4 Signs You Really Need to Change Your Interview Style

September 4, 2013

Bad Interview TechniquesIn a previous post I wrote — “Some Ailments that Afflict Hiring Managers (and the Rx to Solve Them)” — I discussed the problems that can originate on the company’s side of things during the hiring process. One problem repeat offender hiring managers often have is forgetting that not only is it the candidate’s job to sell themselves as the best fit for the role, it’s also their job to sell their company to the candidate.

Contrary to what many might think, the sole purpose of an interview isn’t to grill the person on the other side of the line (or desk). An interview is not a one-way street, and the candidate should never be on the defensive. I repeat: the candidate should never be on the defensive. An interview is for both parties to see if there is a mutual fit — it is not a firing squad.

4 Signs You Need to Change Your Interview Style

Below are some bad interview techniques to stay away from and some best practices to follow, instead.

1) You Make Candidates Wonder Whether You’re Actually Interested

This might seem counter-intuitive — after all, an interview itself suggests you’re interested in the candidate, right? Regardless, you should always reiterate you’ve been looking forward to the conversation at the beginning of your interview in order to set the tone. A candidate will be more at ease answering a slew of your questions if they know your interest level.

2) You Ask Overly Aggressive Questions

Get it out of your head that you should be asking questions that boil down to, “What can you do for us?” Instead, ask situational questions that will actually help you understand the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Examples could include, “If your team was on a tight deadline to release a product and one of the members was not pulling his or her weight, what would you do?” Or, “We have a list of targeted companies we are trying to get into. Tell me your strategy for breaking into these new accounts.”

These kinds of questions go a lot further and tell you a lot more about the candidate than questions like, “What do you expect to get out of this job?”

3) You Offer Backhanded Compliments

Saying things like, “You aren’t the typical profile we hire — but I like that,” isn’t actually making your candidate feel like he or she is in for a warm welcome at your company. Other quips to stay away from include, “Let me give you some advice,” and “You remind me of a younger version of myself.” Leave your opinions and backhanded compliments out of the interview.

4) You Refuse to Let a Question Go

Sometimes a hiring manager will perceive a particular question as a good way of “vetting” the candidate when, in fact, it actually just comes across as overkill, or worse — insulting.

For example, suppose you are asking a sales candidate about their sales numbers, including their quota, history of quota attainment, and on-target earnings (OTE). In the next interview, you ask the candidate the same thing. Instead of cross-examining them (implying that you don’t believe them) you need to accept their answers, pass on their candidacy, or — if you have further questions — ask the references.

Bottom Line

These are damaging interview habits that routinely turn candidates off from a company or an opportunity. The best way to interview people is to treat them as your future coworkers, because ideally that is exactly what you would like them to be.

What bad interview techniques have made you uncomfortable during job interviews?

Senior Corporate Recruiter

<strong>Lindsey Gurian</strong> is the Senior Corporate Recruiter at <a href="http://www.acquia.com">Acquia</a>. She was previously a Senior Talent Specialist at Sonian, responsible for recruiting initiatives at both the firm and its portfolio companies.