Best Practices in HR

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Lori Kleiman
  March 31, 2018

10 Most Common HR Interview Mistakes You Should Avoid

“I love recruiting and hiring!” is not something we typically hear from many HR professionals or managers. I suppose this is because there’s a lot of administration in the process, and, at the end of the day, we are taking a chance on someone we have spent a total of two hours or less with. Is that really who you want to trust with your next critical project?

Rather than leave the recruitment process and outcome up to chance, brush up on the 10 common HR interview mistakes recruiters make and how you and your management team can avoid them in the future.

1. Rushing into the Process

The first mistake to avoid in interviewing? Stop and think about what you need for the role instead of just replacing what you had.

Sometimes a job opening gives you a chance to redistribute work, change a role, or give someone else a try at management. Stop and think about what is still being done in that position and what may have been replaced by technology, too. Look at the job description and determine if the role has expanded, and what are the real requirements to be a great employee in the position. Then hire for what you now envision the needs to be for the role.

2. Skipping the Pre-Interview Screening Call

Yes, telephones do still have a purpose.

Every recruiting process should involve a telephone interview. This is the time to clarify expectations for both the company and the candidate. Discuss salary at the beginning. Someone may say they are negotiable, but if they are looking for six figures and you are offering $55,000 for the role, there is no need to waste everyone’s time. This is also the time to discuss gaps in employment and what their expectations might be regarding location, responsibility, and benefits.

3. Asking Meaningless Questions

PLEASE do not ask anyone what their strengths and weaknesses are. These are canned, rehearsed answers that don’t tell you anything. Instead, ask questions that paint pictures of their past accomplishments and failures.

How about:

  • Tell me about something you really wanted last year and how you worked to achieve it? That will key you into their motivations and strengths.
  • Want to know their weaknesses? Ask about a low score they received on their last performance review and what they did to improve it.
  • If you are interviewing recent students, ask questions about a group project, how it went, and what role they took on.

4. Asking Yes/No Questions

The whole idea of an interview is to solicit information that will give you an idea of who the candidate is. Asking: “Do you like to be busy all day long?” doesn’t tell you anything. Any candidate thinking about it better say “Yes, I like to stay busy.” So, be sure to ask questions that allow the candidate to tell you about themselves and situations they have been in that are relevant to the position.

5. Talking Too Much in the Interview

While you should start an interview by giving candidates a very high-level idea of who you are and how they fit into the big picture, giving too much information will allow the candidate to craft their answers in a way that fits the role. At the end of the day, managers are trying to get to know the candidate, not sell them on the company. Instead, ask your questions, give them time to consider a thoughtful reply, and then let them know more about the position at the end of the interview.

We often are so uncomfortable with silence that we ask a question and, as the candidate is thinking about a reply, we start talking. Use the 80/20 rule here whereby the candidate should do 80% of the talking; silence can be golden in an interview.

6. Spending Too Much Time with Each Candidate

Even after the phone screen, there are just some people that come in and you know in the first 15 minutes it is not a good fit. While you want to be polite, keeping someone there answering mindless questions is not doing anyone a favor.

However, do probe for where else they may be a fit in your organization. If they came in for a sales position and clearly aren’t cut out for that, are there positions in operations or administration where they might be a fit? Know where else your organization has a need and be ready to offer candidates to other managers.

7. Too Many Decision-makers

When a group of individuals is responsible for interviewing candidates (and all have an equal say), I find that the job goes to the candidate that everyone can live with, rather than the best candidate for the position. There are exceptions, of course. Say, if technical expertise is required, it is okay to get input from others, but the final decision should lie with the hiring manager.

Where teamwork is critical, I recommend that the hiring manager complete the process and identify their top choice, and possibly one close second. Then, have the team meet that person and ask for any concerns they may have. Often, red-flags do come up in this phase, and, if reliable, should be taken into consideration. More often than not, though, employees are fine with the selected candidate, are glad to be involved, and will accept your final decision.

8. Not Getting to Know the Whole Person

Candidates are complex. It is not about whether they can create pivot tables in Excel or use your customized software. More employees fail because they just don’t fit in.

Understand the culture of your organization and be sure you craft interview questions that help you understand if they will fit. If you know your customer service people talk about their weekends throughout the day, ask what kind of work environment the candidate feels they are most successful in. If it is a quiet, professional, closed-door, get-your-work-done location, this probably isn’t going to be a fit then.

The same goes for management style. Find out whom they liked to work for in the past, and, more importantly, whom they have not. Then, honestly assess whether or not they would work well with the manager when you are making the hiring decision.

9. Not Considering a Budget for Training

For every position, we look for skills that the manager insists the candidate needs to have. However, so much can be taught to the employee with the right attitude and the desire to grow.

Consider breaking the requirements down into what’s necessary, what they would like to have but are flexible on, and what can later be trained. Understand the total costs of training, too, including lost productivity, allowance for errors, and time off work. Often, when you find a candidate that is a great culture fit, and you provide training and development, you have a long-term employee who does things the way you want them done. That can be worth an awful lot more compared to breaking bad habits they come in with.

10. Passing over Internal Candidates

Yes, you can promote from within before advertising a position internally or externally. There is nothing wrong with identifying an excellent employee and getting them ready for a role you know may open in the future. You have no obligation to notify others or to conduct a complete search. Employees want to see that they can grow with your organization and part of your performance management program should be to identify desired career paths your current team is interested in.

Every recruiting process should be filled with the goal of getting to know the candidate. Be comfortable and take the time to sit, chat, and find out what they want. It is amazing how quickly you will know if they are a fit for your organization… or not!

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