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5 interview mistakes that can lead to hiring the wrong person

Error n. # 1: go with the flow

Inexperienced interviewers sometimes fall into the trap of letting the interview become “free form,” spending different amounts of time on different questions, basing follow-up questions on how candidates respond. This can result in a candidate taking control of the interview and taking you where you want to go, rather than where you can get the information you need.

Solution: Ask everyone the same questions. Prepare a list in advance, based on the information you need, and use it as a guide throughout the interview. Put each question on a separate sheet of paper and prepare a game for each candidate. As you go through the questions, use the appropriate sheets to take notes on the answers and on your own observations and impressions. You can vary the follow-up questions as needed, but keep your notes on the main question page. When you have followed this structure with all the candidates, you can compare them “apples to apples”.

Error n. # 2: ask predictable questions

Job seekers have many sources of interview help, and it is easy to get acceptable answers to standard questions. That means that even the wrong candidate for your position could answer the questions in a way that misleads you into thinking that he or she is a fit.

Solution: Ask candidates questions that force them to expand on their answers, illustrating their thinking skills as well as their attitudes and job competencies. Such questions can include:

  • If you could design your own work, what would it be like?
  • What is your favorite part of the work you do now? Because you like that?

Ask questions like these, and instead of practiced answers that tell you next to nothing, you’ll gain insight into who these people really are.

Mistake # 3: whitening the job

If you have a candidate in front of you who seems like a great choice, you obviously want that person to accept your job offer. Sometimes, however, you know that the job has inherent challenges or disadvantages, and you may be afraid of losing a good employee if you talk about it. The problem is that if you hire them and they discover the negatives themselves, it is very possible that they will lose them in the first week.

Solution: Be honest about challenges at work or within the company. Be on the lookout for candidates who accept and enjoy challenges, and who can see past the negatives. These can become your most valuable employees.

Error n. # 4: ignore the “fit” question

Every organization has a culture. It comes from a combination of the industry you are in, the ages of those who work there, the size of the company, the number of people, the geographic location, and many other factors. But that culture creates its own work environment, and if employees are not comfortable with that environment or do not work well in it, they do not “fit in.” This person will never be an asset to your company and, in fact, can leave very quickly.

Solution: ask questions whose answers demonstrate the personality and character of the candidate, their attitudes towards the workplace. An example of that type of question might be: Do you prefer a structured environment or a more laid-back and relaxed one? Why?

Error n. # 5: let a candidate’s main positive result blind him to the negatives

Sometimes a person can have an outstanding positive aspect: He worked for his main competitor, attended a university with a history of successful graduates, or even just comes from his hometown. If you also instinctively like the individual, it is tempting to get too swayed by this fact and not pay enough attention to others who are not so attractive.

Solution: When you record your notes on each candidate (see the solution to Mistake # 1), be sure to record both the negatives and positives on the appropriate pages. When you review your notes after the interview is over, you’ll be better able to balance the pros and cons fairly.

Candidates are usually sophisticated job seekers, who are well prepared for the interview. To avoid costly hiring mistakes, interviewers must be equally prepared for the process.

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