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5 Gaffes You MUST Avoid As A Recruitment Interviewer

by Justin Standfield

At Emerge, we frequently hear about some of the mistakes that people have encountered during the recruitment interview process, so we thought we would compile a ‘Top 5’ together with some tips to combat them.

1. Not creating (and following!) an interview plan

“Time” (or a lack thereof) is often the trump card that hiring managers play when excusing their lack of planning for an interview.  The thing is, an interview is just too important NOT to plan for and effort put in at the beginning will pay off (in terms of time) later.  Sometimes people tell us that they work in a smaller organisation that doesn’t have a defined process and set of ready-made interview questions.  In that case, a good starting point would be to list the job tasks of the position you will be interviewing for.  Next to each, note the knowledge, skills and capabilities required to do the job.  Next, rank the tasks and then split the list as follows:  ‘Must Have’ and ‘Nice to Have’.  Design a question or an activity that reveals a degree of readiness.  For example, does the job require tact?  Create a setting in which the best response is a tactful one.  Or, perhaps the job requires advanced use of Microsoft Word; if so, set a practical, work-related test.

2. Leaving the interview environment to chance on the day

The optimum setting is a room lit by good natural light.  If the interview is in a bland office or a plain meeting room, try bringing in a green plant, especially if there is only a small window (or worse, NO window).  It doesn’t have to be huge, psychological research has shown that any size of plant puts people at ease – with one exception, cacti.   If the interview is to be in your office, clear or tidy your desk and if possible sit at a small table.   If you don’t have a table, offer the applicant the more comfortable of two seats and keep some water and glasses to hand.  Never interview from behind your desk and don’t ask the candidate to sit on a low, comfy sofa; one is intimidating, the other is inappropriately informal.

3. Assuming the worst

An interview isn’t a performance; it is a joint effort in that you are both working hard and making substantial investments.  You don’t want to spend any part of an interview coaxing a candidate out of hiding.  If you assume that there is lots of interest to learn, the candidate will sense your optimism and feel welcome.  In that case, the candidate is more likely to be engaged by your questions and offer full responses.

4. Losing your sense of objectivity

Listen for content and watch for style.  When you ask a behavioural question (eg. how to handle a situation or person, how to report a problem, how to coach or mentor) check the reply against your capabilities list.  Consider whether it will work, not whether it is the way you’d do it personally.  As they say, “there are many roads home and no one person knows all of them”.

5. Using trendy or trick questions

These types of question almost always backfire and rarely present your company in a good light as a potential employer.  We have heard examples of candidates being asked questions like: “If you were a room in a house, which room would you be and why?” and “Are you more like a kite string or a tin of sardines?”.  There are so many psychometric instruments and aptitude tests available, so make use of them (or find someone who is trained in these tools who can administer them on your behalf).  In the 1990s, it became fashionable to submit a candidate to tension and stress, and watch the response – for example using techniques such as “good cop, bad cop” between two interviewers.  Although this sort of recruitment game has died out, hiring managers sometimes still want to see how people perform under pressure; this is fair enough if the job is a potentially high-stress position; but make sure you have had expert guidance before including any tough methods!

Emerge provides a range of bespoke workshops and development sessions that focus on the essential ingredients of successful and compliant recruitment.  Our recruitment and selection programmes always include plenty of delegate interaction and typically involve practical interview sessions to embed the skills and knowledge gained.  We can offer options for on-the-job learning through work based practice, as well as pre- and post-course activities designed to keep the learning fresh and in continual development.  

We also have access to a suite of personality instruments, ability tests and aptitude assessments which can be used to support recruitment activity.

Talk to us to find out more about integrating your approach to recruitment with a top quality development intervention from Emerge.

+44 (0) 1329 820580 


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