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How to Relax Candidates

The interview is about establishing the candidate's credentials and identifying if they would be a good fit into your organisation, taking into personal account characteristics such as presence, attitude, manner, confidence and ability. It cannot be stressed enough that taking the time before and during an interview to put your potential sales employee at ease will make a considerable difference to the interview outcome.

Helping the applicant out by preparing them better for the interview will make them feel positive and at ease. As an interviewer, you will be able to spend more time on important issues: determining and establishing the candidate's skill and fit within your culture.

There are numerous methods in which you can help prepare and relax your candidate, so here are some simple yet highly effective methods:

Who Are You and What Do You Do?

Describe the company - Give an outline of the nature and history, its products or services, its mission and philosophy and a few unique aspects. You should be able to provide the candidate with an idea of the company's 'personality', culture and what it 'believes in'. In addition, providing the background and titles of the interviewer(s) will also allow the candidate to feel relaxed.

Ask a 'Settling Question'

Suitable candidates will have prepared beforehand, and a 'setting question' would be something like 'How much do you know about our business?' or 'How much do you know about our Industry?'.  This will allow you to gauge how much depth you need to go into about your business and industry and help settle the candidate as they can impress by talking fluently about the research on you that they've undertaken.

Pardon - What did that mean?

The language used when describing the company or job role should be 'jargon free' for easy comprehension, even if you deal with highly specialised work. This will consequently enable the candidate to understand more by not feeling uncomfortable by asking what a certain acronym means. Remember that some jargon may only be used by your niche sector or possibly even just your organisation. Also, remember that your management-speak may not be universally understood. I once mentioned a German candidate about 'thinking outside of the box'. It took him a while to regain his composure as he interpreted it literally and had no idea what I was talking about!

We Are Above Average

Whilst highlighting achievements and company successes, you can cite client successes awards won and mention employees who have performed above average. This will demonstrate your commitment and dedication to client satisfaction, your team and its members.

Hand Over Your Brief

Brief candidates on the general outline of the interview. Communicate your plan for the flow of the interview, but do explain that this is not rigid. If an interview is based on set questions alone, it can sound dull, particularly if you have both been "practising" ahead of the interview. Plan and have an agenda to ensure that you capture the required information to interview and benchmark effectively but don't be afraid to jump around the sections of the agenda for the meeting to be more natural.  

However, as I am sure you are already aware, some people have greater experience at being interviewed, and it will be down to you to judge how much time to give the interviewee to prepare beforehand - you don't want to waste their time if they are ready to launch straight into it.

Allow The Candidate To Shine By Getting Them Excited!!!

Throughout the job interview, help the candidate demonstrate their best knowledge, skills and hunger for the job. Start with "small talk" and factoring in a little "getting to know you" time by asking several more straightforward questions until the candidate seems relaxed. This will provide endless benefits for you throughout the interview process.

You can initially look for and question an additional attribute to help the candidate relax: their passion. Find either a project that the candidate recently worked on or their hobby or interests. The interviewee will probably get very excited - they will talk more quickly, be more animated and hopefully even forget for a moment that they are in an interview. This will highly benefit the candidates who feel very nervous and uncomfortable being in an interview situation. Talking about a passion of theirs will enable them to lose all signs of nervousness.

Admittedly, in an interview situation, the prospective employer and candidate are not equal parties. There is, therefore, a risk that the candidate will be afraid to be themself, relax or argue with you because you are in a position of power. However, if candidates are given the opportunity to discuss a passion that you have little knowledge of, they will be given a greater opportunity to demonstrate their selling skills by trying to convince or inform you on a particular subject.

Make Them Feel Comfortable

There is a chance that you may have a candidate who is inexperienced in interviewing situations or a person who may suffer from bad nerves. You will be able to make the best of your candidate during the interview (especially those who do suffer from terrible nerves) by creating an aura of relaxation - even if you are feeling the nerves too!

If you are to use any recording equipment, then make sure the candidate is comfortable with it - explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and exactly how the interview will be recorded and used post-interview. Do not undertake any recording of interviews without obtaining permission from the interviewee under any circumstance.

It Takes Two to Fandango

Preparation prior to the interview (for example, reviewing and highlighting essential points on the interviewee's CV) will also help you feel at ease. Having two relaxed people talking together will make for a more natural interview. If you are uptight and nervous before or during the interview, it is likely to make the candidate nervous too.  

Make sure you give yourself 10 minutes prior to the interview to gather all the materials necessary for the interview. This will help to reduce your stress state. If you are stressed, you have a greater risk of creating havoc for the interview - being prepared and calm will help ensure things go smoothly. Also, switch off your mobile phone and ensure that your team shouldn't disturb you unless it's critical. I once had a client checking his emails whilst interviewing, and surprise, surprise, the candidates weren't interested in joining his business!

Don't Follow Your ABC's

If you are holding an assessment centre or if a large number of candidates are to be interviewed over a specific period of time (for example, over an afternoon), candidates may expect to be interviewed alphabetically by surname. Candidates with surnames that fall at the latter end of the alphabet will expect to be interviewed last. It could be good practice to list interview candidates in random order rather than alphabetically to provide variety to the interview process, manage potential employees interviewing order expectations and help Mr Zaidi manage his nerves when he is expecting to be the last interviewed.

How Many Are Too Many?

Don't overwhelm your candidate with a large panel of interviewers. This will only overpower the candidate, thus making them more nervous, distressed, intimidated, and unable to perform to their full capability. Certainly, at the first interview, keep to a limited amount of interviewers during the initial stages of interviewing, preferably no more than 2 or 3, to allow the candidate to show you their true colours.

To Conclude

Keeping the atmosphere relaxed will make for a better interview. Why? Because a relaxed applicant will be more honest, open and talk more. The more they talk, the more you will learn about them. This, therefore, makes for a better judgement and hire that will help you develop a strong, healthy, productive, competitive organisation.

Published: 26th March 2021

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About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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