Candidates aren’t the only ones who can mess up an interview. Just because you’re on the other side of the desk doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
We’ve already discussed the ways that interviewer mistakes can negatively impact your hiring. These mistakes can lead to bad hires, tarnish your employer brand, and create a poor candidate experience. Worst of all, it can cause top talent to turn down your offer. In short, it’s important to identify the gaffes you’re making – and stop making them as quickly as possible.
Here are seven interviewer mistakes you need to stop making right now (and how to avoid them).
Mistake #1: Being unprepared
It might seem like a no-brainer, but an unprepared hiring manager is one of the most frequent complaints from candidates. When you sit down for an interview and read over an applicant’s resume for the first time (and yes, they can tell when it’s the first time), it sends the message that you don’t value their time, you’re not excited about their application, and you’re not an organized workplace.
How to avoid it: It’s simple: read a candidate’s resume and cover letter over prior to the start of the interview. Make notes on any questions you have, or any details you’d like to know more about. Even simply using the phrase, “I’ve looked at your resume, and…” at the start of the interview can tell the candidate that you’ve done your homework, and you’re ready to talk in more depth.
Mistake #2: Confusing nervousness with lack of skill
Great candidates can give terrible interviews. Just like mediocre candidates can give great interviews. The interview process can be nerve-racking for some people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the expertise or skills that you’re looking for. It’s essentially the horns effect, a common cognitive bias that causes an interviewer to allow one bad trait to overshadow other traits (the opposite, the halo effect, is equally problematic in interviews because it allows one good trait to hide many bad traits).
How to avoid it: A great first step is becoming aware of implicit bias in your hiring process. Then you can develop strategies to address and overcome it – like including more than one interviewer, using a range of question types, and more.
Mistake #3: Gossiping about past employees
Under no circumstances should you talk about why or how you had to let someone go. It tells a candidate that you don’t respect your team, and that you foster a toxic environment. Also, it sends the message that gossiping in general is allowed or even encouraged at the office, which will turn many qualified candidates off.
How to avoid it: Never speak negatively about past employees. Ever. If you’re worried about accidentally going down this road, prepare a tactful statement about the situation to use if a candidate asks about why you’re filling a role, or inquires about some negative rumours they heard. (Something like, “We’re going a new direction with the role, and I’m excited to see if you’d be a good fit.”)
Mistake #4: Grading on a curve
When house hunting, something quite average can seem extraordinary after looking at a dump. Our brain does a similar trick in interviews – we see a run-of-the-mill candidate as a star performer, simply because they were better than the one before. We are naturally inclined to judge things comparatively as a way of organizing information.
How to avoid it: Spread out your interviews over several days, as opposed to scheduling them all back-to-back. Or better yet, use pre-screening techniques like phone or video interviews to pare back your list so that you’re interviewing a smaller group. You can also bring in different team members into each interview to offer a second opinion that isn’t informed by the previous candidate.
Mistake #5: Not being candid
Just like how experienced hiring mangers can spot a dishonest candidate a mile away, seasoned job seekers know when a potential employer is bending the truth – and it can raise a red flag. After all, any sensible candidate knows that there is good and bad to any job, and when you’re not upfront about the challenges of a position, you’ll leave them wondering why you’re holding back.
How to avoid it: Be honest about any expectations that your company will have. If long hours are expected, or the workload gets heavier in the summer, just say so. Finding a candidate that is ok with these challenges will also improve retention rates.
Mistake #6: Not explaining the next steps
Every candidate wants to know what’s going to happen next. Sometimes, at the end of the interview, they’ll feel comfortable enough to ask “when will I know if I have the job?” More often, though, they’ll leave with several unanswered questions that will keep them lingering by the phone for days, weeks, or (gasp!) months after the interview.
How to avoid it: At the end of every interview, explain what the next steps are – even if you’re sure that a candidate won’t be getting a job offer. And then, be sure to follow through on those next steps. If you tell a candidate that they’ll hear from you either way within a week, stick to that timeline at all costs (learn more about why calling back every candidate is crucial here).
Mistake #7: Ignoring how a candidate acts outside of the interview
We’re all on our best behaviour in an interview. However, the way that a candidate acts outside of that setting can be extremely telling. This can go in both directions – their kind words to the receptionist can indicate a good fit, for example, while a harried run-in with an employee in the elevator can show an inability to function under pressure.
How to avoid it: Identify team members that are most likely to interact with job candidates during the interview process, and ask them for their thoughts afterward. Don’t make them feel like spies – just encourage them to provide their insights on the individuals they encounter. This provides an additional benefit of making more members of your team feel like they’re part of the hiring process, and that you value their opinion.
For more interview tips and tricks, download our free eGuide, Interviewing for success. Here’s a sneak peek: