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Home » Blog » The Interview paradox- why a bad candidate can be better at an Interview than a good one
The Interview paradox- why a bad candidate can be better at an Interview than a good one
Published: Jan-27-2014

A lot of times at middle and junior management levels bad prospects become attractive to a potential employer because they give better Interviews!!  And the reason they give better interviews is that practice makes the person perfect- they go to so many interviews in different organisations that they get adept at giving the "right" responses to the usual questions, and most of the times I find them better prepared for the Interviewer than the Interviewer has prepared for them.  



Here is a Scenario, 2 prospects- Mr. Snappy and Ms. Grumpy  go for an interview for West India Sales head role for an office automation firm, they are being interviewed by Mr. IB ( short for Interview Bond) 



Mr. Snappy has been in his present role for 3 years- has been looking for a job since year 1- attended 6 interviews till now and thinks 7 is his lucky number  - and he is desperate to move out- the new supervisor is not impressed by " yes sirs" and "you are the boss" responses , and has been asking some really uncomfortable questions on the turnover in Mr. Snappy's team, the lack of consistency and the fact that he has not acquired any big ticket clients in 2 years. he is charged up, and has done his research on Mr. IB . The Interview goes like this

  • Interview Bond starts with  his icebreaker- Tell me about yourself- Snappy's response honed by 6 previous interviews is almost perfect. In fact he ends his answer by telling Mr.IB  that his favorite cricketer and Leadership icon is Saurav Ganguly -- a fact he picked from Mr. IB's Facebook page. Soon they are warmed up and chirping like hostel buddies
  • Second Question- What is your biggest achievement- Increased current accounts by 40% over a period of 3 years due to my immaculate client engagement and a great team - Interview Bond is getting Saurav Ganguly vibes again and the rest of the discussion is a blur of self fulfilling prophecy


The next day Ms. Grumpy comes for the interview.  She is somewhere between an introvert and extrover;   the best performer for a II rung firm and has captured couple of significant accounts from the big ones. This is the second  interview she has attended in the last 6 years and she is feeling diffident, and not too comfortable as apart from the money the current firm has given her a lot of growth in the last five years. 

  • Mr. IB starts with his patent Ice breaker- Tell me a bit about you - Grumpy is not good at this- ask her about product , company , service or a sales pitch and she can go on for couple of hours , but she has never been comfortable talking about "herself". She attempts an answer- Snappy asks a bit about sports, grumpy says she loves anything but Cricket and IB smirks.
  • The biggest achievement  question comes and  Grumpy mentions capturing one of Mr. IB's largest accounts as the day of her professional life - while a more objective observer would have appreciated the competitiveness of the answer Mr. IB  was pretty tired and thought Grumpy was showing too much "attitude" - slang for overconfidence. 


And I have seen this script, again and again and again....   

So how do you break through the facade, the answer is practice more than the person coming for the interview!! and yes the following tactics can help

  • The open ended question- What if, What next, How would you , Why didn't you try .....  Open ended questions help in figuring out analytical ability and its tough to have cut-paste answers for them. 
  • The follow up questions- Its okay if you ask about the  Achievements listed on the resume but have atleast 3 followup questions on each of those achievements
  • The googly- Let the prospect think you are winding down the discussion- ask about family, ask if they have questions about the firm , and then use any of the above tactics- like saying I was thinking about your answer and what if you were facing off against firm D instead of firm B for this proposal , or you said you achieved x % growth, now tell me how can our product portfolio achieve that 
  • The stress test- Go after a response- and take the person on, put him/her under pressure. I  have seen a lot of facades break under an objective barrage ! 


So the next time you meet someone who has been stable in his roles and seems diffident on some answers- it may not be because he/she is not good- it maybe because they have not had the "interview" experience of the confident one you met yesterday!  There is also no substitute for a well prepared structured Interview - do see our blog post - The Science of taking Interviews- 10 Rules for better hiring  for more details. 



 Omar Farooq

Founder and Chief Executive Officer- AceProHR

Visiting Faculty Master of HR & OD Programme at University of Delhi.


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