Stellar employees are the foundation of any great company, but hiring those great employees isn’t always easy. The interview is the single most important aspect of any recruiting process, and it directly relates to future success and fit between a company and the candidate.
While many hiring managers just assume an interview is an exchange of questions and answers about job experience between an interviewer and job candidate, it isn’t always obvious what goes into making an interview great. Spending some quality time preparing for and conducting the interview will help build an exceptional workplace.
The interview is often the best means a hiring company has to determine if an applicant is qualified for a position and would be a good fit. Yet, many interviewers are a bit clueless in terms of interview skills, may lack proper interview training and may be ineffective at the process. While they might have their own “day jobs” to worry about, managers should be part of any hiring process for their potential staff to make sure they’re identifying future enablers of success at the company.
Below are five interview traps that can be easy to fall into and make an interview less effective. By being aware of them, hiring managers can become very effective at identifying future enablers of success for the company.
- Be wary of small talk. Often times, small talk is geared around personal topics that are unrelated to the job. While the purpose may be simply to break the ice, such topics could steer an interviewer into a conversation that could be illegal. Small talk is also sometimes used as a way to fill awkward silences or as a crutch to buy time when there has been poor interview preparation. While it can help lighten the mood, much of it is irrelevant to the job. Really, the interview should be kept job related at all times. You can still judge a candidate’s personality fit without small talk by directly asking how a candidate may have dealt with a co-worker or boss on a given project.
- What’s with the crazy questions? There seems to be a movement to ask some rather ridiculous interview questions lately. One such example is, “If you were an animal, what would you be?” Interviewers say the goal is to throw a candidate off and see how they respond. While it’s helpful to see how someone responds under pressure, it is also important to develop questions that are really going to help gauge the applicant’s ability to do the job. If they chose dog versus bird, does that really help to determine if they’ll succeed at work? Behavior or performance-based questions are questions where an applicant has to answer how they completed a given task in the past. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance and can be a great tool for determining success in a position. A few great performance based questions are: “Tell me a time you were faced with a challenge and how did you overcome it?” and “Give an example of a team you worked on.
- Listen up! An interview isn’t a time for the interviewer to talk; it’s a time to listen. A general rule of thumb is that the interviewer should speak for no more than 20 percent of the interview. As an applicant responds to in-depth questions, you can probe further for more details as you need to. The interviewer should be prepared to give an overview of the job, the company and the benefits and that’s it. This shouldn’t take up too much time.
- Put down the phone. While it may be difficult to steal away for a few minutes during the day to conduct an interview, interviewers should still work to minimize distractions such as emails, phones, knocks on the door and texts. Focusing attention on the applicant will help hiring managers make more informed decisions about an interviewee’s potential success.
- Emily Post, look out. The old adage of treat others how you’d like to be treated holds true for interviews, too. Job seekers put plenty of attention on preparing for the interview. On the contrary, too little attention is often given by managers or executives to adequately prep for the same interview. There is nothing worse to a job candidate than a manager walking into an interview who has absolutely no clue about that person’s previous experience or hasn’t given any thought to the kinds of questions to ask. A successful interview depends on targeted questions that will help a hiring manager evaluate a specific candidate for a specific role. This can’t be done on the fly.
In order to help ensure an interview is as successful as possible, it is crucial to avoid these common interview traps. Don’t assume all managers or executives are good interviewers. While they’re likely bright, educated and successful, they may not be equipped to ask the right questions and evaluate candidates. Always keep in mind the end goal – being able to gauge a candidate’s ability to do the job and fit into the company and culture. Keeping this is mind will help make better hires and these hire will become the building blocks to an exceptional workplace.
About the Author
As founder and CEO of Insight Performance, an HR consulting firm, Nancy Mobley enjoys bringing her vision to life, building exceptional workplaces for her clients by developing their human resources. Her passion for linking people’s performance to increased business performance has a proven track record, both for her clients and the Insight team.
Prior to founding Insight, Nancy was a senior consultant and team manager for Watson/Wyatt Worldwide. She began her career in HR at Prime Computer by managing strategic business partnerships, compensation, benefits, training, and employee relations functions. Nancy is recognized as a coach, teacher, and author in the area of building high performance work environments. A graduate of Wheaton College, Nancy is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Society of Human Resource Management.
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