Hiring managers make mistakes
There is a huge amount of content out there that focuses on mistakes that job candidates make when they interview. Once I was even told to go the restroom and warm my hands before an interview because psychologically it was a good thing for the opening handshake. Some of the advice and litany of mistakes almost border on the ridiculous. What I have come to see, though, is that interviewers must not be getting the same volumes of advice that candidates do. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of content on that. From personal experience, however, I can point out some mistakes interviewers are making – here’s two big ones.
1. Depend on the Interview to Really Assess the Candidate
One of the things that interviewers forget is that serious job candidates really do a lot of preparing for that interview. Here are my “confessions” to hiring managers:
• I did lots of research on your company. I read the latest news, scoured their website, and learned all of the right jargon just so I could throw it out at key times during the interview.
• I prepared and rehearsed exactly how I would respond to all of the questions I knew you were going to ask. They’re always the same, with just a few variations.
• I learned the responses and the questions to ask to get you to do most of the talking – it took the pressure off me. I could just smile and nod my head in agreement with you. I understood the psychology of the interview pretty well.
• I knew exactly what to wear. Before the interview, I parked in the parking lot of your building and watched people leave work in the evening.
• My goal was to make you really like me as a person because I knew that it might take your focus away from the fact that I was missing a skill set or two, the position required.
Now that I am on the other side of that desk, I can understand exactly what interviewees are doing, and I don’t blame them. If I evaluate a candidate solely on the interview, then shame on me. Once that interview is over, if I have been impressed, I will continue my evaluation using other means. This usually includes:
• Reviewing the resume again, making sure that the skill sets are there or, if not, that they are ones that can be developed relatively quickly and easily.
• Calling references. By the time I have a candidate in for an interview, it is serious, and I will ask for those references. I will call every one of them. Granted, the references may know in advance and will be complimentary, but it is still a good thing to check them all. I have been surprised on more than one occasion.
• Whenever it is possible, I make part of the interview process a session with others with whom this candidate will be working. And I don’t make it just a sit-down interview. I ask the candidate to spend half a day shadowing a few people as they work and then have lunch with them. A more relaxed atmosphere allows the candidate and the potential teammates to evaluate each other honestly. If both sides are happy about the prospect, chances are much better that I have the right candidate.
The point is this: That interview should just be one of the several steps in the hiring process. Everyone is on their best behavior there, and it is really a fabricated environment.
2. Talking Too Much/Focusing on the Wrong things
You have to be somewhat of an extrovert and a “people person,” or you wouldn’t be in the career you are. This leaves you vulnerable to wanting to do a lot of talking. And you do want the candidate to know as much about your organization as possible to be sure. So you ask a few questions and listen politely. Inside, you are chomping at the bit to talk. Eventually, a response to a question gives you a great lead-in to start. So, you tell the candidate all about the history of the company, its great growth, and the position that is open; you talk about the great climate; you speak to your low turnover rate and to all of the social activities that the company provides. All the while, your candidate is nodding, smiling politely, and feigning great interest.
When you do get back to asking some more questions, you are now focusing on those that will determine if the candidate has the same personality traits as most of your employees. You want to make sure there is a cultural “fit.” This if fine if you want everyone to be arm-in-arm singing “Kumbayah” during their workdays. What you really want is a diversity of personalities, because that is how the status quo gets challenged; that is how current employees are forced out of their comfort zones and into the realm of new possibilities and options. A company without diversity stagnates.
I look for candidates who will bring something new to the mix, not just be a cookie cutter replica of what I already have. And I understand that hiring someone who adds diversity may create some discomfort for everyone. But out of that discomfort may come new ideas and more creative solutions- that’s a good thing.
So, I plan my interview questions very carefully, and I have them in front of me. This keeps me from the temptation to talk too much. And those questions? I like to give scenarios and ask a candidate to “walk me through” his/her approach and resolution. This provides a lot of insight, and the candidate has probably not rehearsed any answer in advance. I get the chance to see the thought processes at work and to get an idea of whether that candidate is authoritative, collaborative or something in between.
Preparation is the Key
Just as a candidate prepares for the interview, so should you. I learned this the hard way. After a few bad hires, it was apparent that I was “blowing” the interview not the candidate. If you can avoid these two big mistakes by taking preventive measures in advance, you get the hires you want and need.