10 Mistakes You’re Making When You Interview Job Candidates

Perspectives
Aug 8, 2012
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9 Min Read

Hiring is one of the most important things managers do, but too often they use interview techniques that won’t help hire the strongest candidates. Here are the top 10 mistakes interviewers make when hiring.

1. Hiring too quickly.

The damage caused by a bad hire is far more significant than the impact of taking some extra time to make sure you’re hiring the right person. It's worth it to leave a position open longer in order to find the right fit. But on the other hand...

2. Not moving quickly enough.

Employers who drag out the hiring process when they do have good candidates in the mix risk losing applicants to other offers. Plus, good applicants respect workplaces that can move quickly and make decisions.

3. Making hiring decisions that aren't based on the right criteria.

For example, it’s not uncommon for interviewers to reject a candidate for being overly shy when being an extrovert has nothing to do with the job, or over-valuing industry experience rather than industry accomplishments.

4. Not distinguishing between what can be taught and what can't.

You can teach someone to use a certain software program or understand your industry. You can't teach someone to be organized or efficient or have a work ethic.

5. Not asking the right questions.

Interviewers often ask only superficial questions in interviews and don't really probe beyond surface answers. For instance, think of the difference between "What were your responsibilities in that job?" and "Factor X must have been challenging. How did you plan for that?”

6. Letting candidates get away with superficial responses.

Too many interviewers simply run down their list of questions and don't bother to probe the answers further in follow-up questions.

7. Not simulating the work.

It’s crucial to see candidates actually do the work, not just take their word for how they’d do it. If you’re not using exercises or simulations as part of your hiring process, you’re setting yourself up for a gap between how someone interviews and how they perform on the job.

8. Flakiness.

Imagine it from the candidate’s side: You say you’ll get back to them next week, but they hear nothing. The job description seems to be a work in progress that keeps changing. They arrive for their interview with Jane and learn they’ll be meeting with Bob instead. You tell them you’ll email info on benefits, but it never arrives. All these things send powerful messages about how they might be treated once they’re working with you.

9. Conducting intimidating, high-pressure interviews.

Unless the position requires the ability to perform in a hostile or pressure-filled situation, it’s more important to learn what candidates will be like to work with day to day, not what they're like in an anxiety-producing interview. Interviewers will often learn more by being friendly and trying to put candidates at ease.

10. Not accurately portraying the job.

You might be tempted to downplay the less appealing aspects of the job, like boring work or long hours, but if you do that, you’ll end up with an employee who doesn’t want to be there. Instead, be up-front about the negatives so that candidates who won’t thrive will self-select out before you hire them.

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