For Employers

The interviewer becomes the interviewee

Captivate Talent
August 7, 2020
5 min read
Share this post

Table of contents

Attention all interviewers and hiring managers: Your candidates don’t need you. You need them.

You’ve always heard that it’s the interviewee’s job to sell himself or herself to the interviewer. Every blog and article tries to teach candidates how to impress the interviewer to land their dream job. But what about the interviewers?

We’re here to tell you to get off your interviewing high horse. You’re being interviewed, too.

You have an interview scheduled at 1pm. You show up at 1:10pm with a stain on your shirt and a half-hearted apology. You quickly usher the candidate into the interviewing room and introduce yourself. Your phone keeps buzzing with emails, but you only check it once to make sure it’s not important. You ask all the right questions, and the interviewee gives you all the right answers.

In fact, the answers are spot-on. You need this candidate on your team. They would be a perfect fit for the role and the company. You ask if they have any questions for you and they ask you about the company culture. You say, “Oh yeah, it’s a really flexible working environment here,” and thank them for their time.

A few days later, you extend the offer to this dream candidate. They decline. You end up hiring Just-Okay-Justin because your top talent doesn’t accept.


Because you’re stuck in the mindset that the interview is about the candidate. Despite what the world is telling you, the interview is first and foremost about the company. Assuming that you’ve done your job recruiting properly, you should only be bringing in and interviewing talented people… who likely have other prospects and offers on the table. If you don’t sell them on your company and on the position, you’ve immediately lost that talent.

The interviewer needs to work doubly as hard to entice the interviewee.

So how can you take the candidate perspective while sitting in the interviewer’s chair?

1. Leave enough time.

If the interview is scheduled at 1pm, leave room in your schedule for 12:45 to 2:15pm. Give yourself a buffer. You don’t want to be late, and you don’t want to rush them out if you run over on time. In both cases, you make the candidate feel unwanted and unappreciated.

It’s important to respect their time in the same way that you want them to respect yours. Just as you’ll have a bad taste in your mouth if they show up late to the interview, so will they. You have a busy schedule, but so do your candidates; in fact, some may have even taken the day off of work or sacrificed a day with family to come and interview with you. Be there and be present.

2. Read their résumé.

Leaving enough time also includes prep time. Reviewing their résumé before the interview allows you to dig deeper into their work history and experiences. More importantly, it shows the candidate that you took the time to actually read what they wrote. If they’re the right person for the job, they’ve likely prepped extensively for the interview by researching the role, the company, and the services. You should do your homework about them too.

3. Come up with questions before the interview.

Interviewers always judge the questions that the candidate asks at the end of an interview. “Can we wear jeans on Fridays?” isn’t as valuable to a candidate’s potential as, “What has your experience been like in the 13 years you’ve worked with the company?”

But guess what. The candidate is judging you based on the questions you ask, too. Don’t just ask about their experience or what you can find on their résumé (another reason to read it ahead of time).

Instead, focus on behavioral questions that demonstrate qualities, character traits, and past performance. This will give you more insight into how they are as a worker and cause top talent to appreciate your deeper way of thinking. Examples can include:

  • “Tell me about a time you felt proud of something you’d accomplished.”
  • “How do you deal with conflict with a client?”
  • “What motivates you to go to work everyday? What are you passionate about?”
  • “What books are you reading right now?”

4. Create a comfortable environment.

Give them a firm handshake and approachable introduction. Set the tone right from the get-go with friendly chitchat and warm, welcoming emotions. This is a great time to inquire about the “Interests” section on their résumé. It will get them talking with passion and excitement, which will bleed into the rest of the interview as well. This will put them at ease immediately and make them feel comfortable both with the interview and with the company overall.

Offer them a glass of water or a cup of tea. Better yet, invite them to follow you to the break room or kitchen area. If everyone hangs around the water cooler or stops at 3pm for a Keurig hit, this is a great time to show off a small part of your company culture. Those little touches will go a long with the candidate.

