7 interviewing pitfalls and how to avoid them

Posted on 31st October 2018

Interviewing can be a time consuming and draining experience. You are already stretched following the departure of a valued employee, you need to find a replacement quickly and some somehow fit this around your day job.

The temptation can be to accept a candidate solely based on the content of a CV, or the first candidate that is immediately available, favouring speed over verification of skills and quality of candidate. However tempting a quick fix might appear, a robust planned selection process can pay dividends in the longer term.


1. Plan your process

Before you start the selection process consider what it is you actually need the role to do. Is this a new role? A replacement role? Could the role be amalgamated with other tasks to ensure that the needs of the business are met, rather than just assuming there needs to be an automatic replacement?

Plan how you are going to select the candidates from the applicants you have attracted. Which selection methods are likely to result in an accurate predictive result? Is an interview alone the best way of assessing a candidate’s skills and experience?

How will you ensure that you keep your selection process free from any unintentional bias? What are the essential skills and competencies that are required for the role? How will you assess the candidates’ skills and competencies to ensure that their CV is a true reflection of the person that sits before you?

Create interview sheets with questions that are designed to the individual characteristics, skills and competencies critical to the role. Apply this to each candidate rather than having an unstructured ‘chat’. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask further questions to clarify an answer, or to explore a candidate’s ability to think on the spot. If there are any questions arising from the CV, such as changes in career, gaps or a lack of clarity, then there should be an opportunity to discuss these with the candidate.


2. Confirming and checking the candidate’s attendance

How frustrating is it when you have made arrangements and the candidate fails to show up?  Some individuals fail to understand the basic etiquette of advising that they are not planning to attend. Others do not check their emails or update their addresses on their CVs. A quick telephone call to confirm the appointment can improve your attendance rates and prevent your time being wasted.

Provide the candidate with clearly defined expectations, in the form of a job description, or tasks that are to be undertaken to ensure that the candidate is clear about the role for which they have applied. This ensures the candidate knows exactly what the business needs and not what they hope the business might accept.


3. Positive attitude

We regularly consider an assessment of a candidate’s attitude during the selection process; this is equally important for the interviewer. The interview is a two-way process. The candidate is also interviewing the company representative to understand whether they wish to work for the organisation.

Follow standard housekeeping rules, ensuring that telephones are turned off, not checking your emails and not permitting interruptions.

If you spend your time looking at your watch, rushing through the questions, not giving the candidate the opportunity to fully respond, you are not indicating that the candidate is of value as a potential employee. In all probability the candidate has taken time off from work and travelled at their own expense, the least they can expect in return is a fair shot at applying for the role.

The candidate’s experience of the process will shape their opinion of your business, whether positive or negative. Even if the candidate is unsuccessful in their application, if they feel that the experience was positive and fair, they will be more likely to advocate applications to you in the future.


4. Timekeeping

Be realistic. Allocating 10 minutes for an interview will give you little more than a handshake and a glance over a CV. If you want to be really prepared, time the questions you will ask to get a clear indication of how long an interview may take.

Plan breaks. Repeating the same questions can be draining. You need to allocate time between interviews for comfort breaks, food and to catch up with any issues that have happened in your absence.

If in the unlikely event that you over run, consider calling candidates later in the day to determine whether they might agree to delay their appointment time.


5. Interviewer bias

We naturally have affinity with people that we consider to be like us. Many people will have a perception of another person within 5 minutes of first meeting them. In an interview process this unintentional bias can be one of the most powerful barriers to selection success.

It can be helpful to have two or more interviewers to compare impressions and interpretations of responses.


6. Asking inappropriate questions

We still hear reports of interviewers asking candidates whether they are married, do they have children, are they planning to have children. None of which would have any bearing on the candidate’s ability to complete the role for which they have applied.

Put simply, avoid asking any questions relating to a protected characteristic. If the person doesn’t need this trait or characteristic to do the job, then it is not relevant to your conversation.

(A protected characteristic is gender, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, marital status, religion or religious belief, age, disability and race).


7. Confirming the outcome

Conclude the interview with an explanation as to the next stage of the process. Provide a realistic expectation of when they might hear further from you. Many candidates complain that they hear nothing further and must assume that they are unsuccessful.

Send an email confirming that the candidate has not been selected, along with a brief thank you. This will manage the candidate’s expectations and ensure that they are not left guessing.

For further advice and guidance on designing a selection process that works for your business, please call 01536 215240. We would be happy to discuss your business needs.

Gwyneth Hodgkinson Character
Written by:
Gwyneth Hodgkinson
HR Development Consultant