Interviews have become synonymous with the pre-hire screening process, but very few companies use them effectively. One explanation for this stems from a lack of interviewer training and preparation. Most of us have experienced at least one terrible interview in our lives. Perhaps the interview went poorly because the interviewer appeared apathetic or unorganized? Or maybe the interviewer spent the entire time talking about herself? Some of us may have even been stood up for an interview or two (this blogger included). Effective interviewing is important not only because it leads to better hiring decisions and higher quality new hires, but also because interviewees are potential customers and creating a negative impression during an interview could impact a company’s reputation. Even worse, poor interviews can also have legal implications for organizations if the interviewer creates an impression that decisions are being made based on information that is not job relevant. The following represents a summary of common mistakes interviewers make and strategies for avoiding them.
Before the Interview
Preparation (or lack thereof) can make or break an interview. Many interviewers make the mistake of going into an interview without fully preparing and this can result in wasted interview time and a negative impression on the part of the candidate. Before an interview begins, the interviewer should have a comprehensive understanding of the competencies needed to be successful on the job. Thinking about those competencies and ensuring a complete understanding of the job before the interview can help interviewers focus on job relevant information during the interview. Interviewers should also review the candidates application materials (e.g., resume, cover letter, etc.) before the interview begins. This will allow the interviewer to concentrate on what the candidate says during the interview. Finally, as Stephanie mentioned in her recent blog, structured interviews are much better predictors of future performance than unstructured interviews. Reviewing and bringing a structured interview guide to follow during the interview is a critical preparatory step.
During the Interview
Being unprofessional and not following the interview guide is another common interviewer mistake that should be avoided. The connection that develops between a job candidate and an interviewer can occasionally cause the interviewer to obscure the lines between personal and professional behavior. Asking personal questions or sharing inappropriate information can lead to negative impressions and distract from the purpose of the interview. Interviewers can also get off track by spending too much time talking about themselves, the job, or the organization. While it is important to briefly discuss the company and the position to ensure the candidate has a complete understanding of what the role entails, the majority of the interview should consist of interview questions. As a rule of thumb, the candidate should speak about 90% of the time. Remember, the ultimate goal is gather information about the candidate’s capabilities to perform the job. Effective interviewers are friendly, show up on time, and adhere to the established interview procedure and timeline with each and every job candidate.
After the Interview
Other common mistakes can occur after the interview is complete. Many interviewers rely on general impressions when making hiring decisions. While general impressions can sometimes lead to correct decisions, a better strategy is to take detailed notes during the interview and make ratings after all information has been collected. When making those ratings, the interviewer should rate behaviors, not inferences, use the whole rating scale, compare candidates to the rating scale (rather than each other), and be aware of potential rating errors and biases. For example, a common rating error occurs when interviewers focus on candidate responses that occurred at the very beginning or very end of the interview. These responses are often easier to recall than the responses that occur during the middle of the interview; however, all of the responses are valid information when making a hiring decision.
To sum up, effective interviewers create positive impressions on candidates by remaining attentive and professional. They ensure that their hiring decisions are based on job relevant characteristics by following a structured interview guide, taking detailed notes during the interview, and rating each candidate based on his or her job relevant competencies rather than personal impressions.