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The 8 Deadly Sins of Interviewing

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The 8 Deadly Sins of Interviewing

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I believe one of the most important skills of being a great leader is to be a great interviewer, because the quality of your organization is in direct relation to your ability to find the right people.

As a professional speaker and consultant, I travel around the country conducting leadership development programs.  I continue to be shocked at how many leaders who really don’t know how to interview and are not getting the best possible results for their organizations. Bad hiring mistakes cost companies millions of dollars each year. Here are the eight deadly sins of interviewing that I see.

  1. They don’t know what they are looking for. An important aspect of interviewing is to decide in advance specifically what your criteria is, and what you’re looking for in a successful candidate in the interview. I believe this breaks down into three categories competencies culture and experience. One of the keys of doing a great interview is to ask questions regarding the competencies that you’re looking for, the cultural fit that you’re looking for, and the experience that you’re looking for.
  2. They ask illegal questions. In many programs that I conduct leaders are shocked that many of the questions that they have been asking are illegal. When interviewing a candidate, you are not allowed by law to ask about race, creed, origin, color, religion, transportation, where they live, age or lifestyle. Many leaders will argue with me and say “what do you mean I’m not allowed to ask them where they live? I have to make sure they’re going to be able to get to work.” I then explain that you’re only allowed to tell the candidate what the required work hours are and you’re not allowed to ask them how they’re going to get there. Whether they take a bike to work, take the bus, walk or drive a late model car, you’re not allowed to ask that question because it is considered by federal law to be discriminatory. By the way I often see job postings that violate some of these federal laws.
  3. They have not been trained on interviewing skills. Many organizations put leaders in interviewing role but yet have never given them one minute of training on how to effectively interview. Interview is both an art and science, and we can’t expect that people are naturally going to be great at interviewing. We need to give them the tools and tips and techniques that a great interviewer can use to get around the training that the interviewee has had on how to be great in an interview.
  4. They accept the first answer and don’t dig any deeper. Many leaders will ask a candidate a question and accept the answer at face value. For example, in an interview a leader may ask “give me an example of an accomplishment you’ve been proud of at work.” The interviewee then says, “I’m very proud of the fact that I won the Summit Leadership Award.” The bad interviewer then says “well, congratulations that’s really great.” The great interviewer asks “so you won the Summit leadership award- tell me about what accomplishments led you to win that award.” They would then also follow up with several questions about the criteria for the award and how many people would win that award each year.
  5. They believe the candidates answers-. Many leaders are too trusting when interviewing a candidate. When they get an answer, they unfortunately believe that what the candidate is saying is the truth. Unfortunately, many people in interviews will stretch the truth, massage the truth or let’s face it- just be blatantly deceptive. We should not accept that answers as the truth and when someone makes a statement we should ask them follow- up questions to dig deeper in order to determine if the truth is really being told. This can be done in a professional diplomatic and friendly way. For example I was once interviewing for a training position and was asked how many training programs I had developed at my last employer. I stated that I had written designed and developed over 100 programs. The person interviewing me, instead of being unduly impressed, ask for the names of some of the programs, and when I mentioned the name of each program he then asked me in-depth details about each one.
  6. They don’t have multiple interviews with multiple people. To loosely paraphrase Abraham Lincoln “you can fool some of the people some of the time…”- well you remember. The point is that if you have multiple people interview a candidate multiple times, it is very difficult for a candidate to fool you. The other advantage of having multiple interview is each person may see the candidate differently, or have different chemistry with the candidate. The candidate may reveal information that they had not revealed to other people.
  7. They don’t ask them to do something. For example, if a leader is interviewing someone for customer service, at some point in the interview process they should ask them to role-play taking a customer service call to see if they can actually do what they say that they can. So instead of just talking about a specific skill (like sales, customer service or a technical function) it is perfectly appropriate to test them or do role-plays, or scenario-based case studies to see how that person exhibits their skill sets and talents.
  8. They talk too much. The idea behind an interview is for the leader to get to know the candidate as much as possible. I’ve always believed that an interview should follow the 8020 rule- which means the leader should talk 20% of the time and the candidate should talk 80% of the time. If the goal is to learn as much as possible about the person then the way to learn more about them is to have them talk more and for the leader to talk less.

Take this article and share it with your team. Review it before your next interview. You can’t afford the time, energy, expense and effort of making a bad hire. Become a great interviewer and make every interview count.

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