Alex Tidgård on the psychology of asking great interview questions

Alex Tidgård on: The psychology behind asking great interview questions

  • 40 minutes
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 18

Your interview process is the face of your business. It’s the first time candidates get a sense of who you are. Mess it up, and you risk candidates walking out of the recruitment process or ghosting you. How can you create a personalised interview process and win over candidates?

On this episode of How We Hire, Licensed Psychologist Alex Tidgård, talks about how to ask great interview questions and extract the responses you want from candidates. As Chief Product Officer and Founder of Asker Technologies, an AI-driven interview tool, Alex shares his best tips and strategies for running a candidate-centric interview process.

Key takeaways

  • Why interviews are so important to get right
  • How to take care of candidates throughout the whole interview cycle
  • Common interview pitfalls to avoid
  • Easy hacks to ace interviews
  • How to ask the right interview questions and evaluate responses fairly

On the show

Alex Tidgård
Alex Tidgård Chief Product Officer and Founder of Asker Technologies
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs

Alex Tidgård

 Alex Tidgård is a Licensed Psychologist, Chief Product Officer, and Founder of Asker Technologies. Asker is an AI-driven interview software that turns anyone into a job interviewing professional.

Alex’s interest is in worker psychology, and he is a research enthusiast who loves to dive into the latest findings of recruitment and HR to better understand how people and organisations can thrive together.

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.


Show notes
-How Asker Technologies was founded-2:20
-Why it’s important for TAs and hiring managers to work together in the interview process-6:28
-Why interviews are so important to get right-7:24
-Common interview pitfalls to avoid-10:15
-Why people mess up interviews-12:21
-Easy hacks to ace interviews-15:27
-How to set yourself up for a successful interview, before, during and after-17:46
-What type of interview questions to include-24:11
-Why comparing candidates against each other is fruitless-29:48
-Tips and tricks on improving the candidate experience throughout the interview process-31:30
-Where interviews are heading in the next ten years-35:37

How We Hire Podcast Episode 18 Transcript

Alex Tidgård (00:00):

We see that 50% of people have turned down on a job offer simply because of how they were treated during the interview. So you have these massive amounts of people that have been giving a job offer. They've gone through an entire recruitment process and they get to the interview and they, for some reason, feel like that was not a really nice way of being treated and say, "I don't want to work for this company," because the interview is the face of the company. It's almost like a mirror or it doesn't have to be, but that's how candidates see it. So if you go through an interview that's very unpersonal, fast or maybe not very job related, people are going to see that and see that's the organization that are going to work for and I want to work for that type of organization.

Linnea Bywall (08:11):

Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs, with me, Linnea, licensed psychologist and head of people. This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. In every episode, I will speak with thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practices within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.


Our guest on today's episode is Alex Tidgård. Alex is a licensed psychologist, chief product officer and founder of Asker Technologies. Asker is an AI-driven platform that turns anyone into a job interviewing professional. Alex has over eight years of experience working within this industry and has previously also worked with development of assessment tools and as a consultant. Alex's interest in work psychology was sparked during the very first semester of the psychology program at university and today, he is a research enthusiast who loves to dive into the latest findings of recruitment at HR to better understand how we can make people and organizations thrive. So welcome to How We Hire, Alex.

Alex Tidgård (08:11):

Thank you so much, Linnea. Great to be here. So excited.

Linnea Bywall (08:11):

Super fun. So I think we should dive into the start or birth of Asker right away. So you're one of the founders of this platform that supports talent acquisitions, specialists and hiring managers to conduct great interviews. Can you tell me a little bit about how did you and your co-founder start this? Where did it come from?

Alex Tidgård (08:11):

You and I have also been working with this, trying to improve the way that companies do the recruitment processes, going and looking at how they do it, what happens when and how do you communicate with the candidates and all that. And I think there's a lot of organizations out there doing a fantastic job of really looking into how we could improve the candidate flow, what tools to use, when and how and so on.


I was doing this for a lot of years, and it was so interesting because you could have these amazing companies that have awesome recruitment policies. They were using the latest tech. They were using all of this cool stuff, using assessment tools of course. But then when you came to the interview, it was like we were back in the 1940s or something. I was listening to, because I was following along and going through the entire recruitment process and you get to the point where the hiring manager takes over and conducts the interview, and you listen to the type of questions and the flow of the interview and you go, "What? So you'll be spending all of this time and money on creating a really good, modern, evidence-based recruitment process, but it fails at the end because you have a hiring manager that really doesn't have the tools, the knowledge or the skills to be able to conduct an interview?"


