The Five Deadly Sins of Interviewing Job Candidates

Conducting an interview looks easier than it is. Most hiring managers take this step in the hiring process for granted. They don't invest the time, effort, and concentration that effective job interviewing requires. And, above all, they don't prepare enough. Instead, they wing it. Whatever you do, don't let the interview go like this video!

Here are some of the all-too-common practices that create a surefire recipe for hiring mistakes.

  1. Not devoting enough time to interviewing. Failing to give the interviewing process the time and effort it deserves is, by far, the main reason interviews fail to reveal useful information about a person. You can probably understand why managers frequently neglect to take the necessary steps to prepare for interviews, conduct them diligently, and evaluate the results in a thoughtful manner: They're busy. Everybody's busy. Time is at a premium. But your job is to make every interview you conduct count. Encourage line managers who make their own hiring decisions to do the same.
  2. Not being consistent from one interview to the next. One major difference between interviewers who have a knack for picking winners and those who don't is nothing more complicated than simple discipline. Skillful interviewers think through the process and tend to follow the same method every time – albeit with variations that they tailor to individual situations. Unsuccessful interviewers tend to wing it, creating a different routine for each interview and entering unprepared. The hidden danger of a lack of planning: You deprive yourself of the one thing you need the most as you're comparing candidates: an objective standard on which to base your conclusions.
  3. Talking too much. If you're talking more than 20 per cent of the time during a job interview, you're talking too much. Probing through active listening (for example, letting the candidate's comments spark related questions) is a critical interviewing skill because it allows you to gain valuable information you'd miss if you did most of the talking. You can – and should – react, comment on, and build on the answers that candidates give in job interviews. Just bear in mind: The only thing you discover about a candidate during any session where you're doing most of the talking is that the candidate knows how to listen.
  4. Focusing on one positive attribute of a candidate and ignoring everything else. This situation describes the halo effect, a term managers often use to describe a situation in which the interviewer becomes so enraptured by one particular aspect of the candidate – appearance, credentials, interests – that it colours all his other judgments. Then again, interviewers are only human, and so are you. You can't always help yourself from placing too much significance on one part of the candidate's overall presentation. At the very least, however, be aware of your halo-effect tendencies and do your best to keep them in check.
  5. Playing armchair (psycho) analyst. The ability to read people can be an enormously valuable skill for anyone who interviews job candidates. But unless you're formally trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist, leave your couch at home and try not to seek out the subconscious meaning behind everything the candidate says and does. If you have strong evidence that ties certain psychological factors to a person's ability to handle a particular job, great. Bring in an outside professional to help you develop questions that can capitalize on that knowledge.