Interviewers use a lot of strategies to choose the right candidate.
They’ll ask certain questions and even play mind tricks that’ll make you reveal exactly what kind of worker you are.
Through surveys conducted by Leadership IQ, a leadership and training provider, Mark Murphy divulged tricks for recruiters to use during interviews in his book Hiring for Attitude.
We’ve taken Murphy’s most useful tips for recruiters and compiled them for the interviewee.
They will pause for an awkward silence just to get you talking
It seems like common sense, but put people in a high stress situation — such as a job interview — and combine that with some discomfort and you’ll have them begging for things to feel normal.
Here’s the advice Murphy tells recruiters:
“When faced with an uncomfortable silence, people will start talking 95 percent of the time. You risk feeling a millisecond of discomfort, but it’s worth it if it elicits the facts you are looking for.”
They’ll ask you specific questions about your former boss — like ask you to spell his or her name — to get you in honesty mode
When you’re asked very specific questions about your boss, the interviewer is actually trying to psychologically turn you to honesty mode.
In Murphy’s book, he tells recruiters to ask for the spelling of the interviewee’s former supervisor’s name at the beginning of the interview. Since this is such an official formality, it will immediately put the interviewee on alert because they think their former boss will be contacted.
Even if the interviewer never plans to contact the supervisor, the point is to get truthful responses from you since it’s likely you’ll be hesitant to veer too far from the truth at this point.
“This little psychological twist makes the whole process so revealing,” Murphy says.
They’ll leave out parts of questions to see how you’ll finish answering
If a recruiter asks you to describe a time when you faced a difficult situation, but doesn’t specifically ask what you did to try to fix it, they’re trying to figure out if you’re a “problem bringer” or a “problem solver.”
This question was written for multiple interpretations because if you’re a real problem-solver, you “simply can’t bring [yourself] to think about a situation as a total failure.” You will continue to try until you solve or at least salvage some of it. In contrast, if you’re a problem bringer, you will answer the question as is — you will tell the recruiter about a difficult situation and that’s it.
The question is used to “reveal the candidate’s true attitude, not his or her canned, rehearsed interview personality.”
They judge you by your pronoun usage
The pronoun you use when answering interview questions really matters. Here’s what it says about you:
First person (I, me and we): According to the survey, high performers answered in the first person 60 percent more than low performers did.
Second person (you, your): The survey reveals that low performers answered in the second person 400 percent more often than high performers.
Third person (he, she, they): Low performers were 90 percent more likely to answer in the third person than high performers.
Neuter pronouns (it, itself): This is a really awkward way to answer questions, but low performers answered interview questions in the neuter pronouns 70 percent more often than high performers.
They’ll listen closely for your adverb usage — since low performers use 40 percent more adverbs than high performers
“High performers are far more likely to give answers without qualifiers,” says Murphy. “Their answers are direct, factual, in the past tense and personal. Low performers, on the other hand, are more likely to qualify their answers. For instance, they might use adverbs to amp up their answers because the facts probably don’t speak well enough on their own.”
Also, low performers are 90 percent more likely to answer with negative emotions than higher performers.
They’ll listen to your verb tense when you answer a question — since high performers respond more frequently in the past tense
Here’s what the survey says about verb tense:
Past tense: Past tense answers were used 40 percent more often from high performers than low ones.
Present tense: Low performers used the present tense 120 percent more often than high performers.
Future tense: Low performers are also 70 percent more likely to use future tense when answering questions than high performers.
So if an employer asks you to describe a difficult situation, you’ll respond this way if you’re a high performer: “I had a customer who was having issues with her server and was about to miss her deadline,” whereas a low performer would say, “I would calm an irrational person by making it clear I know more than she does.”
They’ll see if you converse in the active voice
The passive voice typically sounds more awkward than the active voice and is “often used by people trying to sound smarter than they actually are.”
In case you weren’t sure:
Active Voice. In this voice, the subject is doing the action.
Passive Voice. In this voice, the target of the subject gets promoted to the subject position.
They’ll listen to see how often you use the words “always” and “never.”
Low performers use absolutes 100 percent more often than high performers
For example, the statement: “The people in this department never know what they’re doing and always ask for my help,” reveals insecurity in one’s abilities.