7 mistakes to avoid when conducting interviews
Recruiting new team members is an important challenge for any CEO to address. Whether you’re scaling your company and looking to hire 10 people in one month, or need to quickly identify a replacement for a departing team member, it can be easy to forget effective interview practices in the face of a shortened timeline.
It is important to align your recruitment process with your business strategy. It can be easy to simply go through the motions of interviewing candidates without clear goals in mind. Here are seven mistakes to try to avoid when interviewing people who have applied to join your team:
- Interviewing without a planµ
Given that the interview process can be time-consuming, it might be tempting to only interview those candidates who look the best on paper. Try to avoid this tactic – instead, consider a broader set of candidates to ensure you truly understand the skillsets that are available for hire. Try to enter each interview with a specific plan to identify key characteristics, experiences, and core skills. At Varsity Tutors, for example, we maintain a checklist of characteristics to look for when we interview potential managers. It is helpful to read each person’s resume and cover letter in advance so you can choose questions that will complement your checklist. Their resume should allow you to generate specific questions for the candidate based on their past experiences.
- Focusing only on the past and present
It’s all too easy to only ask about prospective team members’ past experiences, as well as how they believe they would fit within your business at the current time. Consider extending the scope of your interviews by asking questions such as: “Can you share two or three ideas that you have for our company on how we can better position ourselves for long-term success?” and, “Where do you see our entire industry going in the short- and long-term?”
Questions like these can allow you to evaluate how much each candidate has researched your company. If he or she has done so effectively, chances are this person is invested in the outcome of the interview. In my experience, the extent to which a person seems engaged during the interview and interested in the position and company is highly indicative of future performance.
- Failing to prepare questions
Try to prepare a core set of questions that you can use with everyone who interviews for a given position. This does not rule out follow-up questions or questions you choose to ask in the moment—instead, it provides you with a baseline tool to measure applicants’ responses against one another. This is particularly useful if multiple people are interviewing the same candidates. Behavioral questions can be especially helpful, as they shed light on key moments when candidates encountered certain challenges. How did they respond? Would they change their approach in the future? Such questions also enable you to measure a candidate’s ability to think critically on the spot.
- Noting only what is said aloud
Often, unspoken aspects of an interview can be just as revealing of a candidate’s traits as what is actually said. Did the prospective team member arrive on time? If he or she was late, was it by five or ten minutes, or longer? Did he or she offer an explanation and apologize? How was the applicant dressed? Appearances can be deceiving, but they also show how a candidate chose to present himself or herself to you. Namely, did they make the effort to appear presentable and ready for the interview?
Does the person project enthusiasm and an eagerness to join your organization? How an applicant speaks can be just as important as what he or she says. Note his or her demeanor and tone of voice. Is the person keenly interested in this position, or is he or she viewing this as one of many employment opportunities?
- Providing only a single interview or interviewer
Multiple interviews or interviewers can minimize confirmation bias (i.e. hiring a person simply because he or she seems like you). When more than one member of your staff interviews the same candidate, you can increase the reliability of your assessment and gain one or more fresh perspectives.
- Arriving under-prepared mentally and physically
More than likely, you will be conducting multiple interviews on the same day. To ensure you are mentally and physically prepared, remember to take care of the fundamentals: eat right and get enough rest the day prior. You might also consider scheduling breaks between your interviews. Relax and rest your mind, and then reflect on your day so far. How did your morning interviews go? Are there any adjustments you would like to make for your afternoon interviews?
Breaks are also a great opportunity to refocus your attention. We are all prone to biases, including the first and last applicant bias (where your first and last interviews stand out the most). You might wish to take notes during your interviews, if only to make sure that you do not overlook strong applicants in the middle of the queue. Also, remain aware of cognitive biases that may be relevant when evaluating potential staff members. For example, fundamental attribution error can lead you to under-estimate situational factors when understanding others’ actions.
- Forgetting to give or opting against giving a final decision
Your final decision can be as simple as, “Thank you for your time, but we’ve hired another candidate,” or, “We’d like a second interview.” Providing a response to each applicant is the most basic of courtesies. This becomes challenging to keep track of as you start doing dozens of interviews per week, so create a standard system as upon to relying on your memory. I have accidentally forgotten to follow up with candidates to let them know that we selected another applicant and it certainly caused resentment. Whether you believe the interview went well or not, try to acknowledge the effort and time each person put forth to meet with you.