Let’s face it, we Minnesotans have a reputation for being passive aggressive. Minnesota nice often means that I will not tell you what I really think or want but I will be deeply disappointed in you if you don’t understand. This is not just when your mother-in-law suggests she that can get on a 20-foot ladder to clean out her gutters. This also takes place during interviews when interviewers expect that the right candidate will organically give the “right” answer to very vague questions.
So many interviews begin with the question “So tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume”. In either case, the candidate really has no idea what the interviewer wants to know about their background, so they often wrongly highlight skills and experiences that are irrelevant to the hiring manager. In my experience, what the hiring manager wants to know is “What in your background sets you up for success in this role based upon the job description?”. If the job description is clearly written, the candidate should be able to highlight their skills and experiences that most directly relate to the role.
Another place where interviewers are often passive-aggressive is when trying to determine if the candidate has a specific skill that is critical to the role. Some interviewers may ask “How would you grow our business?” instead of a direct question like “We need someone that can leverage our iconic brands into completely new lines of business. What is your experience in this area? Please give me your favorite success story in doing so.”.
By simply asking direct questions about specific skills and experiences, interviewers are better able to assess all the candidates they interview on common criteria. This, as opposed to thinking that the one candidate that just happened to give the “right” answers is the best fit for the role.
While Minnesotans may have elevated passive-aggressiveness into a high art form, I do see the same issue in interviewing across the country. In this crazy time when top talent is obscured by a mountain of applicants and the risks of a mis-hire are so much greater, interviewers need to ask direct, specific questions of candidates. This will make your precious interview time more productive and informative. Ultimately, you will end up with a far better assessment of your available candidates and which one fits the role best.
So, don’t be passive-aggressive during your interviews, otherwise like the many mothers-in-law who never got their gutters cleaned, you will not get the top talent you need to meet your business objectives.