Interview Like A Therapist

Ed Pintwala
May 29, 2024

I have a client in the ingredients space who seems to do this well.  They use the first interview round, keeping it to 30-40 minutes, to make a very casual introduction of themself, the company, and the role, and determine fit and motivation, before going into all the technical and traditional questions.

They do this by opening up immediately to the candidate, perhaps even starting with completely unrelated small talk, to create a very open and comfortable environment for the conversation.

Then when you flip the conversation to “tell me about yourself”, you’ve already shown them you care enough to take the time to offer them key information, some personal perhaps, and some professional, to now step back, give them the mic, and listen to them.

This takes more time upfront, but it will save time in the end, and improve your chance of a successful hiring outcome. Which sometimes may be to stop after the 1st interview and proceed, but something is not lining up for either party.

If things do align, you now know more about someone's intent, interests, and motivation of why they are at the table with you - before going on to dig into more technical and performance-related questions.

My colleague Allan Hills is also a natural at this, a lot of times he finds a connection to sports, food or drink, or family to open up, and show empathy, and understanding. It is not a trick, good interviewers should show genuine curiosity to get to know someone. For both your best interests in mind. This respect will help find the right job match and better recruitment process.

For anyone whom I’ve ever interviewed, I likely asked you one of my favourite questions:


Did you know going into College or University what you wanted to study and why?...

(Follow up)...Interesting, did you apply to several schools? What made you select this particular one and how did you land there?


You may ask why this is important if someone is already a Manager or Director with 10+ years of work experience. 

I find bringing them back to when they were a teenager, provides so much insight into how driven they are, how they set goals, how much thought goes into their decision-making, and how they handle adversity, apply themselves, and pivot or adapt.

The school, degree, or choices do not even really matter to me. At this point, it’s more about gaining insight into what makes them tick, the how, and why.

Frankly, I love it when someone gives me their honest answer of “I had no clue what I wanted to do”, many 17 year-olds don’t (I used to envy my friends that did), and it shows they are being honest, vulnerable, and were not afraid to try something or bet on themselves, with some uncertainty in front of them.

For example, I’ve met many HR professionals who may have started with a technical degree or studied Accounting but gravitate towards HR because they are naturally great with people and have a high EQ.

Many Supply Chain professionals often start out in Engineering, before realizing how vast the Supply Chain is, and with their planning and analytical skills, gravitate to Logistics or Procurement because it’s faster pace and more diverse for them.

I admire those who did not have a career plan, but started in something - ‘just get started and apply yourself’ - and because they were natural high performers, they started to become good at it, get promoted along the way, and don’t look back. 

They learn to love their field because they become good at it. Not because someone told them to ‘follow your passion’.  Read more about it in my Newsletter  Key Tips For Your Career So That They Can't Ignore You In 2024.

I find many people still approach interviews too pragmatically, or just ‘go through the motions’, and jump into facts, expecting people to simply give their best honest answers. 

I get they want to efficiently get to all the key questions. But it’s actually way more effective, and enjoyable in my opinion, to open up more about yourself, and give the job seeker a glimpse into who you are as a person, break the ice, and open the door for them to reciprocate in return with more genuine responses.

A few more examples to leave you with on how to accomplish this:

  • Talk about a common school, hobby, country, city, or company you noticed on their resume, and speak about your experience in that area.
  • Tell them something personal you have going on this week or month, a vacation, or a story about your kids, your dog, or a work life event that is exciting.
  • Mention something in the news or in their business sector or field that interests you.

You don’t just have to talk about the weather, but if all else fails, it’s better to start with anything other than, ‘So tell me about yourself’ OR ‘So why are you interested in this job’. 

Would love to hear your comments or any favourite interview questions you use to break the ice and set the stage for a high-quality interview.

Get recommended for top CPG Industry jobs & companies
Communicate directly with industry hiring managers
Stand out and grow your career in the CPG industry

Where Food & Beverage Professionals Like You Meet Leading Consumer Brands

QTalent, 711 Syntex Drive Mississauga, ON L5N 8C3 Canada