Over the past few years, hiring managers have seen their jobs made easier through technological innovation. Applicant tracking systems, niche jobs boards, digital advertising, and social media empower HR departments to target specific types of candidates, communicate with them directly, and glean vast amounts of information in a short amount of time. But, despite these innovative solutions, the good old-fashioned job interview continues to be the most important phase of the hiring pipeline. While it is famously nerve-wracking for the interviewee, it can also be challenging for the interviewer, who is required to:
- Research the candidate beforehand
- Ask pertinent, incisive questions
- Keep the prospective employee comfortable
- Learn details about the candidate’s attitude, aspirations, and cultural fit.
HR departments can struggle to find the perfect long-term candidate and getting the most out of a job interview begins with understanding the common pitfalls.
What happens in a bad interview?
A bad interview begins with you, the interviewer, showing up late and giving your prospective candidate a limp handshake. If it’s a Skype interview, you might be backlit, or dressed in your pajamas. Since you didn’t do any research, you might look over the interviewee’s application materials for the first time, if at all. You could ask vague questions such as can you tell me a little about yourself? or clichéd questions such as what is your biggest flaw? As you ask these questions, you would act distracted and check your phone every few minutes. You might leave for a while for some unspecified reason, forcing the candidate to wait. If the interviewee gets to ask you questions about a typical day at the office, benefits, and potential for growth within the organization, you will give answers that are glib, vague, and noncommittal. You will conclude the interview by failing to describe to a concrete timeline for the decision-making process, leaving your prospective employee feeling completely neglected and totally in the dark.
It’s important to recognize that the interview is a two-way street—it’s not just a chance for the candidate to shine, it’s also an occasion for you to showcase your employer brand and present your company as an attractive destination.
What can I do to be better?
If the candidate is truly outstanding, he or she will end up with multiple offers, and it’s up to you to be their first choice, by creating a truly memorable, mutually-informative interview experience.
- Know exactly what kind of candidate you’re looking for. It will be impossible for you to find the perfect member of your team if you don’t know what “perfect” means. Talk with your current employees about the essential core qualities of the job. Prepare questions that reveal answers to determine if your interviewee fits the criteria.
- Do extra research beforehand. We’re living in the era of personal branding and social media. In addition to carefully reading your candidate’s cover letter and resume, look at your candidate’s social media pages or Google them to learn about any additional experience or certifications. If you ask about this prior research, it will show that your interest is genuine and that you’re eager to learn more about your candidate.
- Answer questions honestly, clearly, and thoroughly. As an interviewer, “I’m not sure” simply cannot be in your vocabulary. You should anticipate that your interviewee will ask questions about the nitty-gritty details of the position—salary, hours, benefits, paid time off, etc.,—in addition to the more general aspects, such as workplace culture and a shared sense of a mission.
- Practice empathy. Understand that your candidate might be a little nervous. How you conduct yourself will have a big impact on their comfort level.