Start Right, End Right
Newsletter volume 1 number 11
Many interviewers believe it is efficient and appropriate to start an interview by telling the candidate exactly what they are looking for. That might be a good way to buy a house, but it's not usually a good way to hire an employee.
When you are house hunting, you save everyone's time by telling the realtor what you want: three bedrooms, ranch style, an attached garage, and a view of the water. The realtor must deliver what you want, and you won't waste your time assuming qualities are present when they are not.
But when you tell a candidate you want someone who is hardworking, a team player, willing to travel, and good with people, you "telegraph" the answers you want to your interview questions. The wise candidate will repeat back what you've said you wanted to know, and you'll end up with little useful information.
It's fine to discuss job requirements with the candidate in terms of resumé items, education, experience, etc., at the beginning of the interview. But you'll usually get more valid and useful information if you allow the candidate to describe equally important performance characteristics, such as, intellectual qualities, interpersonal skills and motivation, without knowing in advance what you want to hear.