Interviewers' Most Common Missteps
Recruitment, one of the core HR functions in corporate organisations and the ‘show reel’ of recruitment usually lies in the interview, a platform to explore how the relationship can work out. This critical component typically last sometime from 30mins to 3 hours, involves the time of not only hiring managers but sometimes upper management to even the C-level personnel. In essence, the intention of an interview is for company representatives and the candidate to get a feel of each other to come an understanding if a working relationship can be formed.
Interviews are often seen as a HR activity, so as a HR Practitioner we are essentially key drivers of this activity, as it goes a long way towards solving manpower related issues within the organisation or compound the challenge further. To all HR practitioner, if you took on being honest with yourself, we have received little to almost formalized training for something so important in most places. What about the hiring managers, or other stakeholders in the interviews? Do they know what to ask, how to conduct an interview? How to assess if the candidate is suitable or otherwise. In a nutshell, how do we as HR Practitioner assist the business in the best manner in an area where there's very little formalization?
As a recruiter with both in house and agency experience, and collectively having spoken to quite a number of candidates, recruiters, hiring managers and HR personnel... I have observed that there are some glaring missteps which I will generalize it below and hopefully make this process easier and in the longer term, more effective for your organisation.
Misstep 1: Not reading the CVs and Cover Letters
This is a very common scenario in interviews where interviews are not only actively reading the CV on the spot, but they also ask questions regarding skills that are clearly listed in the candidate’s CV. It creates a very embarrassing situation for the interviewers and does actually create various impact on the candidate. Some examples of negative impacts this has on the interviewer and candidate:
1. Interviewer is busy reading the CV, hence not actually paying attention to the interview ask questions which the candidate already / just touched upon.
2. By not being prepared, the interviewer is actually not participating in the interview to create a conversation of how we can work together. Rather all the awkward questions mentioned in point 1 continually goes on in the session, it's like one of those embarrassing first dates where there's no fun for either parties. It is just harder to look forward to something and be excitable when most of the time, one is just trying to play 'catch up' on the spot. So if the interview is stale, responsibility might not lie entirely with the candidate's personality.
3. Creates a negative impression for the candidate where the candidate might feel disrespected, irritated which is really uncalled for and cannot be further away from the actual intention the interview is to achieve.
The CV is designed to tell you as much as you need to know before having the conversation with the candidate. It is not just a screening tool to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the qualifying stage, but see it as material that can have you effectively prepare for the interview, and ask the questions that would create further value for evaluating the candidate than simply asking the candidate to talk about things already written in CV.
This also creates an effect of creating a brand new experience for the candidate, where the hiring side has actually taken an interest and done all the necessary homework. I noticed a lot of hiring managers would like the candidates to come prepared knowing about the organisation, it works the same way as well for the candidate on this point.
Interviewers will also be able to look forward to the interview, anticipating the most crucial and important information that would like to find out and discuss with the candidate as opposed to doing the thinking and analysis on the fly during the interview. This ensures that the interviewers covers the areas that are actually important to them making a decision about the candidate, and creates the opportunity for the conversation with the candidate on the gaps and engage him / her on how to deal with it.
Misstep 2: Being late on interviews
This one is very much an understatement, being late just doesn’t work. It creates a whole host of effects that actually impacts the interview. The impacts are:
1. Often, interviewers are moving from one meeting to another, not having enough time to refresh yourself for what might be a very different kind of meeting to the one you rushed from. We all need breaks, even the computer needs to be restarted, so do you as an interviewer. It is extremely important for you to be present mentally inside the interview as opposed to still be thinking about the meeting before, or even the meeting that you are heading to next.
2. The candidate is busy too and might have taken time out from his / her schedule to be on time for the meeting. There might only be that one hour that was allocated by the candidate before he or she needs to attend to something else. Being late just means lesser time to discuss what is important. It shortchanges you the opportunity to actually find out more about this candidate which could have made a huge difference in hiring this personnel or not.
