Six common interviewing mistakes hiring managers make when looking for candidates.

Musings from an ex-corporate recruiter…

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“So tell me how your Xbox experience has made you the ideal candidate?”

In the hiring game, nothing is more frustrating than making a bad hire. Managers want to hire the best, or at least the best for the role (expectation). But in reality, they often “settle” for a candidate, due to a number of factors, such as time constraints, budgetary concerns, laziness, ignorance, tyrannical bosses, etc. (reality). However, by focusing on the candidate interview and improving your technique, you can save yourself time and more importantly, money! If you are not practiced at hiring candidates, please do your homework, or bring a professional with you to the interview table.

I often chuckle at managers and even non-recruiting HR professionals that think recruiting is “easy”. “Trust your gut and you will be right 90% of the time”. This quote originated with someone who failed miserably at statistics, because if I had dollar for every dollar spent on a bad hire…… In reality, by some estimates, a bad hire can cost a company up to $50,000 per hire. A bad hire costs a company so much more than just the dollar amount spent to get the candidate on board, trained, acclimated, etc. Other issues that contribute to value leakage include: loss of productivity, a negative impact on morale (which leads to additional losses of productivity), loss of clientele relationships (which can include losses in sales), and finally the cost to replace the employee while incurring the strains placed on the staff while this search is underway. By focusing on the following core concepts, you can reduce your chances of making interview mistakes.

  • Focusing too much on the job description – I have read and written a number of descriptions. Rarely do we see that two-dimensional position summary portrayed in the star candidates. Today, positions change and candidates bring a variety of experiences to the plate. A hiring manager must we willing to draw parallels between the current position and that of the person’s previous positions. Hiring managers must be willing to explore how those skill sets can be utilized in the position they are applying to. In several of my past positions, the majority of what I did wasn’t spelled out in the job description. I often try to gauge whether or not the candidate has the right personality or will be a cultural fit. Skills can often be taught or refined as long as they have the basics of the position. But let’s face it, if the candidate isn’t somewhat close, they shouldn’t be wasting your time in an interview.
  •  Not Listening – Stop talking and engage the candidate. A successful interviewer should spend the majority of the time listening. A candidate will tell you everything you want to know, sometimes explicitly, often otherwise. I find it amazing the revelations that surface just by actively listening to the candidates.
  •  Zero Preparation – Please don’t be the interviewer that grabs the resume on the way to the interview room. To get the true benefit of meeting with the candidate, you should at minimum, have reviewed the resume. Ideally, you will want to review it, jot down a few clarification notes and prepare a few questions in advance. I know this takes time, and your time is valuable; however, how much time will you spend on a bad hire?
  •  Asking or dancing around illegal questions — In a nutshell, asking questions that reveal any answers based on: Race, Color, Sex, National origin, Birthplace, Age, Disability, Marital/Family status and/or Religion could get you in hot water. It is all too easy to start to feel a connection with a candidate, and to start to do what we do naturally as social creatures of habit. We start to ask about marriage, about life with kids, etc. These are great icebreakers at a social gathering, but asking these questions in an interview context are no-no’s, especially if the candidate doesn’t get the job.
  • Involving too many Interviewers – Bringing too many interviewers to the party can spoil the process. The last time I worked for corporate America, I was interviewed by 13 (yes, 13) people on my way to a non-managerial spot. I started to wonder if they were pulling in homeless people off the streets to sit in on my interview, because “hey, it’s another opinion”. There isn’t a magic number but candidates will fatigue when the process is unnecessarily too long and involved. I would recommend that you keep the decision makers in the process down to a “reasonable” number. Often panel interviews are best, followed by a thorough candidate discussion. Depending on the level of the position, several members may be necessary (leadership positions) but for most, the hiring manager and a few solid team members should be sufficient.
  • No follow up – Yes, the candidate should feel blessed to have sweated through your questions for the entire morning, but that doesn’t mean they will hang around forever waiting for a decision. A good candidate will have further opportunity and you do not want to miss out. Your choice as a hiring manager is a follows: say yes or say no to the prospect. The worst that you could possibly do is (wait for it) nothing. Do not be so paralyzed by fear of commitment that you can’t make a decision.

The hiring process can be tedious, but it doesn’t have to be. Do your homework and properly prepare for the interview. This will be your first chance to peer into the soul of the candidate and see if this will be someone you can tolerate for roughly 40 hours (more or less) a week.