And that sparked an idea and a thought process of we need to improve this. There needs to be a better way of doing it. If it's done right, it's a really good selection method, but why are so many people doing it incorrectly? So that's what we wanted to work on and see, can we build a platform that's only focused on one thing, making it super easy to conduct really awesome, great interviews, both that actually predict performance but also great for the candidate and make it more objective? So that was what sparked it. It felt like everything was digitalized except the interview and we were like, "We need to solve this one."

Linnea Bywall (08:11):

I've seen the same thing where as soon as you're promoted as manager, you're expected to be an expert in hiring, which is a profession in itself, and it's super ironic that it's just expected that you know how to do that.

Alex Tidgård (08:11):

Yeah, it's insane.

Linnea Bywall (08:11):

One interesting aspect in my mind is how do people react to this? Do most hiring manager feel the need for this or are they offended?

Alex Tidgård (08:12):

One of the first steps that we did when creating Asker was that we wanted to go out and interview people in the field. So we wanted to talk to of course to recruiters and people working in HR so we got their perspective to see, what do you see as a problem with the interview? But we also wanted to of course talk to the hiring managers. And it's so interesting to see the discrepancy, what they saw as a problem with the interview. If we talk to the HR people and talking to recruiters, they were talking about how hard it is to be unbiased in the interview, to evaluate candidates on good criteria and also to get good questions. That was what they were having problems with.


But if you asked the hiring managers, it was like, how can I make it more efficient? Which questions should I ask? And also about making it more of a conversation rather than an evaluation part. And it was so interesting because they had no problems with bias subjectivity or bias. They were like, "Yeah, no, I don't think about that too much when it comes to the interview." So we realized we really have two different user groups here that we need to tackle.


And I would say there's a big difference depending on the type of organization you talk to. A lot of hiring managers have been really positive and be like, "This is exactly what I need. I need help becoming better, being humbling for the fact that you were saying that I'm not an expert but I still have this responsibility so I want to improve." And they felt the tool that we provide really can help them get to much better questions that they wouldn't be able to come up with themselves. And also having some structure to rely on, to lean back on and go, "I'm glad I have this because otherwise, I would probably be talking about other things that aren't super necessary." But some absolutely are like, "I don't need this. I'm great at interviewing." And then you listen to what is your favorite question. It's like, "I love to ask what they do in their spare time." And I go, "Okay."

Linnea Bywall (08:12):

So it sounds like the hiring manager, it's more I guess practical what they need. As you said, they want someone to hold their hand with questions, with structure, but they don't think about the bigger problem that comes from not having the right questions, and that's where HR comes in. And I guess now just me thinking out loud, maybe that's where it can be hard to implement hiring support, whatever it is because we speak different languages where the HR and talent acquisition perspective is perhaps more forward-leaning, strategic and for the hiring manager, it's just like, "I just needed to solve my Tuesday that's full of interviews."

Alex Tidgård (08:12):

I need to get this done. I need to do this well. It's here and now. Whereas, HR tends to be more how can we improve the process? And of course, it's two different perspectives. A year for them, my Tuesday. Same problem, same solution to solve it, but very different ways of tackling the same problem.

Linnea Bywall (08:12):

Yeah, for sure, and maybe defining the problem.

Alex Tidgård (08:12):

Yeah, definitely.

Linnea Bywall (08:12):

Obviously, interviews will be the focus of today's conversation, and I think let's just take a step back. Why are interviews so important to get right?

Alex Tidgård (08:12):

You can look at it from many different perspectives. If you just think it from a return of investment type of perspective, we see that 50% of people have turned down a job offer simply because of how they were treated during the interview. So you have these massive amounts of people that have been giving out job offers. They've gone through an entire recruitment process and they get to the interview and they, for some reason, feel like that was not a really nice way of being treated and say, "I don't want to work for this company," because the interview is the face of the company. It's almost like a mirror. It doesn't have to be, but that's how candidates see it. So if you go through an interview that's very unpersonal, fast or maybe not very job related, people are going to see that and see that's the organization that I'm going to work for and I don't want to work for that type of organization.


