Don’t Be this Kind of Interviewer: Interview Styles to Avoid

February 2, 2018 | Article

By Allison Ausmus

As you progress in your career, you may move into management positions or a role that requires you to hire people for your company. It’s important to hone your interview skills not only so you can discern the right fit for the company and hire talented people, but also so you can represent your company well. You should also learn the types of questions not to ask to protect your company from lawsuits.

How do you do that? Let’s start with the styles of interviewing we DON’T recommend:

The Interrogator: Most of us like watching detective shows or reading mystery novels. An interview is not the time to play detective and make your interviewee uncomfortable by grilling them with question after question. You should be on the lookout for red flags or potential reasons the candidate may not be the right fit for the role. You can do this in an unintimidating way and probe them gently about areas of concern. The goal of the interview is for both you and the candidate to decide if the position is a fit, and should be a guided conversation with a set of consistent questions that you ask every candidate. It should also leave plenty of room at the end of the conversation for the candidate to ask you questions of their own.

The Overly Personal: NEVER ask a candidate questions about their personal life, such as how old they are, their ethnicity, marriage status, if they have kids, personal views on religion or politics, etc. If the candidate mentions this or starts talking about one of these topics, it’s important for you to cut them off. It may be hard to do but it can be dangerous if the candidate isn’t hired. They may claim discrimination based on one of these topics so it’s important to steer them back to your standard interview questions. You can do this by saying “I hate to cut you off, but I only have a limited amount of time with you today, and I still have quite a few more questions to get to ...”  You should also avoid questions like “tell me about yourself,” as this opens the door to a candidate saying whatever they would like about their interests or personal life.  

The Unprepared: You forgot about the scheduled interview and barely have time to print off the person’s resume or questions to ask and come in scanning the resume a few minutes late. This will make the candidate feel unimportant, and it reflects poorly on the company. It will also be harder for you to make a decision on the best candidate for the job. Make sure to print everything prior to the interview and give yourself plenty of time to review the notes so you can ask other questions outside of the standard questions (anything from the resume that is unclear, any gaps in employment, etc.) This will help ensure a successful interview.  

The Off-the-Cuff: Some interviewers might prefer to keep the interview a casual conversation and not prepare a list of questions. This is a bad idea for several reasons. Conversation can veer off-course into personal territory since it’s more casual and you aren’t being consistent. You will have different types of conversations with different people, and you’ll gravitate toward the person you like talking with the best rather than the skillset they possess. It’s important to use a standard list of interview questions for every candidate to remain consistent and avoid unconscious biases.

So how should you interview?  

  1. Most importantly, prepare. Come up with a standard list of questions to ask every candidate that you interview. Review the candidate’s resume or any phone screen notes prior to the interview, and write down additional questions you’d like to ask a candidate.
  2. Familiarize yourself with EEOC guidelines and questions to avoid asking at an interview. Access these here.
  3. It’s best to have one or two people interview at a time. More people can feel overwhelming to a candidate.
  4. Make an extra effort to be friendly and put the candidate at ease. You can do this by offering them something to drink, introducing yourself and telling them about your position with the company and then walk them through the interview agenda. Let them know what to expect and that they will have time to ask their own questions at the end. Make sure to leave enough time for those questions.  

That sounds pretty simple, huh? It’s surprising that many companies don’t have a standard interview process. Not having a standard interview process can put a company at risk for hiring discrimination lawsuits. Another consequence of not having a standard interview procedure is that you’ll appear disorganized and unprepared, which can give candidates a poor impression of your company. Avoid the styles of interviewers we listed, and come prepared. You’ll be on the path to success as an interviewer. 

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