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by Terry Ledden

For those of us who have been around the selling game long enough we’ve come to realize that the problems prospects and buyers bring to us are never the real problem.  In fact, our Sandler Selling System has established that fact as a governing rule, "the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem" …… and if you’re selling solutions you’d better be certain you’re addressing the real underlying and compelling reason for that prospect to buy or fall victim to PPS (Premature Proposal Syndrome) and unpaid consulting.

 I’d like to suggest a similar rule about job candidates. “The candidate described by the resumé is never the real candidate.”  After all, the resumé is but a picture of the candidate … painted by the candidate.  You’ll never see a bad resumé. Why? Because the artist (the candidate) has painted over the flaws.

One strategy for scratching below the surface of the candidates’ responses in the interview is a questioning technique we refer to as “Reversing,” which means responding to the candidate’s questions and responses with a question.  For instance, the candidate asks, “Do you require weekly call reports?” You could simply answer yes or no. However, you wouldn’t know why the candidate asked.

Often the intent of the question is more important and insightful than the content of the question. Instead of answering, you could reverse and ask, “Why did you ask?” By reversing the direction of the question, the responsibility to respond is now on the candidate. The candidate could respond with the real explanation for the question. OR, he could put up a smoke screen to avoid the real intent. For example, he could say, “I was just wondering. Some companies require them, some don’t.” That answer still doesn’t tell you anything about the intent of the original question. So, another reverse is appropriate. You could respond with, “Which would you prefer?” or “What are you hoping I would say?” Whatever the candidate’s response, you would follow up with another reverse to elicit an explanation.

Now you’ll uncover the real reason for the question in the first place.

Careful, though!

When reversing a question you don’t want to “fire” your questions back at that the candidate. They may come off as harsh and put the candidate on the defensive. So to avoid that, you can soften the reverse with a preceding statement. Instead of simply asking, “Why do you ask?” you would soften the question in a conversational manner with, “That’s a good question” or “That’s an interesting question.” First commend the candidate for asking a good question and then ask for the reasons behind it.

Reversing helps clarify evasive answers, wishy-washy terms, and statements. It can also facilitate exploration.

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