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Interview Training and the Escalation Game

Newsletter • volume 3 • number 3

One of the most consistent trends in interview training is the ongoing need for interviewers to stay ahead of increasingly shrewd and sophisticated candidates.

The most savvy candidates, many of them recent grads at top MBA schools, are able to access vast amounts of interview information - some confidential - on the web. They know the latest questions and the hot new case studies. They can access job seeker resources for insider company profiles to ace their interview. And, they've no doubt attended career placement center workshops where their practice interviews are videotaped and then thoroughly critiqued. The result is that they know what you want and have learned exactly how to control and influence the interview, as well as how to answer your questions.

Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, these candidate efforts to be prepared are escalating to a new level. Lately, candidates seem more willing to actually invent stories about themselves in advance, based on competencies they think, or may have heard, interviewers will be looking for. This highly creative way of preparing for an interview, which is similar to the way an actor prepares for a role, allows candidates to present a convincing persona of who they think you want to hire. The challenge for interviewers is to discover the real person and do it with techniques not obvious or easy to share among other candidates. The right interview training provides the techniques necessary to stay ahead of prepared candidates.

We all know the bromide that candidates are only hurting themselves if they get a job that is not right for them by pretending to be someone they are not. So, why would they do this, particularly when a talent crunch means some candidates have more offers than ever before? Perhaps there is some ego enhancement occurring when someone has more offers than a classmate. Or, perhaps as a nation we have become more accustomed to dishonesty.

In a way, whats going on in interview training today is a little like other escalating situations where the increased availability of information is driving up the response on both sides. As term papers and dissertations are posted online, teachers have to become more vigilant for plagiarized responses. Doctors need more effective ways to handle the doctor/patient relationship when patients come in with print-outs from websites to document their own self-diagnosis. Shoppers know the true cost of a car when they walk into the dealer's showroom so salespeople need to change the focus of their sales pitch.

In a truly historical perspective, it's like the escalation of weapons in the history of warfare. Peasants felt safe behind the old city walls until the other side developed catapults to fire over them and battering rams to knock down the gates. And more recently, radar led to stealth bombers. The point is that interviewers don't want to be in the unenviable position of having no interview training and using only a resume and a few pat questions. That approach just won't work with today's candidates, who have not only prepared thoroughly for the interview, but who often have a new attitude about what is acceptable to say.