How to avoid the most common interviewing pitfalls – for hiring managers

A good recruitment consultant always gathers feedback from hiring managers and applicants following an interview. Whether first, second, or third stage, it is crucial to ensure that the interviewer and interviewee’s expectations are aligned. 

The interview debrief identifies issues that we can be remedy swiftly with an open discussion. The recruiter serves as an ambassador, a middle person who is confident and qualified to scrutinise both the hiring manager and the interviewee’s aims to develop a good foundation for a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Now and again, a handful of debriefs stand out. For the purposes of this piece, I will focus on several recurring incidences where the hiring manager could have improved aspects of the interview to secure the right candidate. When things go wrong like this, the result is typically the applicant losing interest in the position, the hiring manager, and the organisation. 

Likewise, we can find ourselves in a situation where the interviewer cannot make an accurate and measurable assessment of the candidate.  

Not following a structured approach – Winging it!

By establishing a set interview methodology and approach, the hiring manager can set the bar of “what good looks like” and assess how applicants compare to this. At each stage of the interview process, candidates should be evaluated and measured in the same manner. This doesn’t mean that you should be reading from a strict script or reciting a set of 10 questions – do this, and candidates will be left underwhelmed, feeling it was a one-way street of traffic and leaving the interview with a poor understanding of the role and organisation’s unique selling points. A structured approach can go as follows:

First stage: Competency-based

Second stage: Scenario Based 

Final stage: An open and frank conversation, assessing the mutual cultural fit

Interview methods can be added or subtracted from the stages. Stages can increase or decrease in numbers. The importance is a consistent approach across the candidate base to accurately measure suitability. 

Gut feeling and intuition should be an ingredient in decision-making; however, it is impossible to successfully compare and contrast one applicant from another without a structured approach.  

Focusing too much on the job spec

To base your interview solely on the job spec is a risky proposition. Today there is much scrutiny on the quality of job specifications and their suitability to the applicants they are trying to attract. In many cases, inadequate specs are recycled repeatedly.  

A job spec should be treated as a guide and not the end-all and be all. There are few better ways for a hiring manager to make themselves forgettable than by going through the criteria line by line asking, “tell me a time where you have ……” Or, even worse, asking closed questions around the requirements. By all means, cherry-pick the critical skills necessary for the role and investigate conversationally. You are more likely to discover more information to help you make a call on whether the applicant is suited to your team.  

Click here for more information on creating a fit for purpose job spec

Shortsightedness

Some of the best leaders we have worked with look beyond the requirements of the role. 

Instead, they evaluate what the interviewee can bring to the company. In many cases, hiring managers realise that the person they are assessing is better suited to a different position. Often this position is at the early stages with no job spec created yet but will address a gap in the business operation or strategy. By asking open and probing questions and understanding the challenges that the candidate has faced in their career reveals vital skills that you would not have otherwise discovered.   

Secondly, most industries are incestuous, and security is no exception. Like it or not, the interviewee will make a judgement call on whether you are the kind of leader they want to work with. Having a long-term view and assuming that your paths will cross again is a prudent assumption.

Forgetting it’s a 2-way interview

If you are interviewing an applicant, the odds are that they are also interviewing with other organisations. Make yourself and your company stand out: 

What is your unique selling point?  

What is your organisation’s unique selling point? 

Why did you join the firm? 

As a recruiter, one of the worst feedbacks a candidate can give is that they felt underwhelmed and uninspired. There is little good that can come from this, and only in dire circumstances will the candidate accept this role if offered. If you value high staff retention, this is a path you want to avoid. To create enthusiasm for a position, you must first understand what excites the person opposite you ( or virtually opposite you). This can be discovered by simply asking!  

Unsuitable and impractical technical questions

Asking a strategic security leader to name the access method used in the 1000BaseTX network is like asking an IT Director the best resin to use in printer cartridges. 

Even when interviewing for a technical position, the questions posed must be within the realm of their seniority and expertise. Applicants have been asked to recite a specific point in a course they completed years ago that bears no relevance to day-to-day workplace practicalities. In these situations, the interview is invariably linked with a rigid script, and again the interview becomes a tick box exercise that does not allow for meaningful two-way engagement. In these scenarios, the applicant often questions the company’s direction and whether they know what they are looking for. Such confusion at the early stages of a selection process understandably gives the impression that should the candidate accept the role, their career trajectory will become difficult as clear expectations are unlikely to be set.  

It is good practice for a firm to continually review their interview process and intricacies to a granular level to ensure it is fit for purpose. With the workplace changing and remote working being the foreseeable norm to a varying degree, firms must ensure that their selection process reflects the market’s direction. It is now more critical than ever for companies to do their best to attract the right talent, not just who is available to take the position.  

While there are other pitfalls hiring leaders can avoid: the five listed are the most widely noted amongst candidates when interviewing for professional roles. 

One more thing………Psychometric and personality tests are useful tools during the latter stages of the interview process but should not be used to eliminate candidates.

If you would like to discuss good interviewing technique or would like some further pointers, then please feel free to reach out.