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6 common interview mistakes employers make

Hiring the wrong person wastes your organisation’s time and money and is bad for
morale. Probably the most challenging part of the hiring process, and the area most susceptible to error, is the interview itself.  Many interviewers really don't find out much about a candidate's capability, because they don't know how.  Here are some of the most common mistakes made by interviewers, and TPP’s suggested solutions.

1. Fail to prepare

Relying on stock standard questions is one of the most common interview mistakes, especially with so many list
​of typical questions and pre-prepared answers available to candidates online.  “Tell me about yourself” is not an exciting first question and will not elicit the right information from a candidate.  Take time before the interview to put together a list of in-depth questions that will determine whether a candidate has the key skills and experience for your role.

In most cases it is beneficial to have more than one person interviewing the candidate/s in order to gain an alternative perspective and to remain unbiased.  However, if other employees and teams are brought in, make sure they do not repeat the same questions already asked.  If possible, assign different areas of questioning to different people based on their expertise.

2. Don’t know which requirements are key

When putting the job description together for a vacancy, you will have come up with a ‘wishlist’ of skills, qualifications, experience, interests and personality traits for an ideal candidate.  In reality, candidates are unlikely to fully meet every requirement and in order to determine the best one for a role you will need to assign a weight to each requirement so that they can be ranked.

Competency-based questions can then be used to determine how well each candidate meets the key requirements, and gives them an opportunity to justify their claims with examples, ensuring you are always talking about skills in the context of your objectives.  Determining which requirements are absolutely key to a role will ensure you don’t settle on a candidate who may be the best at interview but doesn’t have the skills you need.

3. Rely only on the interview

According to the Chally Group, a Human Resources consulting firm, in, The Most Common Hiring Mistakes, research at the University of Michigan found that, "The typical interview increases the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2%. In other words, if you just 'flipped' a coin you would be correct 50% of the time. If you added an interview you would only be right 52% of the time."

As well as an interview, there are several additional ways to judge a candidate’s potential.  Some of the most common are personality testing, to judge how well a candidate will fit with an organisation’s culture, or asking them to perform a presentation or task.  The latter is especially useful if the successful person will be managing an important project or are supporter-facing.  Why not put them into a real on-the-job situation or problem that they might face in the first few months if they were to be hired?

4. Evaluate a candidate on the wrong factors

One of the most common mistakes interviewers make is to try and find a new recruit with the same traits as successful current employees, or even themselves.  A candidate with a complimentary, rather than identical, personality and skills may well be of greater benefit to the team.

It is also tempting, particularly in the not for profit sector, to favour candidates with winning personalities or an ethical stance similar to the interviewers.  Although it is important to bear cultural fit in mind when interviewing, most successful organisations have a wide range of employees with diverse personalities who excel in different ways.  Hiring a candidate because you enjoyed and liked them, as the main qualification, ignores your need for particular skills and experience.

Similarly, many inexperienced interviewers rely on their ‘gut’ feeling and first impressions.  While intuition can be a useful tool in interviewing, too much reliance on it can lead you to make false assumptions and to read too much into small observations.  For example, a strong or weak handshake is often said to influence interviewers, but actually has no bearing whatsoever on either a candidate’s personality or their ability to perform a role.

5. Fail to sell your organisation

A good candidate will already have researched your organisation, and certainly any candidate sent over by TPP will already be fully briefed and excited about joining.  However, an interview is a two way street and thus it is equally important for you to sell your organisation as it is for a candidate to sell themselves.

By concentrating too much on evaluation, some interviewers miss this opportunity to inspire and enthuse a candidate.  This is particularly important for hard-to-fill roles, where talented employees are in high demand.  Make sure you think through the key attractions of both the role and the organisation and communicate them clearly.

6. Fail to follow up

At the end of an interview, it’s important to do two things.  Firstly, if you feel that this candidate has the right experience and personal qualities, ask them if they are still interested in the role.  It is a simple, direct and above all honest question to ask, and allows you to clearly assess your shortlist going forward.  Secondly, make sure you outline the selection process going forward and let them know when to expect feedback.  This will help manage their expectations after the interview.

Having done that, it is extremely important to follow up on your promises and actually provide interview feedback to all candidates.  This is beneficial to candidates in helping them prepare for future interviews, but also protects and improves your reputation as an employer.  Not receiving constructive feedback is extremely frustrating for candidates and can lead them to have a negative opinion of your organisation which they might share.

All of these mistakes are unfortunately common among interviewers, and can directly influence the probability of hiring a happy, successful employee to benefit your organisation.  However, with some help from TPP and some preparation they can usually be easily overcome.

If you are not 100% confident in your interviewing technique, or would value some impartial advice, our consultants are happy to give advice or help putting together questions designed to rank candidates effectively.

We also offer our clients added services such as attending interviews for candidates to provide a second opinion.  You can find out more on our website.