First time interviewing a candidate? Avoid these mistakes

Author: Christine Wright, MD Hays Asia

As a manager of a growing team, interviewing other people properly is essential. For the most part, a good interview technique will help you to put the candidate at ease, get the very best out of them and ultimately make a fair and educated assessment of their suitability. Not only this, interviewing effectively will ensure that you make the right hiring decisions throughout your career, guaranteeing the success of your teams going forward. However, this skill is too often overlooked and not given the attention it deserves. Most first-time hiring managers simply aren’t taught the basics of interviewing, or reminded of the fact that this is a two-way process, and that they too are being assessed by the candidate.

As a result, many hiring managers tend to make similar mistakes when conducting their first interview. In this blog, I hope to highlight what these common mistakes are, so that you can avoid these ahead of time:

Not reading the candidate’s CV before the interview

Schedule half an hour before each interview to familiarise yourself with the candidate you are about to see. Review any projects and examples of their work which are of interest, and take a look at their LinkedIn profile. Doing so will help you feel prepared, and allow you to start building a rapport with the candidate.

Being too quick to judge

During your preparation for the interview, be mindful not to form any preconceived ideas or opinions about the candidate’s suitability for the role. Perhaps, after reading their CV, you are concerned about a possible skills gap or career decision that they made. Whilst these concerns may well be justified, don’t rule any candidate out or make any snap judgements before interviewing them, or even during. Keep an open mind and give the candidate a fair chance.

Poor timekeeping

Turning up late to the interview is poor form and will only serve to worsen the candidate’s nerves. Likewise, hurrying the candidate out of the door once the interview has ended because you have another meeting to attend is discourteous, and can damage your reputation as an employer.

Whilst of course your role is demanding and you don’t often have the luxury of time, do try to make a concerted effort to clear at least 30 minutes either side of the interview. Treat the candidate and the entire hiring process as your priority, because at this point in time, it is.

Not putting the candidate at ease from the start

Being on time to the interview may help keep the candidate’s nerves at bay for a brief moment, but this can soon be undone if you don’t make a concerted effort to make the candidate feel at ease from the beginning of the interview.

Be sure to greet the candidate warmly. Smile, shake their hand, and make conversation as you walk to the interview room. Make sure you are in a private area, and if there is no space in your office, meet at a quiet café near your work. As I said, the candidate will already be nervous, and distractions such as ringing phones, curious employees peering into the room as they walk past, or people knocking on your door to ask you a question, certainly won’t help.

Giving a robotic introduction

When interviewing a candidate, always start by giving a short introduction to yourself, the company, as well as the vacancy you are hiring for. This may sound like a simple task, but it can be surprisingly easy to slip up here.

Avoid giving an unstructured, generic introduction, by simply rattling off information in the job description and company website. Instead bring the opportunity to life for the candidate, and give them an insight that they wouldn’t have been able to find during their preparation for the interview. Explain how the role has evolved, why it is important to the company’s purpose and objectives, and what a typical working day might look like. Talk about the company culture, the team dynamic, and your favourite aspects of working here. Ultimately, make the candidate feel excited about the opportunity and able to picture themselves in the role.

Appearing disinterested

Another big red flag for a candidate is an interviewer who appears completely disinterested in what they have to say. Hopefully you know to put your phone away during the interview and refrain from checking it. However your subconscious behaviours could let you down if you aren’t paying attention; from not making eye contact to fidgeting and looking around the room.

Make a conscious effort to adjust your behaviour when interviewing a candidate; sitting up straight, leaning in when they speak, maintaining eye contact, smiling and nodding as they answer, and taking notes. Above all, listen intently to them. If you are truly paying attention and are engaged with what the candidate has to say, this will naturally be conveyed in your body language and behaviour.

A poor questioning technique

Now onto the most important part: your interview questions. Another mistake I often see first time interviewers make, is asking the wrong types of questions, or asking them in the wrong way. For instance:

  • Not assessing soft skills: Some interviewers may neglect to ask those questions which will reveal more about the candidate’s soft skills, such as being well organised or a good listener. Whilst these traits are more inherent and can’t always be taught, they will undoubtedly be beneficial to the role. You can read more about how to assess soft skills in an interview here
  • Forgetting about cultural fit: Many new hires don’t work out simply because the company culture is wrong in some way or another. Don’t forget to ask the questions which could indicate how well the candidate would fit in with the team and company culture. You can read more about how to assess cultural fit in an interview here
  • Not asking about their ambitions: This new hire is an investment, and whilst some questions which assess the suitability for the role may feel like a priority, you will also more than likely want your new hire to stay and progress internally. Therefore ask questions about the candidate’s career ambitions, areas in which they would like to develop, and their longer term goals. You can read some examples of these questions here
  • Asking closed questions: The candidate should be doing most of the talking during the question and answer session of the interview, so avoid asking closed questions which only produce a simple yes or no answer. For instance, ask the candidate “why do you want this job?” as opposed to “do you want this job?” This should prompt more detailed and relevant responses. Once the candidate has finished answering, don’t jump straight to the next question either, instead, engage with their answer and if necessary, ask them to elaborate
  • The questions are essential to finding the best person for the job, so really think about what you want to know about the candidate beforehand and prepare a thorough, well rounded list of questions to ask when interviewing.

Not being ready for their questions

Don’t get so preoccupied with getting your own questions right that you forget to prepare yourself for those which the candidate might ask you. It would be a good idea to review some of the questions that we advise candidates to ask in an interview, making sure you could answer these well if needed.

Speaking negatively

On the subject of questions, the candidate may well ask you how the role came about. Whatever you do, do not say anything negative about the predecessor for this role. Even if they left on bad terms, there’s no need to share this information.

The candidate may also ask you about some of the challenges you face as a business or within your team, after all, challenges at work are inevitable. But again, this type of question still demands a positively and professionally phrased answer. Yes, you can talk about the trials you are sometimes up against, but place the emphasis on how you work to overcome them.

Not confirming the next steps

Lastly, make sure you are clear with the candidate on what the next steps of the hiring process are. Confirm time frames and when they can expect to hear back. Thank them for their time, and provide feedback to your recruiter as soon as you have had the chance to reflect on this candidate’s suitability.

The key point you should take away from my advice is this: When interviewing a candidate, it is important not to get complacent and think all of the hard work is down to them. Like I said in the beginning, the job interview is a two way process, and the candidate needs to be sold on your suitability as their next employer. Therefore, make sure you prepare fully, show an interest, and ultimately, tell the candidate why they should choose you above everybody else.

Thank you for reading! For more useful advice and insights about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.