The Perils of Interviewing Part 1: Interviewers

A great deal of responsibility lies on the shoulders of a chosen interviewer; what questions to ask to achieve the right answers, who the best hire is for a certain position, who to offer an interview to in the first place – a single misstep could set off a minefield of disaster, highlighting how perilous interviewing can be.

This is why there are certain steps to be closely followed, and other steps that shouldn’t be taken at all, to ensure a careful and calculated process that will lead you to the right hire with as little error as possible. While this article isn’t a definitive guide to the perfect interviewing process, it contains a few helpful pointers to lend some aid in making said process run a little smoother.

The Dos

  • Do approach the early stages with absolute scrutiny. For each chosen candidate, read their resumes as carefully as you possibly can. There are plenty of ways of getting to know a potential employee beforehand, from Linkedin research and references to pre-employment testing, but whatever you do – make sure you have all the information you need on an interviewee prior to interviewing them. There’s no surer way of making an uninformed decision on a fresh hire than by not learning as much as you can about them with whatever resources you have prior to interviewing. Otherwise, you’ll likely spend the entire interview simply reading over their resume, which should have been done prior to the meeting.
  • Do ensure that you take all aspects of a candidate into account – not just their experience and education. Just because one candidate has 3 years of experience, that doesn’t immediately mean they’re a better fit for a position than someone with only 6 months of experience. It’s what the experience entailed that matters, not just how much of it they have, and there are many more factors that contribute to a person’s capabilities than just their time in the industry. Remember; quality over quantity. A strong portfolio from one job is far more valuable than an average one from many. The lack of understanding that prior experience is not the be-all-or-end-all of a candidate’s abilities is one of the contributing factors to positions remaining unfilled; a 2015 report states that 47% of small businesses cannot find qualified applicants for open positions. The chances are that at least a significant portion of these are placing too much emphasis on prior work experience, and not enough on general skills, attitude, and personality.
  • Do remember that the interview is about the candidate more than anything/anyone else. While it’s important to discuss the company and what would be expected of them, the chances are that they’ve already done their research, or at the very least read the job description (so you would hope). Asking them “so what do you know about our company?” is fine, but it’s best to let them do most of the talking. Otherwise, you not only risk sounding like you’re more interested in talking about yourself and your company than you are letting them give a successful interview, but you could also end up giving your candidates answers to questions before you’ve even asked them.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t stick solely to your interviewee’s resume, as helpful as it can be. Anybody can write whatever they want about themselves, and trusting entirely in a piece of paper could easily blind you to what lies beyond. Remember – more than half of interviewees are reported to have lied on their resumes. Make sure you ask them questions about their work ethic and workplace aptitude that don’t directly relate to any set position. There’s no better way to find out whether someone’s written experience is wholly honest by asking them to tell you about experiences beyond what’s written on their ink-and-paper description of themselves. The stumbling of words, the inability to answer in detail, and a confident interviewee suddenly looking like a deer in headlights are all telltale signs of someone who exaggerated their abilities and work history without preparing to elaborate or delve into the details which come with legitimate experience.
  • Don’t ask them questions only related to their strengths. An interviewee has more than likely prepared to present you with all the positive aspects of their professional personality, but, for the most part, they will deliberately try to keep any of their traits that could be deemed as negative from coming to light. Finding out where a potential employee needs improvement is just as important for ensuring their suitability in a role as finding out where they thrive. Having flaws doesn’t mean someone isn’t worth hiring, but their willingness to talk about these flaws and embrace them can show real character; the kind you would want to hire.
  • Don’t nitpick for the sake of it. It’s easy for interviewers to be conditioned to look for pitfalls. Why has a candidate taken a 6-month career gap between roles? Why have they stayed in the same position for 4 years running? Whilst it’s good to ask about these matters, it’s a bad habit to instantly assume the worst and see them as negative. Maybe your potential hire took a career break to work on certain skills, or perhaps they stayed in one position for a long time to gain a fair deal of experience. Or maybe, just maybe, they were simply struggling to find another job. So what? We’ve all been there. Even the best workers can struggle climbing the career ladder from time to time, and this isn’t something worth immediate judgment. The real sign of someone’s character is how they deal with whatever life throws at them, not their inability to avoid unavoidable circumstances every once in a while.