3. The candidate is most definitely entitled to feel disrespected when the interviewer is late and this might create an upset, opinions and judgements about the interviewer (hiring manager), or the company. We know the effects of media and information these days as websites such as glassdoor provides prospective candidate pool out there about the company’s interview and their experience in going for one. Long term impact could also cripple your potential candidate pool as market creates a negative view about the company.
Being late in an interview is just ineffective as a measure of effectiveness, and simply creates further challenges to recruitment. Plan ahead, respect the interview and this would create an awesome candidate experience which translate to free marketing for your company as a choice employer.
Misstep 3: False impression
Far too often as a recruiter, I have heard candidates provide positive feedback that the hiring managers actually told them that they would be moving on to the next round of the hiring process only to have the hiring mention that the decision is actually retracted or not happening anymore.
This is almost similar to the previous about about being late where it creates a lot of unfulfilled expectations which is really uncalled for. Making promises and not fulfilling them simply creates negativity prior to any working relationship being formed. Good luck to having a great relationship. Always apologize if you are late, it makes a big difference!
Sidetracking a little from this topic, often interviewers ask where the candidates see themselves in 5 years’ time, where the candidates see themselves in 10 years’ time. Think about it, just how critical are such questions? If it is critical, then how much of what the candidate says do you actually take it without any doubts or judgements? A much more effective way to manage finding out the future intentions of the candidate would be to invite the candidate to share what is the type of career he envisions himself moving into, or interest him right now. What is important from a career perspective right now?
Remember, you are not interviewing the candidate for a job 5 - 10 years from today, but rather a job right now. Most hiring managers and interviewers would like candidates who would stay on in the organisation and this is a very legitimate concern that would need to be established with the candidate. Interestingly, I do observe hiring managers / interviewers who leaves shortly after the candidate joined... just how ironic is that? Would you as an interviewer be staying in the same job in 5 - 10 years? Just how much value does it provide if you were told what the person sees himself in 5 - 10 years during the interview?
The key here is not to create some sort of check box where it becomes all about ticking and crossing the boxes, but rather a participative manner the future of the company and candidate can be created and supported in the interview.
Misstep 4: Asking Hypothetical fantasy scenario type question
I have got feedback from candidates that they were asked questions that were total curve balls like: “if you were the stuck in X place with with only X items, what would you do?”. I am sure you get the gist of the type of questions we are talking about here, and I am sure you should have heard your fair share of it. In all honesty, what is the point of these questions?
It also serves to weird the the candidate out and there are no basis or logic in what insights questions like this can provide the interviewer with. Would and should the assessment of a suitability of the candidate be based on questions like this? How much weight-age is to be given to a question like this? And if a question like that is actually critical, why go through the rest of the interview and spend time talking about anything else? Unless you are looking for survival skills, creativity personnel, humanitarian etc., you get the gist of it, these questions actually serves no purpose in how well this candidate can perform on the job.
Misstep 5: Asking inappropriate and personal questions
I have also received feedback from candidates that they were asked questions that are highly personal such as religion, marital status which are typically advised by government linked bodies to be discriminatory and inappropriate.
I have also gotten feedback about candidates being asked questions like: “What do you do in your free time?”. While questions like this serves to understand the candidate better, going deeper into their answers would simply be highly inappropriate and deviates away from what the job requires and what it would take for the candidate to succeed in this role. It is not important to find out why the candidate supports a certain sports team unless it is actually critical to the job and if so, the onus is on the interviewer to explain the intention behind asking such a question.
This is a professional setting and not a bar / social environment and it would be highly inappropriate to ask such questions.
Summing it up
There are actually a lot more I can share personally but the key takeaway from this article would be to re-evaluate and ask ourselves as interviewers what can we do different in interviews that can have the process be beyond the effectiveness known to us right now. Are we in an interview looking for evidence on how the candidate will fail or succeed in the role? In other words playing some divine Oracle? Or we are in the session to work out with the candidate potential action plans and ultimately use the interview to position the candidate to be successful in the role. There is a difference behind the intentions of wanting a person to be successful (which most hiring managers and HR Practitioners are) vs creating that the person is successful. Create every candidate interviewed is the successful candidate, I am sure the conversations would be way more meaningful.