What NOT to do when conducting an interview

Una Lawlor from Advanced Systems Inc explains the bad habits recruiters should avoid when interviewing candidates

An excellent interviewing technique is key to making sure that you are hiring the people who will best serve your company. The key thing to remember is that your job, as the interviewer, is to get the best out of candidates, and to make sure that each person being interviewed is given a fair chance. To do this, there are some important pitfalls to avoid:


Don’t come unprepared.

Spend time preparing for each interview – yes, you need to cover similar topics with each candidate, but remember you are looking for the best – you want to know what each person brings to the table that the others don’t.

Consider every application carefully, and plan a few specific questions related to each person’s experience. Jeff Haden, Contributing Editor at Inc. Magazine, suggests that a quick survey of each candidate’s social media accounts can be enlightening. This doesn’t mean scrolling back to the beginning of their Facebook posts, but rather seeing how active they are currently – is their LinkedIn profile up to date with everything on their CV? Do you have any mutual connections who could be a talking point in the interview? What conversations are they involved in on Twitter? Haden explains that this will help you to make the interview a conversation, rather than an interrogation.


Don’t bury your head in your notes.

Obviously, you will need to take some notes for reference, but while conducting the interview keep them to a minimum, and then expand on your jottings after the candidate leaves. It’s really important to appear interested in what the candidate is saying, because even the best candidates will be put off by your furiously scribbling throughout the entire interview.

Maintain eye contact as much as possible, and make sure you are genuinely interested in what the candidate is saying – if you find yourself losing interest, you need to ask different questions – you chose to interview this candidate for a reason, so find out what makes them interesting, and, more importantly, what they bring to the role.


Don’t ask closed or limiting questions.

Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income advises avoiding ‘yes or no’ questions, and being specific and concise by making sure you don’t ask more than one question at a time.  You want the candidate to expand on their answers as much as possible, and asking open questions is a good way to make sure you, as the interviewer, don’t talk too much; John Dooney, Manager of Strategic Resource for the Society for Human Resources Management, suggests that the interviewer should only talk for about 30% of the time.


Don’t make the candidate uncomfortable.

While asking one or two ‘difficult’ questions like ‘what is your greatest weakness?’ can be useful to see how the candidate copes under pressure, don’t overdo it – get the best out of your chosen candidates by keeping the tone of the interview light, and avoiding awkward silences.  If the candidate is struggling to answer, move the conversation on by asking a follow-up question about something they have mentioned, either in the interview or in their application.


Don’t make up your mind too quickly.

The most confident person is not necessarily the best person for the job. Shyness isn’t always a weakness, and your job is to find out what each candidate can bring to the role – listen to the content of the candidate’s answers, and try to look past the nervousness that many candidates will inevitably show.

Shel Israel, Forbes Contributor, suggests beginning the interview with a ‘safe’ question, such as ‘what was your first job after college/university?’  If you can set a person at ease, they will be more comfortable talking about themselves, and you will get a more accurate impression of how they would conduct themselves in the workplace, as well as more details about their skills and experience.


Avoid asking overly personal questions

Interviewers should not ask overly personal questions that are not related to the job. There are two reasons for this.

The first is in the interest of fairness – these kinds of questions may lead you to unconsciously choose the candidate you like the most on a personal level, rather than the one who will do the best job.

The second reason could get you into more serious trouble. While you might be curious about the person behind the resumé, questions about their personal, as opposed to professional life, such as religion, age, family relationships and marital status, might be construed as discrimination, and may even be illegal. The best way to avoid this is to make sure all questions you ask, beyond the initial small talk, are directly relevant to the job. Gary Corcoran at Advanced Systems Inc says :

“One way you can do this is to prepare a script of questions, so that all candidates are asked about the same things, giving everyone a fair chance, and allowing you to compare them more meaningfully.”


This doesn’t mean, however, that you should stick to the script rigidly

Your pre-prepared questions are a good starting point, but make sure you ask follow-up questions by picking up on something interesting the candidate has said. This engages them in conversation, and often moves the candidate away from standard, pre-prepared interview answers. As Jeff Haden says:

‘Follow-up questions take you past the canned responses and into the details. That’s a great place to go, because like the devil, the true superstars show up in the details.’



Author: Editorial Team

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