Mistake: Passing on a high-performing candidate because they did not “blow you away” or “show a lot of enthusiasm” during the 1st interview.

I know this goes against what most of us have been taught. However, 30 years of interviewing and several thousand successful placements have taught us this very valuable lesson that I want to share with you.

Let me show, through example, by looking at two candidates – Bill and Mary.

 Bill is under a lot of stress at his current job and may soon be terminated for poor job performance. Doesn’t this put a lot of pressure on Bill to find a new job? How might it affect his interviewing?

Mary is excelling at her current position, just as she has in her past positions. She does not need a new job but is open to seeing what your opportunity is about and making an intelligent decision if it is worth pursuing further. How will the fact that Mary is under no pressure affect her interviewing?

Bill and Mary will interview very differently!

Bill will look at your interview:

As possible relief from the pressure of being terminated for poor job performance. Bill will be in “sales mode” and compliment you, your company, and its product or service. Bill will be enthusiastic and ready to jump through any hoop, take any test, and will start very soon with you. Bill wants to impress you! Yes, Bill will interview very hard for your job. Bill will have no concerns about your position, its work content, or driving distance. Bill will work hard to cover up the fact that he is a low performer. Usually, by compliments, enthusiasm, and lack of job performance specifics. He will likely call you frequently about getting your job and will look very enthusiastic to the interviewer.

After the interview:  Bill will answer many other job postings while searching for another job. Bill will likely continue to be a low performer if he gets your job.

Mary will look at your interview: 

As a learning and fact-gathering process. Mary isn’t trying to “sell” you on herself or impress you. She will tell you about her role and successes’ with pride, but she will not attempt to “blow you away.” Mary will likely be more pensive and ask thoughtful questions and probe you about issues she may see with your company, position, product, or service. She will openly express these concerns. This is how “high performers” interview and make value judgments.


After the interview:  If Mary is interested, she will conduct more research about your company and let you know if she is interested in a second interview. Mary will likely continue to be a high performer if she gets your job.

Don’t confuse Mary’s behavior as being aloof or low energy. Mary is in thinking and fact-gathering mode, whereas Bill is in “sales mode.” If Mary becomes more certain that she wants your position, her interviewing will change, and she will switch gears and become more expressive and enthusiastic during follow-up interviews.

Lesson: The best indicator of future job performance is past job performance. High performers tend to be high performers throughout their careers, and low performers tend to gravitate towards low performance. So invite Mary back for a second interview and spend the time learning about her past and current job performance while checking references. You may even need to “do some selling” to entice Mary to your company. Many managers loathe the thought of having to sell their position or the company. However, you are not looking for a BFF; you are looking for a person to help your company. In a competitive job market, some “selling” by hiring managers is beneficial in landing the best personnel.

Note: Do not confuse someone like Mary, who is quiet and gathering facts (not trying to sell), with poorly prepared candidates, bad attitudes, disengaged, disinterested, disrespectful, unmotivated, or uncooperative, etc.


Don Jasensky is the Founder and President of Automotive Personnel, LLC

Look for Don’s book “Hire Like A Pro” at Amazon.com

Reach Don at 216-226-8190     [email protected]