We should not underestimate the impact of candidate experience and just how important it is for a candidate's decision. There was a LinkedIn study, I think it's from 2021, and it said that 77% of candidates feel like the interview is the most important decision when deciding whether to go with a company or not. So it makes up a big part, a big chunk of how they see the company and therefore, we need to focus quite a bit on making sure we do a good job of taking care of the candidates during the interview.


And the other part is of course that if you do it well, if you do ask very highly job-related questions, it has quite a good predictive validity and can actually be a very good instrument to make sure that we assess candidates in a good way to make sure that they were able to be high performing in the future or that they're applying for it. So I think there's two big reasons to actually focus on making sure the interview is a big part of your recruitment process.

Linnea Bywall (09:09):

It's because the candidate base their decision on it and when done right, the organization should make their decision based on the results of the interview.

Alex Tidgård (09:20):

Yeah, I think that's what it boils down to.

Linnea Bywall (09:23):

Yeah, because there is quite a variance in quality. Right?

Alex Tidgård (09:26):

If you look at the stats, there are some people that are so bad at the interview that they weren't given a chance. A dice would be better at predicting job performance. They're systematically so bad that they ask questions that don't correlate anything with job performance and that if they just went out and they have six people in the waiting room and they roll the dice and go, number six, congratulations, you got the job. That would be a better method of assessing candidates and if they put them in the spot than interview them. That's insane.

Linnea Bywall (09:56):

But time saving, right?

Alex Tidgård (09:58):

Yeah, I've been saying a lot like, "Just do that. Why don't you just do that because that's going to save you so much time?"

Linnea Bywall (10:03):

Okay. So what is it this worst example? We all do mess up an interview sometimes. What would you say are the common pitfalls? Why is it hard to get it right?

Alex Tidgård (10:15):

One thing that people neglect a lot, you and I as psychologists know this very well, is that the introduction is so important, setting the agenda so that the waypoint for the conversation like this is what we're going to go through. We're going to go through it in these steps. We're going to spend this much time on these things. I'm going to ask this type of questions. Setting the agenda and really communicating that, hopefully even before the interview but also during the interview when you start, setting that up because the expectation and the psychological contract that you sign with the candidate is so important. You're saying, "Do you agree that this is a good interview and this is what we're going to do? Do you want to add anything?" So they're inviting the candidate to be part of the interview as well.


If you just do that, I promise you're going to improve your interview and PSs would be 20 points. And it's such an easy thing to do, but most people don't. They go straight into the interview with complete now structured.

Linnea Bywall (11:08):

I remember back in the days, you would get pointers on warm up the candidate, do a little chit-chat, which comes natural to some people, super weird for others. I think this one is an easier pointer to take and use because it doesn't require you to be some chit-chatter or super socially skilled. It's just stating this is the amount of time we have. We're going to go through these agenda points. These are my expectations of you. This is what my role will be. And as you said, questions or anything you want to add to that, I think that's brilliant. And how, I would argue, that you would start any meeting, not just interviews.

Alex Tidgård (11:51):

You would do it normally but sometimes, I feel like people see the interview as an entirely different thing and treat it very awkwardly for some reason. Take care of the person you're meeting. It's another human being. I don't know.

Linnea Bywall (12:04):

Yeah. So one pitfall is the introduction, which you can help by setting some structure of what is going to happen, setting the agenda and so forth. And as you say, creating that psychological contract of what is it that we can expect from each other? Other pitfalls> What happens next? What do people mess up?

Alex Tidgård (12:21):

I still use a checklist, even to this day. In our platform we have a checklist that you can tick off to make sure that you go through the steps because it's so easy to move on to the interview and go like, "Oh no, I forgot to mention that we need to have a concrete specific situation that they're going to base your answer on." It's like, "Oh." And it's like two minutes into the answer and they go, "Oh." So I still use a checklist, even though I've done it a thousand times. Don't be ashamed of checklists. The pilots still use it when they're flying planes, even though they've done it about a thousand times. Why shouldn't we in our profession?


The second pitfall is, of course, and it's the one that was ... because we did a short survey when we asked what candidates feel like, what really brings down the overall candidate experience. That is such a simple thing. Don't ask non-job related questions. People go to an interview to show to you that they are a great fit for this role. They applied for a role at their company and they want to show it to you. They want to be able to show like, "Yeah, I can do this. I've had similar situations in the past. I have the skills necessary." That's what they do.


