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Managing Pressure as an Interviewer

Job interviews are stressful events for job candidates. Two main types of pressure are imposed on them: the pressure that you apply as an interviewer that leads to a better answer and the pressure that the candidate applies to themselves. This second type of pressure usually represents an obstacle in the accurate assessment of the candidate.

You want the candidate to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to reveal their true self. In an interview setting, the applicant will likely never feel entirely at ease, but there are steps you can take to manage pressure and get the most out of them.

Create an Environment of Equality

From the first greeting, make sure the applicant understands that you are not above them. Step out from behind your desk and shake their hand; ask them if they’d like a glass of water and pour one for them. Try to avoid physical barriers between you during the interview.

All of this sends a message to the applicant that you two are equals. You are working towards a common goal and are on the same side. They may not entirely lower their guard, but they will feel less inclined to second guess themselves.

Lower the Psychosocial Stress

If the candidate has their resume with them, ask them to take it out. If they don’t have it, provide a copy for them. Looking at their resume will help them remember their projects and duties more accurately. With a memory anchor in the form of the resume, they will have an easier time recalling decisions and results in an anxiety-ridden situation such as an interview.

Additionally, the applicant will be able to assess their past performance in a better light.

Ask Lean Questions

Keeping your questions short and open-ended gives you better control of the conversation. While the candidate answers, you can come up with follow-up questions to gather specific information. “I could use some more specifics to help me understand,” and “I’m not clear on what you accomplished in that example,” are good ways to apply pressure on a candidate to give a better answer.

Conduct a Premortem

Before you make a final decision about a candidate, conduct a premortem – envision all the ways the candidate might fail if you decide to hire them. Explore every bad outcome and visualize every concern you might have about them coming true.

This premortem process allows you to rationalize your decision. It becomes more about hiring the right candidate than the candidate you have a good feeling about.


Knowing exactly when to apply pressure, when to lower it, and when to shift focus is the mark of a great interviewer. The ultimate goal is to determine whether the candidate in front of you will contribute to your organization. Don’t hesitate to experiment with some of the strategies outlined in this post.

Emphasizing equality between you and the candidate, lowering the psychosocial stress, asking lean questions, and conducting a mental premortem are effective ways to get the most out of any applicant in the hiring process.

Discover the best way to manage pressure as an interviewer, as well as how to consistently connect with your leadership team and predictably turn them into highly engaged employees. Call me for some complimentary advice. Book an appointment at or call me at +1 (604) 943-0800.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734