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TOP TEN Interviewer Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

TOP TEN Interviewer Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

We see the good, the bad, and the ugly in employer interviewing because we debrief every candidate who visits one of our employer clients.  We hear what they like and what they don’t like about the employer interview.  The advice below applies specifically to recruited candidates – those that are now working, but considering a possible change – and who need to be treated a bit differently than “applicants” – those who are actively pursuing a new job.  However, these tips really can apply to ALL candidate interviews.

Being Unprepared: The candidate can tell if you haven’t taken a look at their file recently (or ever).

A five minute review of candidate info makes you look far more professional, and is respectful of the candidate.

Using Wrong Criteria: Many interviewers assess “personality” – it is human nature to notice confidence, poise, communications skills, etc. – but FAIL to assess true capability.

Suspend “first impression” for 30 minutes, and create meaningful questions to assess the individual’s capability to produce the desired results.


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No Defined Objectives: Without defined objectives, interviewers are limited in assessing what the candidate has that can predict future performance.

Create SMART (specific, measurable, etc.) performance objectives and ask relevant questions.

Missing Candidate Motivation: Interviewers often “sell” the positive attributes of the company and/or the position, without knowing what the candidate wants.

ASK the candidate why they are considering a change, and what would most attract them to a new role (then talk about company/job features that match their greatest interest).

Screening Out: Some inexperienced or untrained interviewers (often called in on panel screening) feel like they are doing a better job if they rule someone out rather than rule in.

Make sure everyone on the interview team knows the critical screening criteria, and how hard it may be to find ideal candidates.  Help them adjust their attitude to rule in.

Negative Screening: Following the termination of a poor performer, interviewers sometimes screen negatively – to make sure the new prospect isn’t like the person they just let go.  Candidates experience discomfort in this type of interview.

“Reframe” the failings of the last person into the positive attributes you need, and your questions will take a more favorable tone.

Failing to “Recruit”: Busy interviewers often set an agenda focused on “What do I need to know?”, and fail to incorporate recruitment (what the candidate needs to know) into the meeting.  Evaluating the candidate is important, but remember they are evaluating you too.

Plan to include info about the company, be responsive to candidate motivation, and leave time for candidates to get their questions answered.

Talking instead of Interviewing: We know one executive who talks about his company for 20 minutes, then asks the candidate “what questions do you have for me?” – without asking the candidate a thing!  Candidates are actually uncomfortable getting hired on style or chemistry alone, and they wonder how this type of interview could yield a good hire.

Even if you are relying on others for technical or objectives-oriented screening, you should ask some questions that will give you information on which to make a sound decision.  This will help the candidate to trust that you know how to ensure a good fit.

Interviewer Bias: Some interviewers start off with strong biases, such as “I only want someone from a big (or small) company” or “I want someone with a personality just like mine.”  Such biases are blinders that prevent you from seeing real capability.

Keep an open mind.  People from varied backgrounds can bring different strengths to the table.  Building a team with a balance of people, who possess complementary personality traits is a very strong management strategy.

Intuitive Interviewing: Senior executives often pride themselves on trusting their gut – using an intuitive approach to selection.  They may miss the substance of whether the person can really perform.

Objective criteria (evidence of success) is critical in hiring.  If you won’t do it – assign this part of the screening to another person on your interview team.

Illegal or Inappropriate Questions: Amazingly, interviewers still ask about family, age, and other off-limits issues.  They also ask subtle but also inappropriate questions, like:  Would you need flexible hours (implying and fishing for family info)?  Would you need relocation assistance (How are you going to handle that commute)?

Stick to the straight and narrow, and don’t cause candidates to squirm by tiptoeing over the line.

No Rapport / Comfort: Lots of people doing interviews hate interviewing, and do it only because they have to.  It shows.  When the interviewer does nothing to establish rapport or provide a comfortable environment, it is a huge turn-off.

– Meet the candidate at their model of the world, and seek to create an atmosphere of comfort.  Providing this for another person will actually make YOU more comfortable as well