And then you start asking about what their partner does in the spare time or what they do. That can become really uncomfortable for them. So it was insane because we were surprised by the amount of people like, "If I go to an interview, I want to have job-related questions." You were talking about how we can warm up the candidates. Don't do it with asking a non-job related question. Warm up with an introduction and maybe ask something that is still job related but still a warmup. What made you interested in becoming a licensed psychologist or anything at least that ties to the job.

Linnea Bywall (13:56):

It's basic hygiene but to some extent, really needs to be highlighted because I think the social situation that an interview is, it is weird. It's like when you go to therapy the first time, it's like I'm going to talk about myself for 45 minutes. It's super awkward but you get used to it. And I think there is this social script that you can use during the interview but that you need to practice. And I think that adds to setting the agenda, setting the expectations and then sticking to the purpose of the meeting, which is to assess the candidate, to give them information about the job. So I think that makes a lot of sense.

Alex Tidgård (14:32):

You can see so many similarities between psychological conversation like psychological therapy and interviewing. There are so many things that are very similar about you're trying to ask questions to understand the person, either from understanding where they're coming from but also understanding what they've done. It's so interesting as a psychologist to look at the interview more of as a therapy session almost, but of course with a very different end goal.

Linnea Bywall (14:53):

I want to dive into this because I think that is a really relevant topic. Say I've just been promoted to be manager, I'm doing my first hiring process and now, Alex from Asker has told me that I need to think of it as a psychologist therapy session. I'm freaking out. So what are these super easy techniques that I can steal from you so that I won't suck at my interview?

Alex Tidgård (15:27):

Setting the agenda really helps because it also brings down anxiety level. We have around 97% of people that go to an interview are anxious before it and are even more anxious to go into an interview than going on a first date with someone, which is insane numbers when you think about it. We need to almost assume that the candidate is somewhat nervous, and our job as a person is to make sure that we make them feel comfortable, and we can do that in a number of different ways.


Of course, providing the information. It's also of course on a case by case, but I always try to say, "If you feel nervous, please tell me and I'm more than happy to help you," stating the obvious like stating what maybe you're observing in the room. There's no harm in that, saying if you're nervous. That could be the normal. Most people are. You can't even say 97% of people that go to an interview are nervous. It's used to normalize the state that. And it's good. It means that you are doing something that's outside your comfort zone. You're doing something you really care about to bring that down, and addressing it rather than ignoring it. So that's one thing, is be a human being and take care of the person that's in front of you. You want them to perform. You want them to do their absolute best in the interview.


Then there's some stuff that I've been stealing from a psychology program. I think it really works super well. One thing that I use a lot is I summarize what the candidates say a lot to show them I'm actively listening to what they're saying, really showing them I care about you. I've listened to what you said. I'm here. You are the most interesting person for me right now. The only focus for me is you. So the candidate has been speaking for a while. Can I stop you right there and summarize what you've been saying? You said that you had to do A, B and C and you did it by doing X, Y and Z. It's that correct? Have I understood you? And it's a technique that you need to of course train a little bit, but it's such a cool way when you get it done and do it really well.


The thrill of feeling like they go like, "Yeah, that's exactly what I mean." And you go like, "Yeah, I nailed that summary." It's such a good feeling, and it takes a bit of practice but it's such a good way to start becoming more active in the conversation and show that you're actively listening.

Linnea Bywall (17:14):

So we have setting the agenda. We have stating the obvious of the situation that you can be nervous and reduce the anxiety, and then also using summaries as a way to make sure that you're listening to help the candidate correct if you misunderstood something. I think those were three really good techniques to start applying. How do you set yourself up for success ahead of the interview, during the interview? What type of questions? How do you plan them, etc.? Can you elaborate a bit?

Alex Tidgård (17:46):

Something that I think that you at Alva Labs do really well is that you talk about communication with the candidate. You need to be very clear what you expect, the expectation is correct and so on. I think that's equally and even more important for the interview. So even before the interview, imagine that we have an interview guide ready but inform the candidate. Be very transparent about your expectations before the interview because how many times in your professional career have you been in a situation where you only get this, an address or a link and it says, "Come here and I'm going to ask you some random question." How often does that happen? But for some reason, once again, the interview is an exception.


