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I think my HR team is coaching job candidates behind my back

If you suspect employee prospects have been given the answers ahead of time, change your playbook.

I think my HR team is coaching job candidates behind my back
[Illustration: Slim3D/iStock]

Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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What am I supposed to do when prospective employees work out my interview questions and are forewarned about my desired responses? I think my HR team may be coaching candidates to accelerate the hiring process.
-Founder and unexpected manager

Dear Founder,

It’s time to change your playbook.

Instead of asking the usual questions or looking for desired responses, how about really listening to what the candidates have to say?

I like to ask them to share their backstory, hear why they think they are special, and invite them to talk about an example of something they dedicated themselves to early in their lives. Even if I know the answers, I ask these things because it’s very telling to see how someone responds. And even if the candidates know this is a question you will ask, it’s still effective. No one can make up a bunch of stuff they didn’t do.

My advice is to flip the interview on its head. Ask candidates what they are worried about. Get them talking about things they care about.

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Look for people who bring in energy and fun to work. You should hire people who are not like you, and people who possess skills you don’t have. So, look for that. If you are not careful, you will hire people who are similar to you, and that’s not what you need. Having a diverse team with different skills and competencies is what drives organizational success.

Finally, never let your HR team manage you into hiring people you don’t want to hire. Instead, try to avoid being in this situation in the first place by deepening the pool from which you are sourcing candidates. In other words, if you don’t have good candidates, broaden the search—don’t lower the bar. Make sure you are doing referrals to get employees interested in your company. You have to have a strong pipeline of customers and employees. If you don’t have one, you have to go out and build one. This is what will be most helpful and ultimately have the biggest impact on your success. Getting the right talent on board is everything.

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