Poker players who know the game well often talk about "tells"-- those unintended expressions, tics or mannerisms that other players exhibit, often without realizing they’re doing so, which offer clues to the quality of their hand.
And while it's not possible to know for sure whether the prospective employee sitting in your office is going to be your next superstar, management consultant Lynne Curry, founder of Anchorage, Alaska-based The Growth Company, offers five ways you can get beyond the standard answers and find out more about the interviewee.
1. Ask the unexpected. Curry says interviewees pore over sites that tell them the predictable interview questions, like "Tell me about your greatest weakness" or "Why did you leave your last position." Those can yield important information, but you’ll likely get less rehearsed and sanitized answers if you go beyond the obvious. Instead, ask them what their three greatest weaknesses are or ask the individual what led him or her to leave the first job on the resume.
2. Look at body language. Interviewees are likely to be nervous, but Curry looks for "matching"--mirroring body language, which tells her "how much they like me, and how comfortable they get and how quickly," she says. If she leans forward and uses hand gestures, she looks for an interviewee who does the same. An individual who remains stiff and unexpressive may have issues relating to other people.
3. Turn the focus on your company. Let the interviewee tell you what would make a position a "dream job" at your company. Ask him or her what job functions or other elements would make the job a perfect match for his or her long-term goals. The answer will tell you about the individual’s values and motivators.
"Some people are motivated by intrinsic factors like recognition and job satisfaction. Other people are motivated by money or the prestige of the company. Understanding the motivations of a new employee can help you inspire better performance," she says.
4. Be smart about references. Once Curry is sure she is interested in hiring a prospective employee, she has the individual sign a release allowing previous employers to answer questions during reference checks. Alternatively, if a former employer is skittish about answering questions about a former employee, she asks, "What type of supervisor and work environment would best suit this person?" The answer to that question often tells her more than asking direct questions about past performance, she says.
5. Check with your receptionist. Curry says that your receptionist is often your "secret weapon" when it comes to getting a good feel for an interviewee. "Ask your receptionist or assistant how this person acted when they came in. Were they rude or abrupt or friendly? Were they talking on a cell phone? Their mannerisms when they think no one is watching can tell you a lot," she says.