5 Avoidable Interviewing Mistakes

The best way to solve a problem is to keep it from happening. By avoiding common mistakes, we can avert all kinds of problems, including those of the hiring variety. Interviews are a frequent part of the hiring process where people make avoidable mistakes.

How most of us were taught to interview is inherently flawed. During a typical interview, job candidates are on their best behavior. They tell you the right things and share only the best parts of their background. We get a mere glimpse of the real person. This is top reason why so many hires fail. The conversations that take place during an interview fall short of determining, with certainty, if the candidate will succeed or fail at the job.

Here are five common interviewing mistakes and how you can avoid them when filling internal roles in your staffing firms. You’ll also want to share these tips with hiring managers to help them make better choices when interviewing the talent your firm provides them.

Mistake #1. Picking the wrong people to interview. Some interviews shouldn’t have happened in the first place. When they do, there’s a common cause: the resume. Resumes reduce a person to a piece of paper, giving you but a peek of their true potential. Some candidates make matters worse by creating their own version of fake news when they lie or exaggerate details. Resumes are an incomplete tool for deciding whom to invite for an interview.

Don’t rely solely on resumes when determining which candidates to include in your first round of interviews. In addition to having candidates submit their resume, ask them to follow simple directions and answer a few questions.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to do this.

When submitting your resume, answer the following questions. Keep each response to no more than 3 or 4 sentences.

  • Why does this job interest you?
  • Why are you looking for a job right now?

The responses can be insightful. You begin to see his knowledge of the company and the industry. You discover some of the motives driving his job search. You may learn he is happy and open to being happier. Or you may determine that he is desperate and throwing out lots of resumes so he can pay his bills. By including simple directions, you will also begin to assess his ability to follow directions.

Your questions and directions allow you to start comparing how his motives match your needs and culture. If he’s dishonest in his response, it’s likely that he’ll contradict himself later in the process. Plus, if he doesn’t follow the directions when answering your questions that’s a red flag. Following directions doesn’t get better after you hire someone.

Mistake #2. Expecting too much from a phone interview. Phone interviews are a conversation. Nothing more. During a conversation, candidates do what I call the tell, sell and swell. They tell you what they think you want to hear. They sell you on the best parts of their background. They try to swell your ego. Does this mean all of them are being dishonest? Of course not. It’s natural for candidates to position themselves in the best light. The problem with this very human behavior is that it interferes with determining if someone is worth bringing in for a face-to-face interview.

Given the limitations of conversations, phone interviews are best used only as a confirmation tool — you’re confirming they have abilities you can’t teach. These typically include effective verbal and aural communication, personality, and rapport. By focusing phone interviews on these important attributes, you’ll have short and powerful conversations that make it clear who’s worth bringing in and who’s not.

Mistake #3. Asking lots of questions during a face-to-face interview. Talking about doing work during a face-to-face interview is a waste of time. The candidate, given the opportunity, will continue to tell, sell, and swell. This creates a conceptual experience instead of providing you with an accurate reflection of whether or not they can perform well in the job.

Do this instead—have the candidates perform sample work. Work that enables you to see, hear, and experience them in action. You’ll see if they have the requisite skills, hear if they will fit in, and experience the quality of their work.

How do you set up sample work? Have candidates for sales jobs show how they sell. Let people interviewing for a supervisor role conduct a mock employee meeting. Have marketing candidates create a sample campaign. Direct accounting candidates to audit sanitized financials. By creating scenarios based upon past situations, you can let candidates try on the role while you try out their skills.

Mistake #4. Conducting face-to-face interviews alone. There’s too much for one person to see, hear, and experience during an interview. Plus, according to researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, there are limits to our perception. A team approach to face-to-face interviews counters these problems.

A hiring team should have four people with complementary hiring styles (you can learn more about hiring styles in this post). All four people are present in the interview, giving you a complete picture from their unique perspectives.

Mistake #5. Overlooking a prime opportunity during a face-to-face interview. Success in most jobs happens because the employee improves over time. Improvement is initiated from feedback and coaching given by the manager. Not all hires are coachable, yet, most interviewers neglect to assess this trait.

You can assess the candidate’s coachability during a face-to-face interview. Have the candidate perform sample work. Then, provide feedback and coaching. Follow that with a second opportunity to do the sample work, watching if they apply your feedback. If they don’t, their coachability won’t improve once hired.

Mistake-free interviews are possible when you avoid these common errors. Instead of relying on the candidate’s tell, sell, and swell, you’ll see, hear, and experience your way to making fast and accurate hires.

Scott Wintrip

Scott Wintrip
Scott Wintrip is the president of the Wintrip Consulting Group. He was named to the Staffing 100 by Staffing Industry Analysts in 2011-2016 and was among the first class of the Staffing 100 Hall of Fame in 2017. He can be reached at scott (at) ScottWintrip (dot) com.

Scott Wintrip

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One Response to “5 Avoidable Interviewing Mistakes”

  1. Steve Taylor says:

    Interesting article.

    When submitting your resume, answer the following questions. Keep each response to no more than 3 or 4 sentences.

    Why does this job interest you?
    Why are you looking for a job right now?

    The answers can be revealing …i.e has the applicant done research on the company…are they a right fit for the company

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