Decoding What’s Not Said at Interview

Decoding What’s Not Said at Interview

10 Oct 23 2mins Jon Midmer


In the last edition of JMA Shares, we wrote about some of our favourite interview questions. Whether placing a C-level executive with one of our clients or hiring a graduate at JMA, we use these ‘old friends’ to elicit evidence of a candidate’s experience and skills, and help us determine style and culture add. 

It won’t come as news to you that at interview candidates sometimes hold back. Mastering the art of thoughtfully exploring the why behind an omission can unlock deeper insights into an individual, and lead to a more informed selection process. Here are the top five reasons we believe candidates don’t give us everything they could: 

  1. Interview Nerves Nerves can cause even the most accomplished presenters to clam up. This is why we do everything possible before, at the beginning of and during each interview to ensure candidates feel they’re in a safe space. 
  1. Poor Preparation You’d be amazed how little research some candidates do before meeting us, sometimes not having even read the job description properly. It’s not a cardinal sin – they have day jobs after all – but it does point to a certain lack of seriousness about the process. 
  1. Lack of Self-Awareness and/or Vulnerability When we ask a candidate what they’re working on to be more effective as a leader and we’re told: “I need to learn more about investor relations / the balance sheet / data science”, instead of addressing real – probably painful – leadership blind spots, it betrays a lack of self-awareness, vulnerability, or both.  
  1. Embarrassment Linked to this point is skirting over or omitting certain details, usually education and early career, believing – wrongly – that doing so will jeopardise their chances of success. Trust me: if you’ve made it to interview with us, you have no reason to be uncomfortable about how you’ve reached where you are. 
  1. Fear of Discrimination Last but not least, and definitely most seriously, even though we and our clients aim to be 100% inclusive, some candidates refrain from mentioning certain aspects about themselves because they fear – almost always incorrectly – doing so might prejudice their chances of being hired. 

Do these align with what you’ve seen in candidate interviews? And do you have any go-to questions or approaches you like to use to help candidates open up? We would love to hear from you, so drop us a line here