Is Interviewing an Art or a Skill?

What do you think? Is Interviewing an Art, that requires some innate ability that people are born with and refine throughout their life, or is it a skill that can be learned and then refined like any other skill? Are some people just born with a “knack” for interviewing and getting the job offer the first time?

After conducting several hundred interviews personally [to be honest I’ve forgotten the exact numbers], my perspective is that it is a skill, but this skill overlaps with many other skills which many people already have…which is what makes it look like a “natural ability” to some versus a learned behavior.

Let’s look at a couple of examples: Let’s assume Larry is interviewing for a project manager position. Larry is an extrovert by nature, and has held a few sales oriented positions in the past. As a result, he is very good skills around needs assessment of his customers, is comfortable talking to strangers, and is what I call “comfortable wearing his skin” – he can talk about himself without being self conscious or overly worrying about what other people are thinking. Larry is likely going to come across very well in an interview for this position – however, while the extrovert portion is his basic personality, the sales and comfort level are learned behaviors in my opinion.

Now let’s look at Bob – he is interviewing right after Larry for the same position. Bob is by nature more of an introvert, and has held many jobs where he didn’t have to interact with a lot of people on a daily basis. Furthermore, a series of bad positions and/or managers in his past have left him feeling a bit unsure about himself and his abilities. How do you think Bob will do in the same interview?

While introverted and extroverted can play a role and are considered innate personality characteristics, I have witnessed overly shy people that “learned” how to be outgoing in specific situations like interviews – it may take much more preparation the night before to get in the right mindset, and be stressful, but I have seen people do it. How do I know – because I’ve hired them and discovered weeks after they started how shy they were – however, to date this has never caused them to not be excellent performers, or caused any regrets on my part about hiring them. However, they did have to put in extra work and “stretch” outside their comfort zone a bit – which in many ways makes them exemplary employees who I know will not be afraid to stretch in a work situation.

Larry is at risk also, however, of the extrovert portion swinging the needle too far – being too chatty in the interview [a big no-no], possibly taking his confidence into egotism territory, and possibly demonstrating he is more interested in social aspects of a position versus getting the job done. So – Larry also has to prepare himself, and teach himself to make sure he can counter-balance any exaggerated behaviors that may come from being an extrovert.

So not sure if I have clearly articulated my thinking – Larry and Bob’s innate abilities both provide strengths as a candidate, but they have to learn how to hone these abilities into a well structured approach to impressing the interviewer.

The “natural” interviewee’s I’ve seen over the years all come from learned behaviors – in many cases switching roles or companies every few years has provided much practice, or some have joined speaking clubs, social groups, etc. which further enabled them to develop this natural comfort and aptitude for the interview process.

Thoughts, perspectives, do you think I’m right or wrong?

Regards,

Russell Tuckerton

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