I'm the complete opposite. I try to be as transparent as possible like, "Here's what we're going to do. This is the agenda for the interview. We're going to go through these. We're going to talk about these topics." I even mention if there's behaviors we're going to assess and give them the definitions, and sometimes we may even provide them with some sample questions or even the questions that we might go through to step them up for success. Making sure that we get the best possible outcome from these 45 minutes or an hour that we have together. Making sure that we don't have to spend too much time and getting to know how this interview will go. I think that's such a good way for talent acquisition to improve their interviewing game, is to be more transparent from the beginning and actually send out more information that than they're going to use to the candidates.

Linnea Bywall (19:06):

As I see it, because I really agree, to some extent, it will hold you accountable because then you can't change the questions. So if you have committed to it, you've shared it with a candidate, not only is it helping them, which will even out the playing field because then everyone will have the same opportunity to perform. We won't measure who's good at interviewing. We will actually assess the relevant aspect. But also, I can't change my plan because I've already committed to it, and I love that aspect.

Alex Tidgård (19:36):

That's so good. Exactly. Because that's a problem, right? If you're super vague, you can do whatever you want. You can take any shortcuts you want, but these are the things I'm going to go through, and then the candidates are sitting there with the agenda like, "I think you missed something." You go, "Oh."

Linnea Bywall (19:51):

This is the only reason why we, in our job ads, we always spell out this is the process, these are the process steps. You will meet this person in this order because then we can't change it. Even if we come up with some brilliant idea midway, we need to stick to the plan that we had because that will force us to treat everyone the same.

Alex Tidgård (20:15):

That's actually being one of the most difficult aspects of building our platform is how much flexibility should we provide to users. It's always a tough topic because as you say, you realize halfway through, you met three candidates and you realize, "Oh, this question. I should have asked this one." Should you add it? Should you be able to add it to the interview process or not? I don't, Asker, today have a great answer because then I would say yeah, but then you need to call the other candidates and say, "Hey, I have another question for you that I forgot to ask," and give everyone the same chance.

Linnea Bywall (20:46):

I really feel the pain here. We've done that. When you realize after the first interview like, "Oh wait. Maybe the profile is actually a little bit more than this." And if you find yourself in a good position, you will be like, "Oh, well then, let's just add this to the next interview or to the work sample test," where you can again do the same thing because no one has started it, then it's not a problem. Then I would add definitely vote add, remove, change, as long as you're sticking to the job profile and stuff like that.

Alex Tidgård (21:20):

Yeah, exactly.

Linnea Bywall (21:21):

I really see the challenge of being halfway through your 10 interviews and be like, "Oh, dang. I need to change something."

Alex Tidgård (21:34):

Yeah. A lot of feedback we've gotten from clients that we provide customers, we provide too many good questions. So they make this big interview guide with way too many questions and then they start the first interview and they go like, "Oh, we are not going to end up in" ... Even though we have a time indicator. That's another problem, but it's still within the same realm. It's like I want to ask all of these awesome questions but we only have one hour.

Linnea Bywall (21:53):

If I would share my agenda, I'm often the first interview and then the hiring manager will do the second interview. So my agenda would be like it's a 45-minute interview. I would use seven minutes for the intro with hello, formalities, setting the agenda and then I will often intro myself and the company because then I can add a joke or two, reduce anxiety and then we will go into the question. I will never have more than five questions because you will end up giving some follow-up questions on it. To make sure that I get the answers, five is almost a stretch. And my aim is to always to have 10 minutes at the end for questions and talking. I always fall short on those 10 minutes but hopefully have at least five. But yeah, it's classic they want to squeeze too much in.

Alex Tidgård (22:46):

Yeah, exactly. Like, oh, I want to ask all of these questions. We're curious about the candidates. That's what we need. We want to hear about, we want to know them. We want to get to understand how they worked previously? But I agree with you. I always find myself rushing for time at the end.


I remember my best tip from the psychology program was when you think you don't need to start ending, you need to start ending the conversation, and that should be 15 minutes before. So if you have 45 minutes, when it's 30 minutes, that's when you should start rounding off because it's going to take quite a bit before you even get to the rounding off. I'm trying to remember that but it's hard.

Linnea Bywall (23:17):

Yeah, no. One of my biggest interview fails was I hadn't prepared the candidate enough and then 30 minutes into the interview, I had to stop him and be like, "Hey, we haven't even gotten started yet," because he was just talking about himself and it was super nice. I haven't even started asking my questions. And that was completely my fault because I didn't set him up for success.

