Get advice on hiring, finding your dream job,

employee engagement, and workplace training

Create Interviewing Intelligence Through Conversational Intelligence

  • Article by:Lillian J. LeBlanc, SPHR, PCC

Imagine, for a moment, that you could magically create a perfect set of interview questions. Each question would evoke responses that enable you to probe deeply into the “who” of the candidate.

Then, think about being given a superpower that allows you to listen in a new way, hearing what the candidate isn’t telling you and being able to connect so well that the candidate reveals important information beyond what you’ve requested.

Instead of making good hiring decisions, you’d make great ones. Selected candidates would fit perfectly with your organization’s culture and ramp-up time would be minimized.

Sound like an impossible dream? It’s not.  These interviewing superpowers, rooted in a body of work called Conversational Intelligence®, pioneered by Judith Glaser, are within your reach.

Interviewing is, in fact a conversational technique. As such, many Conversational Intelligence®, techniques fit especially well in the process.

Two of my favorite Conversational Intelligence® tools are:  Asking Discovery Questions and Listening to Connect.  As a skilled interviewer, you may be thinking, “But, of course – I use both of those techniques all the time!” Perhaps you do – but more likely, you only think that you do.

Discovery Questions are questions that are based in pure curiosity. You, the questioner, have no assumption about the answer, no preconceived notions at all. The magic of discovery questions lies in the way they reveal the “who” in the respondent.


Consider these examples:

Good Interview Question: “Why would you like to work for us?”

Great Discovery Question: “What about this job is especially interesting to you – and why?”


Good Interview Question: “What strengths do you bring to our company?

Great Discovery Question: “How have your unique strengths supported your professional success?”


Good Interview Question: “Tell me about a failure and what you learned from it”

Great Discovery Question: “What is the most significant ethical dilemma you’ve faced so far, and what did you learn about yourself from the experience?”


Notice that discovery questions are broader, yet more personal and much more thought provoking. Taking the focus away from “just the job” provides the interviewer with a much deeper look into the individual.  That’s important, because you’re hiring the whole person, not just the “employee component”.

Of course, the answer to a question is only as valuable as the questioner’s ability to hear it.  The true power of a discovery question lies in the ability to listen to the response in a new way. In Conversational Intelligence lingo, it’s called “Listening to Connect.”

When we listen to connect, we seek to step fully into the other person’s world, so that we can see, hear and experience life as he or she does. That requires us to drop all of our own “filters” and let go of assumptions based upon our own experiences. Envision yourself standing side by side with the other person, actually inside his or her world as your questions are answered.

Of course, skilled interviewers know that a “gut feel” has its place in the process, but it’s also important to ensure that the “gut” isn’t a reflection of your own biases. As you feel your responses or assumptions evolving, pause and ask yourself: “Is what I am thinking true?” “How do I know that it is true in this case?” If you cannot confirm the validity of your thought or assumption, let it go – imagine yourself dropping the thought and walking away from it.

Listening to connect also involves being attuned to the other party’s shifts in tone and cadence. When a speaker’s voice slows or speeds, when energy levels drop or escalate, there may be important information bubbling under the surface.  Make an inquiry: “I noticed the excitement in your voice – please tell me more about where that is coming from.” “Your voice fell off when you talked about that – what was especially difficult for you in recalling the situation?”

The more you practice and sharpen your skills in Asking Discovery Questions and Listening to Connect, the more attuned you will be to the who inside every candidate.  The quality of accepted candidates will soar, benefitting your organization, your employees and your customers.



About Lillian LeBlanc

Lillian LeBlanc serves as Executive Leadership Development Coach for Baptist Health South Florida, a FORTUNE 100 Best Place to Work. She created the organization’s internal coach training program and leads the internal leadership coaching practice. Lil has worked with Baptist Health since 2007, previously serving as Director of Work-Life Effectiveness and Assistant Vice President of HR Strategy and Culture.

Before joining Baptist, Lil held senior HR leadership roles for Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, ME, Faulkner Hospital and Carney Hospital, both in Boston. As an independent HR consultant, she supported numerous organizations in the healthcare, professional services, aviation and government sectors.

Lil is credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and is a Registered Mentor Coach. She is certified in Conversational IntelligenceÒ, one of only 243 coaches in the world to hold this designation. She is also certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and as a Senior Certified Professional in HR (SHRM-SCP). Lil is a longtime member of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) and a past president of the Massachusetts Healthcare Human Resources Association (MHHRA).

Lil holds a B.S. in Economics from Boston State College, an MBA from the University of Massachusetts, and a certificate in Professional Coaching from the University of Miami (FL).


Twitter: @LJLeBlanc