The Unicorn HRO Blog

Common mistakes to avoid when interviewing a job candidate

Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2016 by Unicorn HRO

Finding the right candidate for a role is one of the most important decisions a manager will have to make.  The ways in which employers interview their candidates aren’t always the best when it comes to choosing the right person for the job. There is no “perfect” way to conduct an interview and although the process is difficult, the following  list provides ways in which interviewers can improve their interviewing skills and the mistakes to avoid when interviewing a job candidate. 

1. Clear Criteria

Before advertising for the position, managers should have a clear understanding of the job responsibilities, the specific skill set and level of experience needed, as well as the type of qualifications required to perform the role. This information frames the job advertisement, guides the long and short listing process, and also forms the basis of interview questions. Converting these criteria into an interview scorecard helps interviewers to compare similar candidates across key specifications. Score sheets also record the interviewer’s impressions in real time during the interview. This ensures managers do not rely on their memory when trying to compare candidates during the selection process, and makes for a more reliable and accurate decision.

2. Analytical Interviewing

A common mistake made during the interview process is for managers and HR professionals to only trust their first impressions when meeting a candidate or reviewing resumes. Hiring based on a candidate’s likeability, rather than their strengths, skills, and suitability for the position fails to assess how well the candidate is likely to perform.  Likeability does not mean competence, and managers should always rely on objective analytical methods of interviewing.  Research has also shown that managers tend to hire candidates who are similar to themselves.  Over time this reduces the diversity of the workforce, creating a team which lacks unique skills sets and experiences necessary to get the job done.

3. Legally Compliant

Most managers are aware of the obvious legal “off-limits” questions during interviews. These questions  include probing questions about age, disability, ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation. There are also less obvious questions which may come from a genuine interest, but which are also legally off limits. These include asking the candidate if they socially drink or smoke, have intentions to start a family, or bringing up a subject matter not directly relevant to the job.In order to avoid this, it would be in the best interest of the hiring manager to keep up to date on what the law says about what you can and can’t ask during an interview.

4. Screening

Arranging, scheduling, and holding interviews is a time consuming and costly process. Long and short listing candidates helps prevent managers from inviting unsuitable candidates to interview. Another important step which is often overlooked by managers is that of telephone screening candidates. This additional step helps managers clarify any areas on the applicant’s resume, allows them to get a sense of whether the candidate would be a good fit with the company culture, and consequently compresses the short list.

5. Future focus

From reviewing a candidate’s resume, managers can get a good overview of a candidate’s previous experiences, past jobs roles, and possible achievements. Similarly, when compiling job descriptions, there may be a focus on what a previous employee in that role achieved, as well as their skill set, so that a similar replacement can be found. By using these methods, managers are missing out on a crucial opportunity to focus on how to develop the role so that it can meet the future long-term goals of the company. Similarly, when interviewing candidates, aside from exploring their previous roles, interview questions should be framed to encourage candidates to explain how they will apply their skills to the position in question.

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