10 Mistakes Job Interviewers Make

It's easy to flub an interview if you aren’t trained and prepared.

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Hiring someone onto your team is one of the most important decisions managers make, but it’s easy to flub it if you aren’t trained and prepared for interviewing. Here are the 10 most common mistakes that job interviewers make in the interview process.

1. Not being clear on what’s really needed to excel in the job. Employers often overvalue specific skills or knowledge (like knowing a specific software program) and don’t put enough weight on underlying qualities (like critical thinking or initiative) that are harder to develop.

2. Asking the wrong questions. The best way to predict how people will act in the future is to find out how they have actually acted in the past or to observe how they actually act in the present. Too often, though, interviewers ask how a candidate might hypothetically handle a difficult situation. For instance, they’ll ask, “How would you handle a difficult client?” Instead, a good interviewer will ask, “Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult client. How did you approach it? What was the result?”

 [See the 10 Most Common Interview Questions.]

3. Not probing deeply enough. Too often, interviewers ask a question and then move right on to the next topic. But good interviewers will probe and probe and probe some more, because they’ll learn more by getting into the details of a few experiences than by covering each and every job listed on a resume. Because their job is to get beneath the surface and into the nitty-gritty of how a candidate actually operated, a good interviewer will ask tons of follow-up questions: “That sounds interesting. How did you approach that? Was it successful? What was the biggest challenge? How did you deal with that? What happened then?”

4. Talking too much. Inept interviews will often go on and on about the company, their own job, their own background ... and at the end of the interview, all that talking about themselves leaves them feeling warm and fuzzy–what a great conversation that was! But in reality, they know little about the job candidate.

[See 10 Ways to Annoy a Hiring Manager.]

5. Not simulating real job activities. It’s crucial to see candidates in action, by having them complete activities similar to what they’d be doing on the job. Just like a football coach wouldn’t select players without holding tryouts or seeing them in action, neither should an interviewer make a hire without seeing candidates actually do the work.

6. Conducting intimidating, high-pressure interviews. Unless the position requires the ability to perform in a hostile or pressure-filled situation, a good interviewer will seek to learn what candidates will be like to work with day to day, not what they're like in an anxiety-producing interview. This means being friendly and trying to put candidates at ease.

7. Not being candid. Smart interviewers ensure that candidates have a thorough and realistic understanding of the job, organization, and culture—good and bad—so that candidates who won’t be happy or thrive there can self-select out and won’t feel they were sold a bill of goods once hired. When employers try to downplay the less attractive aspects of the job—such as boring work or long hours—they end up with employees who don't want to be there.

8. Treating the interview like a one-way street. A good interview is a two-way conversation, not an interrogation. It’s important to ensure that job candidates get a good understanding of the job, the culture, and the expectations—and there should be plenty of time for them to ask their own questions.

[See Ignore These 10 Outdated Pieces of Job-Search Advice.]

9. Being inconsiderate of the candidate. Interviewers who start interviews late, cancel at the last minute without apology, or read their email during the interview may find that the best candidates don’t want to work for them. Which leads us to ...

10. Not “wooing” strong candidates. Interviewers too often feel that they’re the only one doing the picking and therefore don’t consider whether the company is coming across as an appealing place to work. Great candidates have options, and if an interviewer is rude or inconsiderate, that offer might not get accepted. In fact, plenty of people will even choose a lower-paying job over one where they think they won’t be treated well.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.


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