Alex Tidgård (23:39):

Exactly. That's the point. That's why the introduction is so important. That's the psychological contract because I found myself in the same situation. I go like, "Oh, shit. It's been 20 minutes. I haven't even asked the first question." But I've had a great time but I don't know anything about what the candidate's capabilities are.

Linnea Bywall (23:55):

No, exactly. How do we set ourselves up for success before? And it sounds like you already have chosen the questions. Those are pre-designed interview template. What type of question should you have in there?

Alex Tidgård (24:11):

I think it depends a little bit. As you were saying that you have two interviews. You do the first one and you have a second interview. And I would say a very good setup is maybe to have one interview where you focus on personal characteristics like previous behavior, how they've done, and maybe a little bit about the previous work experience to understand how they worked on similar situations. And then I think a second type of interview might be more skills based, and that is better to do with someone who's deep understanding of the specific field. If I was working as HR, I would do the first screening bit but then I would hand over the candidates to the hiring manager that has the technical responsibility and more focused on hard skills in that type of interview and also maybe more talking about the theme in that interview.


So I think different interviews qualify for different things. Sometimes you also have telephone interviews, not super common now because there's so many good tools to use, but to just also check minimum requirements, just make sure that they have those things. And maybe also sometimes, depending on the role check for motivation, depending on what type of role, why have you applied for this role? It's used to get an understanding of and the driving force behind it like vocational interests maybe, but those are not as common as maybe more of personal characteristics and the hard skills type interview.

Linnea Bywall (25:23):

The way that we suggest that one does interviews is obviously using the STAR method or SPR questions. I'm assuming that you do the same. If not, shout, but if yes, why?

Alex Tidgård (25:36):

No, exactly. It's such a great way to get the candidate to really be specific about how they behaved in a previous situation because the STAR method relies on the idea that the way that we have behaved is a good predictor for how we will behave in the future, which makes sense because we're lazy. In ourselves, humans are lazy so we're going to use the same behavior patterns that we have in the previous situations in our future situations. And I actually send that over to the candidate to say, "You can structure answers and use situation behavior results as a rule of thumb to prepare the questions in your head before the interview.


It's such a great way to do it because the STAR method, I like the SCAR abbreviation a bit better, so it's situation, describing what the situation was and then T is for thought, but I use C for context. What was the thing around it? What was the purpose and how much, how many, how long? What was the budget? Those type of questions fall into the context part. And then you have the A, which is action, the behavior that they did, and R is the result. So what was the outcome of it?

Linnea Bywall (26:37):

I guess we need to jump in a little bit about assessing the answers. How would you recommend people to do that?

Alex Tidgård (26:45):

As I said, that's what the hiring ... The recruiters think is one of the most difficult things. So I have an answer now. I have all the information on SCAR so I have a lot of information about this candidate. I should be able to easily assess this candidate. I think what you've been saying a lot on LinkedIn in what you do in Alva Labs is to use a score guide. The technical term for it, it's called BARS. It stands for behaviorally anchored rating scales. Essentially, it's saying that you can't just have a scoring guide from one to five or one to seven. That's not really enough to be able to really make sure that you assess the candidate against a set criteria. You also need to have a definition of what does a five mean and then hopefully, it can almost break it down into very specific behavior. So if you're trying to assess someone's resource orientation, you just define resources, setting high goals, working hard to reach them, having a plan to reach them and put a lot of effort into reaching those goals.


That is also a question you have them to assess that. Maybe how you set a goal for yourself and can you describe how you've done that? And then a score of five should be all of the behaviors that indicate a high level that correspond exactly with the definition. And then you have a three which is maybe an average, a good score. It means that you do it but maybe not with a super clear plan and put in some effort to reach the goal. And one is a lack of behaviors that indicates that they have a strong potential to do this like not a goal, didn't have a clear goal in mind, have no plan, haven't put no effort in into reaching those goals.


Because it makes it so much easier when you sit in there, you have the notes from the interview and you have actual predefined behaviors that this is the purpose. The only reason I ask this question is to assess these behaviors. That's the reason I decided to implement this question. And then you look at your notes and you look at the scoring guide and you go like, yes, five, three, five, four, almost looking at it like a machine. So always use some kind of scoring guide, provide information about what it is and what the scores mean. Give them context essentially.

