Authentic Hiring: Hiring Insights from a Hostage Negotiator

March 27, 2024

Matt Gainsford

Matt Gainsford

In the world of hiring, the quest for authenticity is akin to mining for gold in a river of pyrite. Surface-level responses often mask the genuine motivations, passions, and capabilities of candidates.

Side view smiling female and outgoing bearded man speaking while locating at table in apartment. Occupation concept

In a landscape where everyone is poised to present their best selves, it’s crucial to delve deeper to uncover the real gems. But how do you navigate through the façade and discover the authentic essence of a candidate? 

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged in their jobs. With this in mind is it possible to interview with engagement in mind? It’s not just possible, it’s essential. 

Hiring Insights from a Hostage Negotiator – Hiring Is High Stakes but It Doesn’t Have to Feel That Way 

Enter the power of “what” and “how” questions. These simple yet profound interrogatives, when wielded adeptly, can peel away the layers of scripted responses, revealing the raw truths lying beneath. Moreover, drawing inspiration from Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator turned negotiation expert, we can employ his methodology to transcend traditional interview techniques and foster genuine connections. 

As an interviewer you owe it to the candidate, and your organization, to help them present their real self, not their “best” self. 

Voss emphasizes the importance of framing questions to elicit emotional responses rather than just factual information. One powerful technique he advocates is substituting the question “What do you do?” with “What do you love about what you do?” This subtle shift transforms the dynamic of the conversation, encouraging candidates to delve into their passions and motivations rather than reciting a rehearsed job description. 

Consider the typical exchange: 

Interviewer: “So, what do you do?”

Candidate: “I work as a project manager for XYZ company.” 

While this response provides basic information about the candidate’s job title and responsibilities, it barely scratches the surface of who they are and what truly drives them. 

Now, let’s reframe the question: 

Interviewer: “What is it you love about what you do?” 

Candidate: “I’m passionate about orchestrating diverse teams towards a common goal. Seeing the collective effort culminate in successful project completion brings me immense satisfaction. It’s the collaborative spirit and problem-solving aspect that truly fuels my passion for project management.” 

By asking about what they love, rather than what they do, you invite candidates to share their motivations, values, and aspirations. This subtle shift opens the door to deeper insights into their personality, work ethic, and cultural fit within your organization. 

But why does this matter? 

In a world where self-promotion often overshadows authenticity, fostering an environment where candidates feel safe to express their genuine selves is paramount. By encouraging vulnerability and openness, you create a space where individuals can transcend the confines of their egos and share their authentic narratives. 

Moreover, this approach transforms the interview from a mere evaluation of skills and qualifications into a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences. Candidates who feel heard and understood are more likely to engage authentically, paving the way for richer conversations and better hiring decisions. 

“The New Science of Building Great Teams” highlights how psychological safety, or the ability to be oneself without fear of negative consequences, is a key factor in team effectiveness. Imagine laying the groundwork for safety as early as the first interview!  

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you… 

Understanding the essence of a candidate beyond their resume bullet points and rehearsed responses is essential to making a great hire. Skills and qualifications, while important, only scratch the surface of what truly defines a successful team member. By delving into what candidates love about their work, we gain invaluable insights into their intrinsic motivations, passion, and cultural fit within our organization.  

A great hire isn’t just someone who can perform the tasks listed on a job description; it’s someone who embodies the values, ethos, and spirit of the team. By prioritizing authenticity in the hiring process, we not only identify candidates who possess the necessary skills but also those who align with our company’s vision and can contribute meaningfully to our collective success. In essence, hiring based on authenticity ensures that we not only fill positions but build a cohesive team poised for excellence. 

The Wrap Up 

Ultimately, getting past surface responses requires a willingness to dig deeper, ask the right questions, and embrace the vulnerability that comes with authentic communication. By leveraging the power of “what” and “how” questions, combined with Chris Voss’s method of uncovering passion, you can unlock the true potential of your candidates and build a team rooted in authenticity and shared purpose. 

So, the next time you find yourself across the table from a prospective hire, remember to ask not just what they do, but what they love about what they do—and watch as the conversation unfolds into something truly remarkable. 

Why Partner with Titus Talent Strategies  

Choosing Titus means partnering with a team that expands on traditional recruitment methods while using modern digital tools and strategies.   

Our commitment to recruitment excellence, adaptability to market changes, and dedication to creating positive candidate experiences underscore our unmatched capability in fulfilling your staffing needs. Contact us now to improve your hiring process. We can help you find the ideal candidate for your team. This will ensure the lasting success of your company and its staff.  

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