Hiring the wrong person can be very costly. A recent New York Times small-business blog post estimates that a bad hire costs a business $40,000 or more. To be sure, applicant screening and reference checks are an important part of the hiring process, but the ability to interview effectively may be the difference between a profitable year or not. And when it comes to art of interviewing, there are few better than broadcast journalist Charlie Rose, whom the Financial Times called “a brilliantly skilled interviewer.”
As “master at charming his subjects into revealing interesting pieces of information,” Rose has spent countless hours of interviewing some of the world’s most interesting people. What makes Rose so special? Rose interviews politicians, celebrities, generals, scientists, musicians, and anyone really with ease and clarity. He sets the environment with a simple oak table and a black backdrop, as if there were nothing more important than his guest. He comes well prepared for his meetings, ready to pounce on an answer, but also willing to let the conversation ebb and flow within defined constraints.
The Financial Times also notes that Rose rarely takes sides in an interview, preferring to take an even-handed approach. And in comparison to competitors on other cable news channels, Rose seems downright “thoughtful” and willing to have a conversation rather than a shouting match.
Studying his technique from multiple online interviews, I curated five best practices (there may be more) that should be emulated in the hiring process:
1. After Pleasantries, Get Right to It.
Rose doesn’t waste a lot of time in his interviews. He introduces his guests, shakes their hand, and jumps right into questions. It can be argued that this rapid style is more suitable for television audiences with a limited attention span; however for the corporate interviewer with five to seven interviews lined up in a row, it makes a lot of sense to get right to business.
2. Do Your Homework.
Recruiters often plead with candidates to learn as much as they can about a company’s history, culture, and needs before they meet with a hiring manager. Indeed, the well-prepared candidate is one who is ready to engage in the interview and excited about the opportunity. Taking a cue from Rose, it is not only the candidate that should be prepared for the interview, but the hiring manager as well. Charlie Rose does his homework. He doesn’t fumble in his questioning. He knows exactly what he wants to ask and when. And his detailed preparation is obvious.
3. Go Deeper.
Because of Rose’s detailed preparation, he’s ready for questions that do more than simply skim the surface. In fact, he often asks probing questions two or three levels deep, in an effort to clarify his understanding. To dive deeper in questioning, one must have familiarity with the subject matter and the interviewee. Charlie Rose isn’t an expert in everything, but his breadth of knowledge allows him to show command of a specific topic and reach deeper with his line of questions than most interviewers.
4. Interviewing Style Matters.
Rose has an almost casual bent to his interviews. Case in point, a writer from the Financial Times remarks how a two-hour lunch with Charlie Rose “glided by, seamlessly and unnoticed.” These types of breezy interviews may not be favored by the aggressive hiring manager who likes to put candidates “on their toes” with rapid fire questions. However, it’s often wise for hiring managers to remember that while they are interviewing candidates, the converse is also true.
5. Listen and Learn.
Sadly, many hiring managers would rather formulate their next question than listen to the candidate answer the previous question. And that’s a real shame because an interview provides a gold mine of information for both parties. Interviewers should take a cue from Charlie Rose and really listen to the answers provided by candidates. It’s amazing what information can be gathered by truly listening when someone speaks!
• Do you find Charlie Rose a particularly effective interviewer? What do you like or dislike about his methods and style?
• What interviewing techniques help you find the best qualified candidate?