Linnea Bywall (28:47):

And I think one thing I want to add because yes, plus one on all of that, and also want to add trying to do the actual assessment during the interview. Well, (a) to reduce the amount of work you have to do afterwards because that's going to suck because often, you have to jump into the next interview right after.

Alex Tidgård (29:06):


Linnea Bywall (29:07):

But (b) also to make sure that you aren't impacted from other factors. And then (c) by making sure that you assess it during the interview, you actually will assess it, as you say, based on the scoring guide that you have or at least towards the job description, not compared to other candidates.

Alex Tidgård (29:28):

No, no, big problem. Yeah, biggest mistake people do. You asked that question. I should've said that. People compare candidates to other candidates.

Linnea Bywall (29:36):


Alex Tidgård (29:36):

Don't do that. Compare against the job profile and say who has the highest match towards the criteria that we said.

Linnea Bywall (29:43):

If we double click on that, why is it a problem to compare Charles against Daniel?

Alex Tidgård (29:48):

You set up the profile to assess someone's match against a job that they're about to do. And if you start comparing a candidate against a candidate, instead of a candidate against a criteria and then the criteria against the candidates, you're starting to maybe assess other things that are not relevant to the job criteria. It's so easy to be biased and go like, "That person had said that and that person said that." And then you start comparing maybe this answer from one question to another question, and now you're really in the big deep. You're in the deep end of the pool because this is an apple and this is a pear and you're really comparing them and talking about being in the same context.


But if you're always talking about result oriented towards the criteria and result oriented against the criteria, you always make sure that you do it on the same grounds and it's the same behaviors. But if you do it like that, it's very easy that you miss the target and start talking about other things that have been influenced you during the interview.

Linnea Bywall (30:39):

I think that's a great point to keep in mind. And I guess also, you can compare against each other and you might like someone more or someone less or click with someone better. But also the fact of now Charles and Daniel are our example here, so maybe Charles is better than Daniel but neither of them actually live up against the role requisites or both are way more than you could ever hope for. Maybe you should actually hire both. It can be both ways if they meet the criteria or not.


Let's dive in a little bit to the candidate experience. I think you talked ... One thing that we've already talked about is preparing the candidate ahead of the interview and then being human during. What other aspects do you think that we can improve on when it comes to candidate experience and interviews?

Alex Tidgård (31:30):

Hygiene factors. When we did our short survey, a lot of people said that a lot of interviewers these days look at their phones during the interviews and clearly do something else during the interview. They can tell if you open up a window or something on the screen, even if it's online, I have glasses, you can tell that I have a light over here. And they can tell that you're picking up something else. So if you're having an interview, focus on the candidate. That should be your absolute only focus. It's like they want 45 minutes with you. Give them 45 minutes. I know it's such a hygiene factor, but be there, be present. Make sure that you set off times. You're not stressed that you have to think, look at your phones and so on. If you can't give the candidate that focus, reschedule the interview. Honestly, it's better to do that because otherwise, you're not going to give that person the best possible chance to show you what they can do because you're not going to be there.


That ties in with the next point, which is try to provide eye contact and be present and try to show interest. And another trick I would say, which can be hard for very extroverted people, but I would highly recommend, like we were talking a little little bit earlier about how we can improve as interviewers if you're a hiring manager. One of my best tricks is to just shut up and be quiet. Ask the question, sit back, sit tight and count sheep if you need to. Let the candidate have time to think and get their answer out. Don't start ... My impulse reflex is always to try to clarify the question. I mean like this and da, da. It's like, no. Then you're going to break up their thought process. State the question. Be quiet. Show the candidate that there's no stress. Let them take their time. I'm more interested in what you were saying than how you say it.

Linnea Bywall (33:16):

I love the tip of only asking one question at a time. It also sounds like the easiest thing, but listen. I think I would advise everyone to listen to yourself next time you have a conversation with a friend. When you ask them something, very often, we will ask three questions at once. And the really difficult but super important part is asking one question. And to your point, Alex, just be quiet after it. It's hard for an extrovert but it's important.

Alex Tidgård (33:45):

Just ask one question at a time. Sometimes, you want to ... What did you do? How did you do it? What was the result? And the candidate is like, "Where should I even start?" I don't know. One question at a time. Give people time. And that's why I always say in the beginning of the interview introduction, going back to the introduction, clearly it's a very important aspect of the interview, but I'm not here to assess how quickly you think. We already done that in the psychometric test. I'm not interested in that. So take your time to answer the question. I'm not going to sit here and give you a higher score because you think quickly. A lot of recruiters and I imagine are talking about, "Oh, this person answered quickly." That's a good aspect? They're a good candidate? But I really couldn't care less. It's all about the content. Unless of course, the job requires you to be very quick on your feet and move quickly, but then I would probably assess it in a different part and not in the interview.

