15 Do’s and Don’ts for Better Interviewing

Are you a leader who routinely interviews job candidates?  If so, don’t bring in any more people without first having a look at this list:

1. DO look for candidates who are different from you and will add variety to your team. Recognize that human beings have the tendency to gravitate to people like themselves, but your goal should be to hire people who will complement your strengths, not duplicate them.

2. DON’T let first impressions get the better of you. Sometimes, you might meet a candidate whom you decide you want to hire immediately, and you might then ignore evidence brought forth in the interview that contradicts that opinion. This is known as the “halo effect.

3. DO spend at least 45 minutes with every interviewee. Managers who think they can size someone up in 5 or 10 minutes are wrong, pure and simple. All the advance preparation in the world won’t help you if you rush to judgment on a candidate.

4. DON’T put too much stock in “name brands.” Just because a candidate went to a top school or is currently with a prestigious firm doesn’t mean he or she is right for your position.

5. DO focus on the big picture. A candidate might be amazing in one area, but if his skill set isn’t a good match for the whole job as defined in your job analysis, you should probably keep looking.

6. DON’T write someone off just because he’s quiet or unruffled. What comes across as a low level of enthusiasm or a lack of motivation may just be his interview persona, and he could in fact be quite competent and able to do the job superbly well.

7. DO move on to a new question if you see that a candidate is visibly uncomfortable. The candidate may be nervous, so give her the benefit of the doubt. Once things are back on track, you can either rephrase it or ask for the same information in a different way.

8. DON’T let a candidate take over the meeting with her own agenda. If he’s talking too much and time is sliding by, politely interrupt by saying: “I’d love to hear more about that, but for now may I ask you about . . . ?”

9. DO look for red flags that could indicate a potential problem, and probe for explanations. Be on the alert for blushing, sudden loss of eye contact, sudden twitching, stammering, or fidgeting, a significant change in the pace of speaking, heavy perspiring, or inconsistency between nonverbal behavior and words.

10. DON’T think you can change a candidate. Her prickly personality has gotten her this far and she’s not likely to bend now.

11. DO assess the likelihood of retention. It costs a lot of time and money to hire someone, so you want to be sure he’s going to stick around a while.

12. DON’T succumb to desperation hiring. When your organization is hemorrhaging and your employees are crying for mercy, you may feel great pressure to get someone in now. But shotgun hiring often results in fast turnover, and you don’t want to find yourself in the same situation six months from now.

13. DO look for patterns. Does a candidate have a history of making lateral moves? If so, you may be hiring someone who will want a different job in your company in a few months. Does she complain that all her previous companies were too bureaucratic? If that’s the case, then she’s likely to come to the same conclusion about yours.

14. DON’T tell your life story. The candidate is not there to hear about your career and experiences, he’s there to tell you about his. Remember that when you’re talking, you’re not interviewing.

15. DO permit the occasional pause. We all hate silence during a conversation, but resist the urge to jump in and help the candidate with her answer.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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  • Darci Fletcher

     Hi Alexandra~
    Thank you for the valuable information!  As a job seeker, it is beneficial to see how “the other side” is dealing with the interview process!  I would like to debate a bit on #5…..If a candidate shows an amazing quality in one area, there is a great chance he/she would be amazing while learning on the job as well….in my experience, every place of business has something to learn and no matter how qualified someone is, they will not have ALL of the job skills already under their belt.

    thanks again for your insight!
    Darci

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  • Kahekili

    #1 – I told the person who I was interviewing with that I was reserved and he very firmly told me that no one else there was reserved.

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  • cajun2core

    Don’t totally discount someone for heavy perspiring. I have had to leave my current job, change into a suit in a bathroom (in another location) and then get to the interview. All of this in June in the deep south with a car whose air-conditioner isn’t that great. Needless to say I was very heavily prespiring by the time I got to the interview. There can be many reasons why one is sweaty.

    This brings up another pet peive (or at least a request). If you know that someone is coming from their current job and your office is business casual, please tell them it is not necessary for them to wear a suit! Also, when possible, hold interviews after 5:00 or normal business hours.

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