Mistake #1: Going with the flow
Inexperienced interviewers sometimes fall into the trap of letting the interview become “free form”, spending different amounts of time on different questions, basing follow-up questions on on how the candidates answer. This can result in a candidate taking control of the interview and leading you where he or she wants to go, rather than where you can get the information you need.
Solution: Ask everyone the same questions. Prepare a list in advance, based on the information you need, and use it as a guide throughout the interview. Put each question on a separate sheet of paper and prepare one set for each candidate. As you move through the questions, use the appropriate sheets to make notes of the answers and your own observations and impressions. You can vary the follow up questions as necessary, but keep your notes on the main question page. When you have followed this structure with all the candidates, you’ll be able to compare them on an “apples to apples” basis.
Mistake #2: Asking predictable questions
Job applicants have many sources of help for interviewing, and it’s easy to learn acceptable answers to the standard questions. That means even the wrong candidate for your position could answer the questions in a way that fools you into thinking he or she is a fit.
Solution: Ask candidates questions that force them to expand on their answers, illustrating their thinking skills as well as their attitudes and job competencies. Such questions might include:
If you could design your own job, what would it look like?
What’s your favourite part of the work you do now? Why do you like that?
Ask questions like these and, instead of practised responses that tell you virtually nothing, you’ll get insights into who these people really are.
Mistake #3: Whitewashing the job
If you have a candidate in front of you who seems like a great choice, you obviously want that person to accept your job offer. Sometimes, though, you know the job has inherent challenges or downsides, and you may be afraid if you talk about these thing you will lose a good employee. The trouble is, if you hire them and they discover the negatives themselves, you may well lose them in the first week!
Solution: Be candid about challenges in the job or within the company. Watch for candidates who embrace and relish the challenges, and who can see beyond the negatives. These can become your most valued employees.
Mistake #4: Ignoring the question of “fit”
Every organization has a culture. It comes from a blend of the industry you are in, the ages of those who work there, the size of the company, the number of people, the geographic location and many other factors. But that culture creates its own work environment, and if employees are not comfortable with that environment or do not work well within it, they don’t “fit”. This person will never be an asset to your company, and may in fact leave very quickly.
Solution: Ask questions whose answers will demonstrate the candidate’s personality and character, their attitudes towards the workplace. An example of that type of question might be: Do you prefer a structured environment or a more loose, easy-going one? Why?
Mistake #5: Letting a candidate’s one major positive blind you to the negatives
Sometimes a person might have one outstanding positive: worked for your major competitor, attended a university with a track record of successful graduates, or even just comes from your home town. If you also instinctively like the individual, it is tempting to be overly influenced by this fact, and not pay enough attention to others that are not so attractive.
Solution: When recording your notes on each candidate (see solution to Mistake #1), be sure to record negatives as well as positives on the appropriate pages. When you review your notes after the interview is over, you will be better able to balance the pros and cons impartially.
Candidates are often sophisticated job seekers, who are well prepared for the interview. To avoid costly hiring mistakes, hiring interviewers must be equally prepared for the process.