Linnea Bywall (34:40):

No, exactly, because I think it goes back to what's the purpose of the interview, what are the core skills that you're going to assess? And I think another example that often comes up in my mind is how self-reflecting the candidate was and that people take that like if they did self-reflect, that's good, and if they didn't, that's bad. But maybe it has nothing to do with the job. And if it does, I would add that as a criteria. That means that there should be a question for it and you should specifically go into that. I guess it goes back to setting a plan. These are the core aspects. I want to find out. Sticking to that plan and eliminate the noise.

Alex Tidgård (35:21):

Yeah, exactly. Eliminating the noise and making sure ... because it goes back to the discussion I made earlier about comparing candidates. Because it ends like that one was self reflective. That one wasn't. But then you have to look at what did we assess? What was the aim of the interview? It was like where in the job criteria does it say being self reflective is important? Nowhere. Great. Then we shouldn't focus on that. We shouldn't even have this discussion.

Linnea Bywall (35:43):

I do have one futuristic question. So if we sit here when we invite you back in 10 years, hopefully earlier than that, what will have happened with interviews in the coming years?

Alex Tidgård (35:57):

I think a lot of things are going to happen with the help of these language models. I think it's going to be of great help for people. We can already see the benefits of getting help in getting great interview questions. So that's the way our platform works, so that you can add a job description and based on the job description, we can provide you with highly relevant questions that are specific to that specific job that you put in. And that's such a great tool to just get from having no questions, no idea what to do in an interview to having a more or less pretty good interview process. That is one step forward in what ways we can see that technology can help us.


There's a term that's been popping up. You don't say it's AI powered. You say you have AI support, almost like you have AI on your shoulder. And I think that's a great way to use AI because in an interview, as we mentioned, it's not just about assessing candidates. It's about attraction. It's about you're speaking about the role. It's about making sure that you show the face of your company. So that's still going to be an important aspect, but let's have someone help us out like, "Hey, you're talking a bit too much," whispering in your ear saying, "Hey, maybe you should tone down that a little bit." Getting support during the interview as well to improve your game.


I think Teams has implemented like a meeting coach, so you get help during the meeting like you're speaking too fast or you're speaking too much, and you get a report afterwards with tips and tricks on how you can improve. And I can really see that happening for people that want to improve their interview game. Think about this. You spoke 70% of the interview. Maybe you should tone it back and let the candidate speak. I think that's a really cool way of using that type of tool to become better.


And also, I think that when it comes to assessing as well, getting help, being like, "Oh, there's so much." If you have a lot of information like you have transcribed the interview or you have a lot of notes, sometimes it's not so easy to say this is a four or a three or whatever it could be. Getting some help, saying, "Looking at this or looking at the criteria, this could be rated like a three, but of course, make sure that you do your own investigation and your own judgment," but you can get help with that as well.


I think there's a lot of cool stuff happening that I'm really excited to see because I think that we can actually improve our game with AI rather than taking it away. Rather, it's going to make us do better interviews, have much more efficient interviews. It's a lot of exciting stuff. So hopefully in 10 years, we're going to have the best interviews ever where we can help and we can feedback and even hiring managers that only interview twice a year can be great interviewers.

Linnea Bywall (38:33):

I love the AI support. I got the image of a Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder, helping me set the right intro and have already helped me with the right questions and so forth. I think that's something to look forward to. And also, building on that, it sounds like if you're not jumping on the train and improving your interviews, you're going to fall behind. That's going to be a competitive disadvantage at the end of the day.

Alex Tidgård (39:01):

Oh, yeah. Going back to the numbers I said at the beginning, 50% of people turn down a job offer because of a bad interview. Don't be those 50%. Be the other 50%. And do that by making sure you ask good questions. Start there at least.

Linnea Bywall (39:14):

I think that's a great something to wrap up with. Thank you so much for joining How We Hire, Alex. It was an absolute pleasure nerding out in interviews. Would recommend following Alex on LinkedIn. Thank you. Hope to see you back in 10 years talking about how great the interview turned out. And thank you for listening.