Common Interviewer Mistakes

Everyone you hire will be an ambassador for your business: to customers, suppliers and anyone your employee meets socially. So making the right decision is critical to long term success.

However, many hiring managers fail to prepare properly, often not even reading CVs until a few minutes before the interview.

It is good practice to have a core list of questions for all candidates, but below, we have also listed some mistakes that are easy to make.

Halo/horn effect

Many interviewers are overcome by the halo/horn effect, whereby they allow one of the candidate’s strong points to overshadow or impact on everything else about them.

You may look favourably upon someone who is physically attractive, for example, thinking them to be more intelligent, despite this not necessarily being the case. Or you may end up preferring someone simply because they attended a particular university – even if you don’t acknowledge that to yourself.

There’s a danger of seeing everything that the candidate says in the interview in this same rose-tinted light. Have they given a poor answer to a question, for example? Ah, well… they “must” know it, because of that university they attended. You can probably see how this excuses them from having to give a decent answer to your question.

This is the ‘halo’ effect, but you should also be aware of the opposite, the ‘horn’ effect, where you allow a single weak point to influence your view of everything else about the candidate.

Central tendency

When you are scoring candidates, it is important to include extremes so that you don’t just rate all of your candidates ‘average’. As an interviewer, you will need to distinguish between the quality of different candidates, rather than just sticking to the middle of the rating scale.

After all, you are trying to choose one candidate from a field here, and you won’t want to waste a single drop of effort.

Projection, proximity and first impressions

Another danger in interviewing someone is that you could ‘project’, or in other words, include in the questions that you ask, the answers that you want to hear. It means that the candidate simply gives you that answer, which doesn’t exactly help you to distinguish one candidate from another.

Consider, for example, the question “How do you communicate with your team, what sort of meetings or tools do you use?” This question tells the interviewee what kind of things you want to hear. Instead, ask something like “How do you ensure that your team know what they need to know?” This could be followed by “How do you keep up to date with what people in your team are doing?”

The ‘proximity’ of the information that you gather from the interview can be another problem. Are the examples that the candidate has given you up to date? Or are they even relevant to your current situation? Or perhaps the candidate made a good first impression and you just decide to hire them right away, rather than actually taking the time to consider whether that person has the skills, abilities and experience for the job?

Nerves don’t equal inability (necessarily)

Not everyone finds it easy to perform under the interview spotlight – so don’t always presume that a nervy candidate is a poor one. That person making a bad first impression could still be the perfect one for the job. So why not help them to relax, so that they can show you exactly that?

After all, you’re a leader, that’s part of your job. You’re there to get the best out of even the people that you haven’t hired yet, and your patience and empathy could yet be rewarded with an undiscovered gem.

Don’t always stick to the script

Yes, you should always have a basic plan to follow, but bear in mind that it can be easier for candidates to answer pre-prepared questions.

Whereas the first question can be relatively generic, making it easy for the candidate to give the same old canned answer, the follow-up ones can be much trickier to give a good answer to, straight away.

So, don’t be afraid to follow up those first answers with “why”, “what”, “when” and “how” questions, about various past experiences and projects that the candidate has cited. It’s a great way to get the candidate to admit both good and bad details that you might have never known about otherwise.

Don’t overdo the future promises

Interviewees have always sold themselves – the good ones, anyway. The recruiters? Well, they used to just stand there in righteous judgement, but now, they’re almost like interviewees, gushing away about all of these fantastic new projects, promotion opportunities and expansions that await, if the candidate only just says yes to their inevitable job offer.

The trouble is… just like the interviewee desperate to impress who embellishes his CV a bit, you can overdo it too, talking about all kinds of future things that never come to pass.

It’s understandable that you may love your company, but don’t raise false hopes with promises that you might not be able to keep. Instead, talk in much more general terms about that magical, tantalising future. If you do talk about projects, stick to ones that have actually been approved or are underway, and if you can’t guarantee that something will go ahead… just don’t mention it.

Don’t dominate the interview

Remember that 90 per cent of the conversation should come from the candidate, and only 10 per cent from you. All too often, interviewers will completely make themselves the subject of the interview… and an interview that’s all about you, the interviewer, isn’t good news. It’s supposed to be all about your interviewee – so don’t give them an easy ride.

Ultimately, you really are the big loser from all of this, because the interview comes to a close and you have little information from the actual candidate on which to assess their suitability for the job.

Don’t presume that a conscientious candidate will interrupt to restore some balance to the interview, either. The truth is, they’ll probably be so eager to get you to like them that they just let you talk… and talk… and talk. But it’s not good to come to the end of an interview and realise that you have to make your hiring decision on the basis of how good a listener they were.

To ensure that it is the candidate that dominates the interview, you should only give a brief description of the role and your company. You should then swiftly start asking good questions that bring out full, expansive answers. If the candidate has questions of their own, let them know that they can be answered at the end.

Does the candidate treat everybody so well?

It’s to be expected that the candidate will be alert and ready to impress you, when they are in front of you in the interview room. But are they so impressive when they aren’t trying to impress you? Or will you catch them being a little poorly behaved?

Finding out how they behaved in the lobby while waiting, for example, can shed a lot of light on the candidate’s true nature. What did they do while they waited? Were they courteous towards the receptionist? Have other employers come into casual contact with them, and how did the candidate behave towards them?

On occasion, there can be a marked difference between the impression that the candidate gives you, and the behaviour shown towards people that they don’t feel such a great need to impress. This is important: after all, if their behaviour is questionable off the job, will they be any better in the job? That’s probably a no.