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The Five Deadly Sins of Candidate Interviews

There are many all-too-common practices used in interviewing potential employees that create a surefire recipe for hiring mistakes. Beware of these five mistakes:

Not enough time for the interview process

Failing to give the interviewing process the time and effort it deserves is, by far, the main reason interviews fail to reveal useful information about a person. Although you may be busy, your job is to make every interview you conduct count. Encourage line managers who make their own hiring decisions to do the same.

Inconsistency between interviews

One major difference between interviewers who have a knack for picking winners and those who don’t is nothing more complicated than simple discipline. Skillful interviewers think through the process and tend to follow the same method every time — albeit with variations that they tailor to individual situations. Unsuccessful interviewers tend to wing it, creating a different routine for each interview and entering unprepared.

The hidden danger of a lack of planning: You deprive yourself of the one thing you need the most as you’re comparing candidates: an objective standard on which to base your conclusions. Without structure, you have no way of knowing whether the impressions you gather from the interview would be different if your approach and other aspects of the interview were consistent for each candidate.

If you wing it, you’re also not giving the candidate a very good impression of your company.

Talking too much

If you’re talking more than 20 percent of the time during a job interview, you’re talking too much. Savvy candidates are usually adept at getting their interviewers to do most of the talking. They’ve figured out that the more interviewers talk, the easier they, the candidates, can determine what answers are going to carry the most weight.

Probing through active listening (for example, letting the candidate’s comments spark related questions) is a critical interviewing skill because it allows you to gain valuable information you’d miss if you did most of the talking. You can — and should — react, comment on, and build on the answers that candidates give in job interviews.

Just bear in mind that the only thing you discover about a candidate during any session where you’re doing most of the talking is that the candidate knows how to listen.

Focusing on one positive attribute of a candidate and ignoring everything else

This situation describes the halo effect, a term managers often use to describe a situation in which the interviewer becomes so enraptured by one particular aspect of the candidate — appearance, credentials, interests, — that it colors all his other judgments.

You can’t always help yourself from placing too much significance on one part of the candidate’s overall presentation. At the very least, however, be aware of your halo-effect tendencies and do your best to keep them in check.

Playing armchair (psycho)analyst

The ability to read people can be an enormously valuable skill for anyone who interviews job candidates. But unless you’re formally trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist, leave your couch at home and try not to seek out the subconscious meaning behind everything the candidate says and does.

If you have strong evidence that ties certain psychological factors to a person’s ability to handle a particular job, great. Bring in an outside professional to help you develop questions that can capitalize on that knowledge.

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