talent you need. Instead, here are ways to address the three most common interview fears, so you never miss out on the best candidate:

Listen Carefully

According to the survey, 17 percent of job seekers feared being too nervous in the interview. That’s right, job seekers are nervous about being nervous! Unfortunately, it’s impossible to take jitters out of the interview equation. Whether you’re talking in-person or through online video, the interview is a stressful situation by its very nature.

However, one way you can alleviate this tension is to focus on your critical listening skills. Nervous candidates have the tendency to talk fast, as if they are trying to rush through the interview or get to the next question. Ask your question, really listen to the candidate’s answer, and then wait. Wait for about five seconds after your candidate has finished answering to ensure they’ve given you all the pertinent information.

As humans, we often seek to fill silences. You might be shocked with the information candidates will offer up during these brief pauses. A candidate with well-rehearsed answers might go off-book, while a quieter candidate might offer up some important information about skills and abilities. By taking a breather, you give the candidate more room to reveal themselves and show you are truly listening.

Ask For Specifics

One of the biggest candidate fears involves qualifications. It’s not hard to see why, considering the high unemployment rate and the ever-widening skills gap. Unemployment has meant many highly qualified workers are being turned out into the job marketplace. These workers are afraid they won’t be able to find a new position for their well-developed skill set, since these skills require a higher salary.

The skills gap is also a scary specter for both employers and job seekers. For instance, a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development gives some examples of this increasing gap. While 43 percent of new jobs require a bachelor’s degree, only 32 percent of Americans over the age of 25 actually possess one. So it’s clear why candidates are worried over their qualifications.

By getting specific with your questions about job functions and prior experience, you can put your candidate at ease about their qualifications. It’s also a great way to tell whether a confident candidate is actually also a knowledgeable worker.

Ask about specific programs and tasks the candidate will need to perform as part of the job. Get specific about the candidate’s prior experience, their proudest achievements, and ask how they’ve handled mistakes. Guiding candidates to give you concrete examples of performance can help put interviewees at ease by demonstrating they have the correct skills and qualifications for the position.

Don’t Get Tricky

Candidates are afraid of tricky questions and they have a right to be. Just take a look at Glassdoor’s list of the 25 weirdest interview questions and you’ll see questions likely to make pretty much anyone start to sweat. “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?” The better question is what this trick question actually tells you about talented candidates.

The answer, according to tricky question pioneer Google, is not much. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Google’s senior vice president of people operations Laszlo Brock admitted the company was tabling these off-the-wall questions. He admitted these brainteaser questions were a huge waste of time because they didn’t really reveal anything about the interview subject.

These questions were meant to bring people out of their comfort zones and reveal fit with company culture, but they only really end up rattling your candidates. You don’t want rehearsed answers, but asking a candidate how many cows are in Canada doesn’t tell you anything about how they’ll fit in and perform in your company. Instead, replace these tricky questions with situational questions about how a candidate would react to certain situations. Those questions are much more likely to give you a better feel for how the job seeker would react as an employee.

When you connect with a candidate in the interview process, whether it’s in person or through video interviewing, it’s important to remember the process is inherently stressful. By putting some of the common job seeker fears at ease, you can more easily find the future superstar employee you need.

What do you think? How do you put candidates at ease in the interview process? Share in the comments!

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with him and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

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