The Interview: Friendly or Adversarial?
Newsletter volume 2 number 3
Many interviewers assume that the interview process is a chance for two congenial people to get together and find a solution to a common problem. After all, the employer is searching for the right person to fill a vacancy, and the applicant is searching for the right vacancy to fill. Since each has something the other needs, it makes sense that the sooner they can get together, the better off both will be. This tends to give the interview a "what is right between us" focus.
In fact, the interview should be seen, at least by managers, as somewhat "adversarial" to avoid complacent interviewing. Most candidates don't want an equal playing field. They want to control the direction and dictate the outcome of the interview, and many work hard at keeping the exchange as superficial as possible.
At the same time, there is a big difference between regarding the interview as adversarial and coming on like F. Lee Bailey or Barry Sheck. An interview should not be a cross-examination, and interviewers need to refrain from the kind of courtroom theatrics that bring witnesses to their knees.
Unless you are prosecuting a case, we suggest you avoid the following: (1) Asking primarily close-ended questions (often questions that start with a verb), (2) discouraging elaboration by not following up on responses, (3) developing a picture of the candidate to match your pre-conceived notions, and (4) not acknowledging any of the candidate's valid accomplishments.
Instead, we suggest that you build a positive interview climate, treat the candidate with dignity and respect, and maintain your vigilance in objectivity throughout the interview.