Some stereotypes suggest that IT candidates are shy, socially awkward or reserved, especially in the tense environment of a job interview. But the truth is, ALL candidates tend to feel shy during interviews. And very few of us feel perfectly relaxed and open while conversing with strangers who are being paid to judge us.

If your IT candidate is sitting straight as a board in the interview chair, giving one-word answers to your questions and quietly sweating through three layers of clothing, don’t give up (on the interview OR on the candidate). Just try these tips. Make it easier for both of you to relax and share your true personalities.

Offer validation.

Experienced hair stylists often start a session by complimenting a client’s hair, which helps the client relax and feel at ease. Interviewers can cast the same spell by offering the same simple—and true—reassurances. There’s nothing dishonest or misleading about a phrase like, “We really like your resume”, or “We’ve heard good things about you”. There’s no false promise buried these niceties, and they can assure the candidate that he or she belongs here, is doing fine so far, and is just as worthy of career success as anyone else who applies for this role.

Share something about yourself.

Sometimes the best way to break an icy wall is to share proactively. Chose a safe personal detail and put it out there. Explain how you really feel about the company, what brought you here, and why you think this is a good place to work. Explain why the previous holder of the position left the job. Share something difficult or awkward about working in this place, or some difficulty you had during your early adjustment period.

Don’t treat the interview like a contest or conflict.

Strong IT candidates don’t mind being tested on the programming skills and platforms in which they claim expertise. If you see a skill on the candidate’s resume, feel free to offer the candidate some quiz questions. But don’t launch an aggressive cross-examination. Don’t act like you’re trying to catch your candidate in a lie or poke holes in his or her claims of competence. That won’t end well. Proficiency levels in every skill set vary widely; be polite while you work to position the candidate on the spectrums that matter most to this job. Establish a partnership, not a victory.

Be kind.

Kindness comes in many different forms, and in a job interview setting, the most useful forms of kindness are 1) honesty, 2) disclosure, 3) respect and 4) empathy. Recognize that the candidate wouldn’t be here if she didn’t really want this job and be as clear as you can about what the job entails and her odds of finding satisfaction here.

For more on how to help candidates relax and open up during interviews, talk to the experts at Extension.


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