P.A.S.S.I.V.E. RECRUITING – PART 5: Interview

by Steven Allard
Job interview at Spectrum

Now is when the rubber meets the road. We are ready to set up the interview. As before, this should be a well thought out and carefully orchestrated process. We have not “winged” it up to this point and there is no sense in starting now.

It is essential, when dealing with passive candidates, to make sure everyone on the interview team knows the plan. Before the candidate ever talks to the client, it is crucial to make sure everyone on the interview team is putting their best foot forward from the outset. The interview team must understand they first need to “Sell”, to make sure the candidate wants the role. That being said, the best person to interview a candidate first may not actually be the hiring manager. I have had several occasions when I needed to engage someone else to lead off as the hiring manager was not  able to properly “sell” the opportunity.

Just as you storyboarded out the Approach, you should lay out a plan for the interview team.
When you present candidates to managers they need to know the most important things to highlight. What are the candidate’s drivers and motivators? What are potential turn offs?

Put your best foot forward first

The first interviewer should be the most impactful influential person in the process. The person who can most “connect”. The first interviewer should be someone who can get the candidate excited about working for you or your client. It may be an influential thought leader on the team, it may be an enthusiastic “cheerleader” for the company, it may be a member of the executive team, it may be a success story who can demonstrate the potential for growth within the organization. In any case, the first contact with the company should be with someone impactful. It should be someone also who matches the candidate’s level of energy. You should think about who in the organization can immediately grab the attention of your candidate and talk in their language about why your company is a great place. For example, if you have a high energy HR person as the first interviewer for your introverted engineer, you may have just lost them. They may feel overwhelmed and not feel comfortable with the culture. This interviewer should be able to give examples of things they can learn and contribute which aligns with the reasons the candidate is willing to interview in the first place. The conversation should directly address things that are missing for the candidate. What is the void your position will fill in their career?


Normal recruiting dictates candidates come to you so you can “control” the process. Passive candidates may be apprehensive about coming to you or your client’s office. There may be past coworkers already working for you who they may want to avoid so word does not get back to their current employer that they are interviewing. You may need to agree to meet them or conduct the first round of live interviews at an offsite location that is mutually convenient and comfortable for them. It may be necessary to meet at an off-site location such as at a coffee shop or over lunch or dinner. It may mean having them come in after-hours when most people have left to keep confidentiality.

Designing the Interview team

Who should you put on the interview team? Everyone should have a specific and unique role. All too often I have seen interview bloat. Everyone on the team interviewing, all asking the same questions, just so they can say they were involved. When I see this, it represents a team that is not confident in its interviewers to conduct an effective interview or trust the judgment of the interviewers. If that is the case these individuals should not be part of the interview team. No one should interview just for the sake of rehashing areas already covered. Everyone should have a purpose.

    • Who is/are the best person/people to initially engage with the candidate?
    • Who can best help sell?
    • Should executives be part of the interview line up or do a stop in and introduce themselves. Executives can reinforce the significance of this candidate to the company.
    • The interviewers must be “present” and not distracted. I have observed many interviews where the interview was continuing to take calls and work during the interview. The candidate took their time to dedicate to interview and deserve the same respect form each interviewer.
    • Who can best qualify the person? The process should fully qualify the candidate but consider their passive nature before putting them through the gauntlet.
    • Who should conduct the wrap-up and set next steps?

The wrap up is critical as we will discuss below.

Interview Flow

Each person should have a clear area to cover. Each interviewer should know what the person before them covered and where they left off. Each person should start with some light small talk to “connect” with the person. People like to work with people like themselves. Each interviewer should offer to answer any questions the candidate has or clarify anything discussed during the interview.

Skills Assessment

Now that we have done our sell, we can define the best person or team members to assess skills. That is best done using scenarios that can be talked through with the candidate. In some cases, understanding how the candidate thinks or solves problems can be just as important as getting to an answer the way the interviewer expected. Different people can arrive at the same result by taking a different path. That diverse approach should be welcomed.

Comfort Breaks

Remember though each interviewer may only be in the room for a relatively short period of time, the candidate may be interviewing for several hours. Each interviewer, prior to getting started, should offer water or a comfort break. This demonstrates caring for the person. If interviews will extend over lunch, it may make sense to either bring lunch in or arrange for someone to take the person top lunch.

Wrap up

This person is critical. This person should have a solid grasp of social cues and listen for what is not being said but may be indicated by body language. They should do a final sell, assess the candidate’s level of interest and, if necessary, be prepared to marshal additional people of influence to help sell the opportunity.

Hiring Manage Follow Up

Just as we look for candidates to send a follow-up email. It can be very impactful to have the hiring manager or other influential person in the organization send a follow up to the candidate. Think about yourself. How would you feel if you interviewed with a mid-level manager and then received a follow-up email from the CEO acknowledging your interview and personally offering to answer any follow up questions. The CEO mentions the positive feedback she or he received from the interview team and personally expresses how much they would value the candidate as a member of the team. That can be VERY impactful. It shows every level of the organization values the candidate.

Next week we will look. At how we ensure the candidate is committed to making a move.

Picture credits for this article:
183118681 © Yakobchuk Olena – stock.adobe.com

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