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Chemistry is King When it Comes to Interviewing Successfully

Aug 17, 2007
Pornography is "hard to to define," but "I know it when I see it," wrote former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964.

Chemistry between two individuals is another gray area that can be equally difficult to explain. In the context of a job interview, how is it you can have two candidates with comparable backgrounds, experience and skill sets: one the client loves while the other they could care less if they ever see again.

You may be thinking, "That's obvious: it's a personality issue"--and I would agree, to an extent. But you don't have to dislike someone's personality to not have chemistry with them. I've interviewed a number of very likable (and capable) people that for whatever reason did not make a favorable impression on the client. I'm always trying to uncover the criteria (experience and skill sets notwithstanding) that the hiring manager is going to use to determine the candidate's suitability for their job.

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian said that 93% of communication is non-verbal--the spoken word only accounts for a mere 7% when delivering a message. I agree that body language and tone of voice are significant factors when it comes to effective communication (and developing chemistry), but I believe the spoken word plays an equally important part. Not just the quality of the message, but the quantity of words used. Let me explain: I recently had the opportunity to participate in a group interview with a client who is hiring for a VP-level position. Since the majority of the companies I work with are outside of South Florida, I don't often get the chance to sit-in on the candidate/client meeting. But after this particular one I think I'm going to start insisting on it because the insight I gained was invaluable.

Interviews with executive-level candidates tend to be more conversational in nature as opposed to rapid-fire Q & A sessions. The participants generally view themselves as business-equals and most employers recognize that candidates at this level, particularly those recommended by a search firm, are highly qualified and in-demand. It was during this 90 minute meeting that I watched the chemistry between these two parties begin to develop, then take a dramatic turn downward, only to slowly reignite and begin to build the foundation for a business relationship.

Good conversation should unfold like a tennis match with the two players volleying equally back and forth, not like being shot at on the other side of the net by a ball machine. When one side either dominates the conversation or doesn't equally contribute with their own thoughts and observations, chemistry rarely develops. No one likes to be interrogated. An acquaintance of mine is a reporter with a local television station and talking with him is like being on trial for aggravated homicide: one intensive question after another with him rarely giving any commentary or opinion of his own. Almost as bad is sitting on the receiving side of an "information dump", where the other person goes into mind-numbing detail about topics and issues that are hardly relevant to the discussion.

An interview is but a snapshot of both parties involved: it's a first impression to determine whether or not a potential relationship can develop and flourish. Whether you're a hiring manager or job seeker, keep the "volleying" analogy in the back of your mind during your meeting. Give chemistry every opportunity to develop and you'll find yourself making better employment decisions.
About the Author
Thad Greer is an Executive Headhunter with Priority Recruiting Solutions, Inc. http://www.priorityrecruiting.com, a nationwide executive search firm headquartered in South Florida. His blog, "Confessions from a Serial Recruiter", http://serialrecruiter.blogspot.com serves as a resource for employers and job seekers alike.
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