While there is no shortage of resources instructing job candidates on how to make a great impression during an interview, there is much less help for hiring managers on the other side of that equation. Hiring top talent is just as crucial as performing well in a job interview.

In a limited amount of time, a hiring manager must collect enough high quality information to accurately assess a candidate’s potential and determine if that individual will be a good fit with the company’s culture.

It’s no easy task, but the best hiring managers have a few secrets up their sleeves to encourage candidates to reveal the most important information about themselves—for better, or for worse.

Here are five interviewing secrets all hiring managers should remember.

1. Ask Engaging Questions

An engaging question cannot be answered with a one-word response such as “Yes” or “No.” It encourages the candidate to talk and to give a more complete response. They generally begins with words such as “How,” “Why,” “Describe,” “Tell me,” and “In what way.”

Asking engaging questions helps achieve the optimum balance between the amount of talking the interviewer should do (about 20 percent) and the amount of talking the candidate should do (about 80 percent). As a general rule, an effective interviewer asks as few questions as possible. If you have to ask a lot of questions, it probably means you are not asking enough engaging questions.

To make your question more effective:

  • Ask questions that are a matter of degree, rather than all or none. For example, rather than ask, “Are you willing to travel?” ask, “How much travel would you feel comfortable doing?”
  • Avoid negatively charged words such as “fired” and “failed.” These words tend to elicit a defensive, emotional reaction that obscures the facts.
  • Avoid words that challenge the candidate’s pride. For example, if asked about their willingness to work long hours, most candidates would be hesitant to admit a preference for an eight-hour day. The question, “What kind of a work day do you feel comfortable with?” is more likely to get at the candidate’s true feelings.

2. Search for Limitations

Discovering the candidate’s weaknesses in relation to the job is a prime objective of the selection interview. Limitations are usually specific to a particular job; a limitation for one job may not be a limitation for another.

Typically, it is easier to discover the positive or strong points about a candidate than his or her weaknesses in relation to the job. Most candidates go out of their way to point out their strengths. Therefore, you must actively look for reasons the candidate cannot do the job. To do this, ask questions that will reveal the candidate’s limitations.

For example, if a candidate says, “This customer gave me a hard time,” the interviewer might search for a limitation by asking for specifics about what constituted a “hard time,” how the candidate felt in that situation, what he or she did, what the outcome was, and what the lessons learned were.

When weaknesses or limitations are discovered, first determine whether they apply to the type of work for which the candidate is being considered. If they do, then determine whether they are the types of limitations that can be overcome or improved within the context of the job.

3. Press for Specifics

Too often, interviewers base their judgments on general statements made by the candidate without realizing that what the candidate has said is subject to a variety of interpretations that may also be influenced by the interviewer’s biases. The effective interviewer can quickly recognize a general statement and press for specifics.

It is appropriate to press for specifics throughout the interview. Pressing for specifics is also an excellent way to search for limitations. For example, if a candidate says, “My manager had unrealistic expectations,” you could press for specifics by saying, “Give me an example of a time when your manager’s expectations were unrealistic.”

Just as physicians focus on specifics such as pulse, blood pressure and lab-test results to make an accurate assessment of a patient’s physical condition, interviewers must press for specifics to assess a candidate’s suitability for the job.

4. Use Follow-Up Techniques

Follow-up techniques allow the interviewer to gather more data from the candidate and maintain the flow of information. One type of follow-up technique is pressing for specifics. The other types are probes, non-directive responses, and paraphrasing.

  • Probes are straightforward follow-up questions, such as “How so,” “In what way,” or “Tell me more.
  • Non-directive responses include gestures, encouraging words that demonstrate active listening, such as “uh-huh,” or “I see,” and silence. Candidates will often respond to silence by providing more information than they did in their original response.
  • Paraphrasing is summarizing or restating what the candidate has said. This technique is helpful when the candidate has said something complex and the interviewer wants to show understanding while encouraging him or her to continue.

5. Avoid Evaluative Feedback

The interviewer should avoid passing judgment when responding to the candidate. Both positive and negative judgments can prejudice the outcome of the interview. A positive judgment encourages the candidate to give more of the type of response that achieved the positive response, while a negative judgment signals the candidate to avoid the type of response that caused the negative response.

The interviewer should be noncommittal and respond to the candidate with phrases such as “Oh,” “I see,” and “I understand.” A noncommittal response results in the candidate leaving the interview feeling that he or she has been understood but not necessarily approved or disapproved of.

The key here is to accept what the candidate is saying. Accepting is not approving. By resisting the temptation to stamp approval or disapproval on what the candidate says, the effective interviewer keeps the candidate responding only to the questions, not to an anticipated response from the interviewer.

Effective hiring managers know how to spot candidates who are not only a strong fit for the company’s culture, but have the potential to become future leaders. In this way, hiring managers play a crucial part in retention and succession planning.

For more tips on what to ask during an interview, download our 10-question interview cheat sheet.