How to Break from the Usual and Revive Your Interview Process

7 Tips from 216 Podcasts that Will Cure Dreary Interviewing

29 April 2016
Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Last week’s conversation starter in The HR Rabbit Hole focused on Why Candidate Stories Are Key to Improving Your Hiring Process. In today’s challenging recruitment market, the interviewer and the company’s story are NOT the main feature. The reality is if you want to be successful in the hiring game you need to switch roles.

Here’s how.

Recruiters and HR need to be both a skilled interviewer AND a master story connector.

The candidate is the storyteller and their yet-to-be-shared story is the centerpiece.

Before we continue, pop over to last week’s post for a quick recap. This post will have even more value to you if you do

Come right back as I am about to share the steal-worthy fresh interviewing techniques that I found when adventuring outside of the HR discipline.

An Unexpected Cure for Dreary Interviewing

In the interests of full disclosure; these 7 tips came about from a purely selfish mission.

Read on, I am about to make a confession.

For while, I was tormented by a niggling feeling. In fact, it was like the incessant Tsszzz” of a mosquito. I swatted it away and trained myself to ignore it.  And it worked or so I thought.

18 months ago, the Tsszzz” was now a maddening buzz. It had become louder and more insistent.

I knew what it was. I had to take action.

The entrepreneurial itch proved too uncomfortable to ignore. I had to scratch it.

It was time to take a dose of my own medicine – and start out on the journey to take Aquarius HR Consulting from blah to cooking with gas.

I was ready to grow the business.

Location freedom beckoned.

HR has my heart and I wanted to do it creatively with a difference by doing the kind of work that matters.

I know my customers and the nooks and crannies of my niche. But I needed to do more and reach more – helping to solve problems and creating purpose by sharing knowledge and expertise.

Aquarius had to go digital. But I didn’t have a clue how. And I was afraid of … – too many things to list here.

I needed a crash course on; Web design, online marketing, copywriting, entrepreneurship (disasters and triumphs), blogging, sales, social media channels and tools, customer behaviour, creativity and psychology, design and food etc. OK the last one was for personal inspiration.

I had neither time nor access to the kind of conferences and courses I needed. Even with some pretty decent speed reading skills; there was no way I could get through my ridiculously long list of recommended books and blogs.

It was at this point I discovered Podcasts:–

  • FREE knowledge and advice from entrepreneurs, different-thinking folks and doers at the top of their game.
  • Liberating personal learning and development power under my control.
  • Inspiration and fresh ideas that flow through my ears, directly to my brain.
  • A quick and easy way to keep my mind sharp and curious.

I committed to listening to 3 podcasts per week.

Today, 18 months of cross-discipline adventuring and 216 podcast episodes later, I discovered an unexpected treasure trove of Steal-Worthy Interviewing Techniques used by Trailblazing Podcasters.

At first I was drawn to the content of these podcasts for my own personal and professional development. But as time went on, I became increasingly curious about the podcasters’ interviewing style and fascinated by how they created value through their conversations with their guests.

Take note. Podcasters are breaking the conventional interviewing rules beloved by HR, Recruiters and hiring managers. They are creating crazy value for their audience, their guests, themselves and their businesses.

I have come to realise that processes and guidelines are a great help, but when they turn into rigid rules they can end up backing you into a corner.

  • Do you want to create a value-rich interview process your business will love?
  • Do you want to create a value-rich interview process your candidates will rave about?

Here are 7 interviewing rules from ‘The Establishment’ that you should consider bending, twisting or totally breaking.

Read on to learn how you can be an HR Rule Breaker.

7 Ways To Create a Value-Rich Interview Process That Will Grow Your Business

1. Guest not Candidate: Break the rules! Create a zone that deliberately straddles the line between business and social setting. Get to know your guest as a human being not as a potential ‘resource’. Shift your mind and welcome your candidate as your guest. A relaxed ‘guest’ is more willing to offer more unrehearsed information freely. This sets the tone for open dialogue.

2. Conversation trumps interrogation: We covered this in last week’s post. Savvy interviewers know this and connect with their guest’s over meaningful conversations.

The rapid fire interrogation style interview will not cut it anymore. This style sets the tone of an exam, where the candidate has already revised the questions and is now looking to pass the test. The emphasis is on how good the interviewer and the interviewee are at playing the game.

Instead, the interviewer must create the atmosphere for a meaningful and genuine conversation. In fact, what you want is an open dialogue that goes deeper to encourage the candidate to reveal the answers to these 4 questions:-

“Who are you?”

