How to Listen for Chemistry in an Interview

A candidate I was working with recently interviewed for a chief strategy director position with a rapidly growing independent advertising agency. He was excited about the opportunity and motivated to meet with the COO of the firm.

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As soon as he finished the meeting and left the building, he called me, very enthusiastic about the interview and optimistic to move forward in the hiring process. He started speaking about benefits and bonus incentives, saying how well he did, confident with his answers. I then called the COO who advised me that this candidate was not the right fit for the job.

Misreading Candidates in Interviews

I often find people can misread their impression of an interview. Clients who felt an interview went well and it didn’t; candidates who thought they did poorly and then are asked back for another meeting. The most damaging chemistry misreads are the ones where the candidate is hired and later finds himself or herself or the company unhappy with the match.

The most critical factor in hiring or taking a new position is the chemistry you have with the people at work. Relationships are what create chemistry, and when they are strong, your job is inspiring. TGIF exists because too often our chemistry with the people we work with is weak and disconnected.

The better you understand how to listen for chemistry in the interview process, the greater the success you will have in deciding on whether to move forward or not. When it comes to chemistry, most of you rely on your gut feeling for the answer.

Intuition Is a Great Starting Point, but it Isn’t Everything

Your intuition or gut feeling is worth listening to, but in the limited hours you have for face-to-face interviews, it is not enough. You will likely spend more waking hours with the people at work than with anyone else and will benefit by improving your skills to listen powerfully for chemistry. It will help you to make a better decision, informing your mind rather than just your stomach.

The candidate for the strategic position, who thought he excelled in the interview, was not listening for chemistry. He approached it as an interview test, which is not surprising. Most all of you were brought up in a test society; testing comes automatically, especially at work.

From your first days in kindergarten throughout your school years, you were taught to pass tests.  It is no surprise you would approach an interview as a test as well. A test mentality has you listening more to yourself than to the person you are speaking with. I call this “rose-colored” listening, hearing for what you want to hear while judging how you and the interviewer answer questions. At best, you will only get a gut feel for chemistry.

Value Driven Chemistry

How can you strengthen your listening skills to identify chemistry in just hours? What do you listen for to determine how strong the chemistry will be?

The first step in listening for chemistry in the interview is to understand that your values create chemistry.  Values are your rules of conduct; they are the essential elements that inspire your actions. When you are connecting to them, your actions are easy and energized, and when you do not, work becomes hard and draining.

Your ability to identify which values do and do not connect you and a candidate in an will give you a greater understanding of the chemistry your might be feeling in your gut. Make interviewing a discovery that begins with changing the way you approach it; let go of your test mentality.

In tomorrow’s Advisor we’ll look at exactly how you can get started with approaching an interview using values driven intuition.

Barney Feinberg began his career as a CPA learning the language of business. At the age of twenty-five, his career journey took him to live in Asia for 7 years, where he was COO for a large clothing conglomerate. There he learned how to assimilate into a multitude of cultures, always with the purpose of building strong relationships at work. His career in executive placement began in 1994, and in 2002, he became a certified life coach with the Coaches Training Institute.