Interviewing Your Potential Employer...and Your Competition

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By: Marie Donlon

Preparing to be a job interviewee should also have you preparing to be the job interviewer, according to a new hiring trend gaining popularity in some industries.

Instead of the traditional back and forth with the prospective employee answering questions about themselves for a potential employer, many companies are employing a new strategy for hiring that allows the job candidate to ask the employer a battery of questions, in addition to asking his or her competition hiring questions as well.

According to Udemy leadership coach Lawrence Miller, traditional interview settings don’t give employers a true sense of the candidate.

“That’s a terrible environment and exercise for making judgments about people,” he says. “The interviewer is a poor observer because he or she is performing at the same time. You are a much better observer of behavior when you can sit back and watch the candidates perform in a simulation that calls on the same skills required in the job.”

Practicing what he preaches, Miller has employed the technique at his own Maryland consulting firm, asking candidates to interview him and the other candidates competing for the position.

Miller believes the process better informs both the candidate and interviewer about the fit between company and candidate, with most of the questions concentrating on management practices and finances, work methods and expectations.

“It helps them decide whether they want to work for us; a job is, after all, a marriage,” he says. “They could ask absolutely any question that they felt was important to their decision.”

“We most appreciated when they asked questions like, ‘What happens when a client is unhappy with your performance?’ Or, ‘How do we know that you are financially secure?’ If they’re not curious about anything, it’s not a good sign.”

After the initial interview is complete, the candidates are tasked with interviewing each other. Miller noted that observing how the candidates proceeded with questions revealed a lot about the candidates and how they would work in a team setting. Additionally, the candidates were asked to answer the following four questions once the  interview process was complete:

  1. Who would you hire and why?
  2. Who do you think is most technically competent to do this job?
  3. Who has the best skills?
  4. Who would you choose to be stranded with in an airport during a snowstorm? (This unusual question is meant to reveal the candidate that is easiest to be around.)

Although the process has its detractors with concerns for equally-valuable introverts being overshadowed by their extrovert counterparts, and for it putting candidates in needlessly stressful situations, Miller believes the technique has helped him hire the best possible candidates for the job.

“It was a good indication on how the candidates would handle real-life situations,” he says. “I’ll admit that it was anxiety provoking for the candidates, but that’s our world where you go into a conference room with five clients. You need to respond in a healthy way, and we got to see how they handle a challenge firsthand.”

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