“What is your story?”

“What and how are you willing to contribute to grow the business?”

“How can we learn from each other?”

3.  Selfless Curiosity: Be ready to listen more and talk less. The 80-20 rule definitely applies here. Ask relevant questions, then spend 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time probing deeper into your guest’s responses.

Listen keenly to find the golden thread to those passion projects in your guest’s story.  Keep your ears pricked for the hobbies, interests and side-gigs. Does your guest’s eyes light up when they talk about them?

That’s your clue. Follow the trail down that rabbit hole as passion projects are often where people hide their most precious treasure – their natural talents and authentic selves.

4.  Follow a Framework not Script: The conventional interview follows a scripted set of questions that relate specifically to the role – specific skills, required behaviours, organisational values, experience, qualifications etc.

The occasional sprinkling of open questions (How, When, Why, What) to permit the candidate to demonstrate (or not) their skills, experience or abilities pretty much makes up the typical approach to candidate interviewing.

Story connector interviews go beyond scripted questions directed at the candidate by the interviewer.  Instead of a script, the interviewer / story connector offers a framework in which the candidate is invited to tell their story.

Learning about the candidate / guest’s story is the core purpose of the conversation. The interviewer switches into the role of story connector, pulling valuable nuggets from the candidate / guest’s story (their hopes, triumphs, ideas, passions and principles) and linking them with the organisation’s purpose.

5.  Create a remarkable value-rich experience: Your purpose as interviewer / story connector is to honour the value in other people, and in turn you will increase the chance of them valuing your business by making a meaningful contribution to its success.

6.  The Questions:  Go beyond the typical 20+ questions about what they did in the past or are doing currently. You know the ones; the CV / Resumé and Job Description focused questions.

Instead choose 3-4 custom-designed questions that create a framework for your candidate / guest’s story to come alive.

These broad but specific questions will set the scene and open up interesting pathways to be explored.

From there you can use probing questions to sniff out the promising qualities, willingness to contribute, passions, potential career paths and the authentic personality of your guest/candidate.

Read these zinging examples of story connector questions from 2 master podcast interviewers. Be inspired to design your own questions and create your own swipe file.


 “Can you tell us about yourself, your story, your journey, your background; and how that has led you to everything you are doing up to right now?” Srini Rao, The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.

 “As an entrepreneur can you tell me what is the one thing you do that is the biggest contributor to your success so far?” Jon Nastor, Hack the Entrepreneur Podcast

 Going deep with a fresh take on the dull “What are your weaknesses’ question

 “Every expert talks about the 80-20 principle – do 80% of the work you are good at and delegate the rest. Tell me what are you not good at?” Jon Nastor, Hack the Entrepreneur Podcast


“Who or what do you think makes someone or something unmistakable?” Srini Rao, The Unmistakable Podcast.

 “This has been phenomenal. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us, share your insights and story with our listeners…”

 7. Use the power of the pregnant pause: When you ask your candidate / guest a question that invites them to share their story … be patient! Resist the urge to rush in and fill the pause with your words.

The silence is good. Give the storyteller time. Hang in there because at the point where the silence becomes unbearable, your candidate/guest may fill the void with their tale.

Continue to be patient. They may start slow, picking up the pace as they share their stories, inspirations, motivations, challenges and triumphs.

Let the conversation flow. Make your notes.

One well designed and timed question can reveal much value. This is the treasure and the source of a value-rich interview that can help grow your business.

Rule Breakers Needed. It is hard to defy conventional thinking and step away from established ‘best practice’.

Take a break from the usual and create the chance for better.

Try the story connecting interview style and create a value-rich interview experience for your candidate/guest, your business and yourself.

Add one (or more if you like) of these 7 tips in your next interview to give your hiring process a boost.

Let me know you get on when you open your mind to the power of storytelling and story connecting.

Please share your thoughts and more tips in the comments. I would love to read them.

Psst! Do you want to get a head start in creating your own treasure trove of story connector interview questions?

Good! Come back next Monday.  Just for you I will open my own swipe file.  Get ready to snag 25 steal-worthy story connector interview questions to help you revive your interview process.

Until we meet again down the HR Rabbit Hole…




Here are 2 of my go-to sources of inspiration for story connector style, value-rich interviewing and great content.

Jon “Jonny” Nastor, Hack the Entrepreneur Podcast.

Srini Rao, The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.

Of course, you are very welcome to share, use, and draw inspiration from any material posted. When doing so please let us continue to attribute, credit and honour the originators, creators or sources of the material as a mark of respect to their craft.

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