Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Make These Interview Mistakes at Your Peril

In yesterday’s Advisor, we talked about the importance of making a good impression during the interview—and noted that first impressions go both ways.

There are a lot of mistakes recruiters and hiring managers should avoid during the interview process—especially if they don’t want to risk losing a great candidate. Let’s take a look at a few more “don’ts” during the interview. Don’t:

  • Ask questions that may give rise to discrimination concerns. This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning anyway, particularly because some seemingly innocuous questions can actually be problematic in the interview context. There’s no need to ask candidates about their children, for example, even if this would normally be a subject of small talk otherwise. Steer clear of any questions that would divulge an applicant’s inclusion in a protected class or would indicate the candidate’s age. Also avoid questions related to medical conditions or disabilities. And steer clear of asking about an applicant’s history of protected activities, such as whether or not that person has ever taken FMLA or workers’ compensation leave. These are not relevant to the individual’s ability to do the job.
  • Ask questions you should already have the answer to. For example, if you already have an application or possibly a résumé from the interviewee, don’t waste time asking questions that have already been answered through one of those documents. It not only wastes time, it shows that you’re disorganized and have not prepared for the meeting through even the simplest of measures—reading the application. Of course, asking for more details or clarification of what you’ve read is perfectly normal, just don’t start with asking for something you should already know.
  • Spend an inappropriate amount of time on the interview. This is sometimes a tricky needle to thread. There’s no need to drag out an interview after both sides have already discovered all they need to know—and both of you likely have other things you need to be doing when the interview ends. So, don’t waste the person’s time by allowing disruptions or long-winded stories to hijack the process and make it run too long. Likewise, don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t have time to answer the applicant’s questions or give him or her information about the organization.
  • Close the interview without giving next steps. When the interview ends, you should both know what will happen next. For example, if you’re planning on finalizing your other interviews within the next week and giving callbacks for second interviews the following week, say so. Be sure that the candidate knows what to expect next—and when—and then follow through with that. Give the candidate reasonable expectations about what will happen next, given how their interview went.

What other interview mistakes have you seen or learned from in the past?