Media personality Charlie Rose has been hailed by the Financial Times as “a brilliantly skilled interviewer”. And in a challenging economic climate, the art of interviewing takes on added prominence in the quest to find the best employee for the job. If Rose is indeed, a “master at charming his subjects into revealing interesting pieces of information”, then perhaps there are lessons that can be learned from his countless hours of interviewing some of the world’s most interesting people.
Hiring the wrong person can be very costly. In fact, a recent New York Times small business blog post estimates that a bad hire costs a small business $40,000 or more. To be sure, applicant screening and reference checks are an important part of the hiring process, but the ability to interview effectively may be the difference between a profitable year or not. And when it comes to art of interviewing, there are few better than Charlie Rose.
What makes Rose so special? Rose interviews politicians, celebrities, generals, scientists, musicians and more with ease and clarity. He sets the environment with a simple oak table and a black backdrop, as if there were nothing more important than his guest. He comes well prepared for his meetings, ready to pounce on an answer, but also willing to let the conversation ebb and flow within defined constraints.
The Financial Times also notes that Rose rarely takes sides in an interview, preferring to take an even handed approach. And in comparison to competitors on other cable news channels, Rose seems downright “thoughtful” and willing to have a conversation rather than a shouting match.
Studying his technique from multiple online interviews, I curated five best practices (there may be more) that should be emulated in the hiring process:
After Pleasantries, Get Right to It
Mr. Rose doesn’t waste a lot of time in his interviews. He introduces his guests, shakes their hand, and then jumps right into questions. It can be argued that this rapid style is more suitable for television audiences with a limited attention span; however for the corporate interviewer with five to seven interviews lined up in a row, it makes a lot of sense to get right to business.
Do Your Homework
Recruiters often plead with candidates to learn as much as they can about a company’s history, culture, needs and more before they meet with a hiring manager. Indeed, the well prepared candidate is one who is ready to engage in the interview and excited about the opportunity. Taking a cue from Charlie Rose, it is not only the candidate that should be prepared for the interview, but the hiring manager as well. Charlie Rose does his homework. He doesn’t fumble in his questioning. He knows exactly what he wants to ask and when. And his detailed preparation is obvious.
Because of Rose’s detailed preparation, he’s ready for questions that do more than simply skim the surface. In fact, he often asks probing questions two or three levels deep, in an effort to clarify his understanding and that of his audience. To dive deeper in questioning one must have familiarity with the subject matter and the interviewee. Charlie Rose isn’t an expert in everything, but his breadth of knowledge allows him to show command of a specific topic and reach deeper with his line of questions than most interviewers.
Interviewing Style Matters
Charlie Rose has an almost casual bent to his interviews. His interviewing tone is meant to be conversational and even “cultured”. A writer from the Financial Times remarks how a two hour lunch with Charlie Rose “glided by, seamlessly and unnoticed”. These types of breezy interviews may not be favored by the aggressive hiring manager who likes to put candidates “on their toes” with rapid fire questions. However, it’s often wise for hiring managers to remember that while they are interviewing candidates, the converse is also true.
Listen and Learn
Sadly, many hiring managers would rather formulate their next question than listen to the candidate answer the previous question. And that’s a real shame because an interview provides a gold mine of information for both parties. Interviewers should take a cue from Charlie Rose and really listen to the answers provided by candidates. It’s amazing what information can be gathered by truly listening when someone speaks!
• Do you find Charlie Rose a particularly effective interviewer? What do you like or dislike about his methods and style?
• What interviewing techniques can you share that help you find the best qualified candidate?