You probably see all kinds of posts warning job seekers what not to do in an interview.
Much less frequent are articles about the pitfalls that hiring managers themselves face when conducting interviews. You might think that’s because you are the professional—you know what you’re doing, right? Nonetheless, it can be very easy to fall into some of these interview traps.
Don’t Be Distracted
Hiring managers are busy people with lots of responsibilities. You might be thinking about the upcoming meeting that you need to prepare for as soon as you get back to your desk. You might be thinking about the pile of resumes on your desk and who you’ll call if this interview goes sour.
But being distracted will harm the interview. Why? First and foremost, you could make the candidates uncomfortable. They may feel harried or rushed. That could make them give you poorer answers. You may have stellar candidates sitting in front of you—but you’d never know it, because they keep fumbling their words.
You could also be asking bad questions—or worse, not paying attention to the answers. Instead, put away other thoughts as soon as you enter the interview room. Forget about what’s keeping you up at night, forget all the tasks on your to-do list, and focus solely on the interview.
Don’t Forget the Paperwork
Did you bring the resume with you? If so, reread it during the interview. There’s nothing worse than hiring managers who ask the wrong questions. No one expects you to memorize every little detail of the resume before the interview. (But you should be prepared.)
Similarly, be familiar with the job description as it was posted. That’s what the candidates read and decided to apply to, so if you ask questions about an unrelated job or skills that weren’t listed in the job description, they may not be able to provide an answer. Worse, you may not be able to ask the right questions if you don’t know what you’re hiring for.
Don’t Ditch Structure
A structured interview gives you a benchmark for each candidate. This is especially important if you have more than one round of interviews; the first round of interviews is to determine who is really a good fit for the position.
While an unstructured interview has its place, save the meandering talks and “getting to know you” chat for a second round of interviews (or morning coffee after you’ve made the hire). A structured interview, especially in a first round of interviews, ensures you ask all candidates the same questions. That means you can uniformly evaluate each and every candidate according to the same criteria. That reduces the chance of making a hiring decision based on gut feeling—which often leads to poor hiring decisions.
Don’t Go It Alone
It’s sometimes unavoidable that you’ll end up conducting an interview alone—someone calls in sick, and you can’t reschedule the interview, and so on. But as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t be the only person in the room representing the company.
Why? Having a panel of people can help you more effectively and accurately assess the candidate. Someone else might be better at reading people than you are, or someone else might be a better listener. Two or three people will have different impressions of a candidate, and you can discuss the candidate among the group. If no one else was there, you’ll have to rely on your judgment alone
Sometimes, you walk out of an interview feeling that you’ve found “the one.” Even if other people present at the interview agree, don’t rush to hire that person.
Successful hiring managers let things percolate.
You may review the interview and, in hindsight, realize there were some things you did not like. You may have more questions than answers. Allowing yourself some time for reflection can save you from rushing into a bad decision.