Dialog about job interviews almost always focuses on job seekers and the avoidable gaffes they make, but what about mistakes hiring managers make in those same fraught interviews? We’ve all been on the other side of the desk from someone disorganized, disgruntled and not exactly trained on the moment.
Wondering why a terrific candidate flatly refused a second interview or turned down a job offer? Or simply why you’re having trouble filling roles? If you or your hiring manager committed one of these blunders during the job interview, you probably broadcast a thoroughly disagreeable corporate culture. Still, in hiring as in life, we can all benefit from candid reflection, so let’s tally these suckers in the name of self-improvement.
1. You’re late: Being on time for a job interview is pretty much rule number one for interviewees yet somehow, hiring managers think nothing of leaving a nervous candidate stewing in the lobby while they peck out a few more emails. Nothing screams “Your time isn’t valuable” quite like keeping someone waiting. Short of a serious crisis (which should be conveyed via mobile ASAP), noon means noon for everybody.
2. You’re distracted: We get it – you’re a busy gal. AND you’re short-handed, which is why you’re eager to fill this important role with an ace new employee. But your constant checking of texts and emails – or, ugh, that phone call you took – distracts you from picking up on subtle but important signals your candidate is sending. It also interrupts his chain of thought.
And it’s spectacularly rude.
3. You’re searching for a superhero: We’ve all seen those funny-if-they-weren’t-so-pathetic job ads seeking a gold-plated candidate with five university degrees, fluency in four languages, a Mennonite work ethic, 10 years of previous experience… and a wacky sense of humour! Cue eye-roll. It’s fine to be selective but try to be realistic in your expectations. You need someone to do a job day in and day out, not to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Set your sights accordingly.
4. You don’t know what you’re interviewing for: If you can’t adequately detail the scope of the job you are hiring for, HR can’t possibly craft a job spec that will snare the qualified candidate. Which means you will be sifting through a stack of resumes – or worse, enduring a spate of face-to-face interviews – with candidates who are underqualified/overqualified/flat-out not qualified for the role you need to fill.
5. You ask ridiculous questions: Asking a potential project manager to cite an example of a conflict he or she resolved is entirely reasonable. Asking a freelance writer the same thing is not (“Conflict? Um. I work from home… you mean with the cat?”) Also in this category are the weird, obscure, seemingly existential questions designed to… oh I don’t know, reveal the tint of the interviewee’s soul? I know some believe this kind of questioning demonstrates an ability to think fast but it just seems dumb.
6. You didn’t read the resume in front of you: This actually happened to me once. A magazine editor copped to being too frazzled to have read my CV and anyway, that’s HR’s job. “So…,” she snapped, “tell me about yourself.” Such lack of preparation would be off-putting on a first date arranged online; in a job interview it’s a deal-breaker, signalling a disengaged or too-stressed boss. Can’t be bothered to SKIM even a single page? Yeah, I want to report to you full-time…
7. You’re too stern: Hiring and firing is serious business and the job interview isn’t the place to unfurl a torrent of one-liners or abstruse non-sequiturs. But it’s not a criminal trial, either. Gentle humour helps break the ice. It also points to a pleasant working environment where people don’t take themselves too seriously even (especially) if they’re doing critical or detail-y jobs. Smile already, and don’t shy away from cracking wise if the appropriate opportunity arises.
8. You’re cold or impolite: Closely related to being too stern, this behaviour should be an obvious no-no (remember the old saw about honey attracting more bees than vinegar?) yet it happens all the time. The lofty hiring manager is curt, fires off questions as if it’s an interrogation, fails to be even cursorily conversational (which can reveal valuable hidden talents) and doesn’t seem to be genuinely listening. Worst? The hiring manager who recognizes a candidate’s anxiety but doesn’t even try to assuage it. Kindness goes a long way.
Dishonourable mention: Ageism, sexism, racism and all the other nefarious isms that are prohibited by law but can worm their way into our psyches without constant vigilance. The best employee ever just might be the grandpa genuinely seeking a second career in retail sales or the chick hell-bent on being a bricklayer.