Over the course of my career, I have interviewed and been interviewed thousands of times. I’ve interviewed with so many companies that I began to think of it as a scripted play. Knowing 90% of the questions allowed me to rehearse exactly what I was going to say, as I knew my responses weeks before the interview was scheduled to occur.
This predictable process is quite common when in a typical interview setting. The result can lead to people becoming what I call “professional interviewers.” There is one candidate in particular that I can recall who looked the part, was extremely charming, everybody loved him and he had a strong answer for any objection. The only challenge was that he couldn’t produce results. I’d give him an “A” as an interviewer and a “C” as a salesperson.
Years ago, I accidentally started implementing the “dinner interview.” Rather than asking candidates to go through their resume, why they were a good fit and the typical interview questions, I invited them out to eat with me and my team to get to know them better. The results were so helpful that I have been recommending it to all my clients ever since. The dinner setting is much more social, which allows for a different perspective of the candidate being interviewed. Many of the prepared answers that a “professional interviewer” would naturally respond with change in this setting, and a different side of the candidate presents itself.
The first experience that I had with my dinner interview is actually the perfect example of the benefits that come from this more social setting. I interviewed this candidate by phone and had him meet with my team. He interviewed in person three times with my team and we were sold on him.
So naturally, I told this candidate that we wanted to make him an offer and invited him out to dinner with the team. Now that he was in a more social and casual setting, the professionalism that he displayed in our previous interviews went out the door. He drank too much, made some inappropriate comments, and told me about a time that he got arrested. Yikes!
Needless to say, I didn’t hire him.
From that moment on, it was clear that I should always recommend the dinner interview. Candidates will typically loosen up, allowing you to get a sense of what they are really like. I’ve seen many instances where candidates start being less professional and start discussing things they wouldn’t tell you during the office interview. In addition, this gives your employees the opportunity to see if the candidate is a cultural fit and they want to work with them. This perspective can be much more informative than hearing the standard canned answers that they have been providing every company with.
The lesson that I feel is important here is that some job interviews are more effective when conducted over a meal. This provides a glimpse into how a candidate conducts themselves outside of an office setting. No one wants an employee that makes poor impressions on behalf of their company when interacting with a client, or someone who your employees might not enjoy working with daily. The dinner interview is an effective tool to really find out what a candidate is like and it makes sense to hire him or her.