Effective recruiting requires well-written ads, well-placed ads and quick and thorough candidate screening. The next most crucial piece is conducting effective interviews. Sometimes employers are in a hurry and rush through this process or they don’t prepare much and just “trust their gut”. These choices can often lead to poor hires, lost revenue and high turnover. Take a few minutes to review your interview practices and make sure you’re not making any of these common interview mistakes.
Here are the top five mistakes that people who conduct interviews make. Read carefully, you may see yourself in one or more of these.
#1: Not preparing
If you’re the business owner, you’re likely a visionary and a big picture thinker. Sometimes you make detailed plans, but a lot of times you fly by the seat of your pants, trust your intuition and wing it. Interviewing is not the time for this style. You need to sit down and spend some time really thinking through the role you are interviewing candidates for. What are the primary duties of the position? What are the must-have skills? What are the nice to haves? What personality traits and temperaments work well in your environment and which do not? Spend some time thinking through these things. The next objective is crafting great behavior based questions that will allow you to see if the candidates you are interviewing possess these skills and traits. You can’t just ask them outright, of course, they’ll say yes. You need to get creative and strategic and plan out your interview. Take the time to prepare.
#2: Talking too much
The next mistake interviewers commonly make is that they talk too much. Again, if you’re the owner and this is your baby, you LOVE talking about it. The problem is you will quickly fill up the 45 minutes or 1 hour you’ve set aside talking about you and your company. You won’t learn very much, if anything, about the candidate. So, keep the “About Us” to a minimum (see Mistake #3) and jump right in to letting the candidate tell you about them. You should easily have an 80/20 ratio in the interview, 80% them talking, 20% (or less) from you.
#3: Giving too much info
Related to Mistake #2, the other common mistake is that interviewers give away the answers to their questions. If you talk too much and tell them too much about your preferences, your management style, your company culture, what didn’t work about the last person, etc. – you’re giving them the information they need to ace the interview. You’re telling them the right answers to all the questions you want to know. Save the “About Us” until the end of the interview or the Q&A session at the end. You need to first learn their unbiased thoughts and feelings about things related to this position and your company.
#4: Asking questions whose “right” answers are obvious
If you stick with behavior-based questions, you’ll avoid this mistake entirely. Behavior-based questions often start with, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of …”. These types of questions/requests dig into the actual on-the-job experiences of these candidates, not hypotheticals. If you’re not asking behavior-based questions you may fall into the mistake of asking questions like, “We need someone really organized in this position, are you organized?” The “right” answer to that question is “yes”, it’s obvious. No one who really wants the job is going to answer “no” to that question. A better question/request would be, “Tell me about a time when you took a project or situation that was in chaos or disarray and created order.” Or “What tools do you use to organize your day and your time?”. There is no “right” answer, but there are a wide variety of answers you will hear which will help you understand just how organized that candidate is. So, once you’ve prepared your interview questions, ask a friend or co-worker the questions and have them help you determine if you’ve included any whose “right” answer is obvious.
#5: Not asking follow up questions
If you’ve taken the advice from Mistake #1 and prepared your list of questions, don’t be afraid to deviate from the script. Be present in the conversation and really listening to what the candidate is saying. If anything is unclear to you or anything comes up that is a potential red flag, dig in and ask more questions about that area or incident. If you know you should ask more but you aren’t sure what the next best question would be, you can ask some general follow-up questions like, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “You said that was challenging, why was that?” or “Anything else on that topic?”.
Sounds of uncertainty
You should also ask follow up questions when a candidate responds with a statement that alludes to a concern they may have. For instance, when you ask if the pay you are offering is acceptable and they say “Yeah, it’s fine.” Or when you ask if they will be able to work overtime and they say, “That shouldn’t be a problem.” These are indirect answers, they aren’t confident and certain, which generally means they have a hidden concern. You should ask a very direct follow up question here, something like, “It sounds as though you may have a concern about that, what is it?” The candidate will almost always divulge the concern at this point. The bottom line is don’t step over any concern or red flag.
Keep these common mistakes in mind, maybe even review them again just before your next interview and make sure you eliminate them from your interview routine!