Put the phone away. A comfortable atmosphere is an undisturbed one. Turn your phone on silent (not even on vibrate) and avoid other distractions and interruptions. If you need to, put a snarky sign on the door to ensure no one knocks and disrupts the interview. Remember, you’ve allotted this time as interview time.

5. Verbally organize the interview.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, verbally discuss the structure of the interview. Tell them exactly what the next hour or half hour will look like. This allows the candidate to mentally prepare. Allow for enough time for each part, or this will make them more nervous. An example:

“I’ll start the first thirty minutes asking about your previous experiences and some behavioral analysis questions. The next fifteen minutes or more will be spent answering any questions you have for me. The following ten minutes will be a behavioral assessment you’ll complete on your own. Then I’ll return afterwards to wrap up the interview with you.”

6. Know the position.

Whether you’re an HR representative or the manager hiring for a subordinate role, you should always know the responsibilities and qualifications of the job. You should have some sort of experience with the role so you can explain it in detail. Even if you just talk to others currently in the role or the appropriate manager, you’ll be able to better relay job-related information to your interviewee. The candidate will never accept the job if they don’t know what it is.

7. Talk about and show them the culture.

Although you don’t want to talk too much during the interview, you should throw in tidbits about the company culture. It’s most often your culture that will make a great candidate pick your company as opposed to another similar opportunity. The best way to talk about culture is to relate what they say to the vision, mission, and qualities of the company. This shows that you were listening to what they were saying and also subtly helps them envision themselves within the company.

For example, the interviewee just told you that he created a “green” initiative at his former employer. You could respond by mentioning your company’s promise of sustainability. This encourages the candidate to envision working in your eco-friendly environment.

Make sure you have enough time at the end of the interview to show the candidate around the office. They should be able to see the culture firsthand and experience it themselves. Remember, just saying “we have a great culture” is about as common as saying “we have a bathroom.”

8. Be honest.

But don’t say you have a mission of sustainability if you don’t. Don’t oversell, lie, or sugarcoat the job or company. This may attract a quality candidate, but it won’t attract the right one… and you’ll end up with a hiring nightmare. In the same way that you want your interviewees to be honest so you can choose the right one for the role, they want to make sure it’s the right fit for them as well. The more honest you are, the better you’ll fill that role for the long term.

If the hire is going to be sitting at a desk 7 hours per day, they need to know that. The right candidate will be happy—or at least ambivalent—to sit at their desk for 7 hours to get their work done.

9. Follow up.

Interviewees should always send a thank you email to their interviewers… but you should too. Wait an extra day or two to give the candidate time to thank you first. But be sure to reply with an appreciative response, thanking them for their time as well. This shows a level of care and respect that your candidates will admire in a future employer.

You should also call to “close” the interview process. Whether you’re extending the invitation for another round, offering them the job, or declining at this time, you should give them the courtesy of letting them know where they stand in the interview process.

The Bottom Line

By the way, you should never…

  • Ask personal or discriminatory questions. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also uncomfortable.
  • Speak badly about the person you’re replacing.
  • Take your shoes off. It smells worse than you think, even if it’s under the desk.

Always follow the golden rule of interviewing: Treat the candidate the way you want the candidate to treat you. In order to hire competitive, valuable top talent, interviewees need to go the extra step to “captivate” that talent’s interest in the company.


More great resources from Captivate Talent

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

For Employers
5 min read

US Expansion Guide—Hiring and Growth Strategy (w/ Daniel Glazer, Managing Partner at Wilson Sonsini)

Seasoned tech lawyer Daniel Glazer shares strategic insights for European startups on timing, legal nuances, financial considerations and cultural adjustments when expanding into the massive U.S. market.
Read more
For Employers
5 min read

Startup Team Building Advice from an Early-Stage VC (w/ Rebecca Price)

Get insider tips on building a strong startup team from Rebecca Price, an early-stage VC. Learn the secrets to creating a successful team that can take your startup to new heights.
Read more
For Employers
5 min read

Sales Competencies to Assess When Hiring Leaders and Reps

Looking to hire top sales talent? This article outlines the essential competencies to assess when evaluating potential sales leaders and representatives.
Read more