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Interviewing > Talent Acquisition

How NOT to Interview Job Candidates

Today I came across this great tongue-in-cheek post on Datamation’s blog about how not to interview.  Even though blogger Chris Nerney focuses his post on the IT industry, his list of ways to alienate job seekers is applicable across the board.  And because it seemed like a great complement to my colleague Matt Wilson’s recent post about the Top 14 Interview questions, I wanted to share: 

  1. Make sure the job’s responsibilities are unclear. This one speaks for itself.
  2. Bait and switch.  Kind of deceitful to bring the candidate in only to try to sell him/her into another job that’s available, no?
  3. Trash the person who previously held the available position. Classy.
  4. Make the applicant wait at least a half-hour past the appointed interview time. Trying to send the message that you’re beyond rude and/or couldn’t care less about who fills the position? Mission accomplished.
  5. Eat at your desk during the interview. Another great tactic.
  6. Take personal calls during the interview. Ditto.
  7. Make it clear in the interview that you’re reading the applicant’s resume for the first time. The hits just keep on coming.
  8. Have only an HR person do the interview. No explanation needed.
  9. Be absolutely inflexible about benefits. Good luck staying competitive with other companies who are hiring.
  10. Be evasive about your company’s financial health and market strategy. When your employees find out – and they will – they’ll get out fast.  (But don’t worry – nothing helps a financially struggling company like high turnover. Oh, wait…)

As is so often the case, it’s funny because it’s true.  Nerney claims that more than a few of these things have happened to him, and judging from both personal experience and second-hand accounts, I have no doubt he tells the truth.

Inspired by Datamation’s list, I wanted to add my own list of how not to conduct a job interview:

  1. Break the ice by using sarcasm or telling jokes, anecdotes and witticisms.  These things are the most readily misunderstood means of communication. If you really want to turn a candidate off, attempt making light of sensitive subjects, such as gender, age or ethnicity. (Bonus points if you can do it without incurring a lawsuit!)
  2. Give away the milk for free.  While you don’t want to be completely vague, you also don’t want to give too much information about the position and responsibilities – at least not up front.  When you do this, you might as well be saying, “This is what you should tell me if you want this job, whether it’s true or not.”  Share information as the interview proceeds.
  3. Use the standard interview questions.  Or you could simply save time by saying, “We’re no different than every other company you’ve interviewed with.”  Standard and generic questions demand standard and generic answers. Target questions to the specific position.
  4. Ask “yes or no” questions. Even if “yes” or “no” is your desired response, rephrase the question to get more details from the candidate.  These questions also tend to reveal your preferred answers, and lead candidates to say what they know you want to hear.  No job seeker will say “no” to a question like, “Would you take care of an irate customer and help them out if they called to complain?”
  5. Ask them what year they graduated from school. Candidates could interpret it as a way to determine their age, but asking about age is only appropriate when it relates to job duties or to determine the need for a work permit. Even then, you should phrase the question to something like, “Are you at least 18 years old?”
  6. Ask about race, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, smoking, health or disabilities.  Just as you would during dinner at the Olive Garden with the in-laws, avoid these questions during a job interview. It’s rarely appropriate or legal to ask questions in regards to these things. If candidates volunteer such information, steer the conversation back to work experience or qualifications. (Also, if you have more than 15 employees, you are required by law to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.)
  7. Bring up marital status, children, personal life, pregnancy and arrest record.  Awkward!  Also (that other important quality to consider) illegal. As with #6, if you believe you have an exception to this rule, consult with an attorney for advice before the interview to ensure that you are correct.

Of course, there’ll be some rare exceptions to the above rules. But just to keep yourself and company safe, if ever you’re not sure about a questionable, um, question…consult Wikipedia with an attorney for advice to avoid any future legal ramifications.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.


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