When we talk about “bad interviews,” we often assume that the candidate is at fault, not the interviewer. Sure, there are plenty of candidates with poor interview techniques out there, but recruiters and hiring managers are not perfect either. A lot of interviewers have poor interview techniques, too — and many of them don’t even know it.
Bad interviewer technique can not only lead to poor candidate experiences and negative employer branding, but it may also cause top-talent to drop out of the interview process altogether. Ultimately, bad interviewer technique can lead to low-quality hires, which in turn lead to higher turnover rates and plummeting productivity levels.
Interviewers need to assess and — if necessary — improve their interviewer techniques from time to time to ensure that they are always operating at the best of their abilities. To help interviewers carry out such self-examinations, I offer these three signs of bad interviewer technique, along with tips for improving in each area:
1. Your Interviews Resemble Informal Chats
Do you flit from topic to topic in a casual way, just following conversational threads that seem interesting? Do you make the questions up as you go along? Do you avoid difficult questions, preferring to keep the tone pleasant?
While such an informal approach can feel more natural and socially rewarding, research tells us that it does not yield the best results. Informal chats are far less reliable than structured, preplanned interviews in which candidates are asked a standardized set of questions. These formal interviews produce much more accurate assessments of candidates, leading ultimately to better hires.
If you use an informal chat-style interview, you may be letting bad hires into your business. It’s time to trade your casual conversations in for rigorously structured interviews.
2. You Rely Heavily on Hypothetical Questions
There is nothing wrong with asking a few hypothetical questions, as they can give you insight into a candidate’s views, values, and behaviors. But if your interviews rely predominantly on hypotheticals to assess candidate competencies, then your interviewer technique needs some tweaking.
Trade your hypothetical questions for behavioral questions. Rather than ask, “What if,” behavioral questions ask candidates to give examples of real situations in which they have demonstrated their skills. For example, a behavioral question may be something like, “Describe a real work situation in which a client asked you to reduce a product’s price. How did you respond?”
The theory here is that the past is the best predictor of future performance, and that real-life examples are certainly better indicators of employee behavior than made-up scenarios. So, if you find yourself asking a lot of hypothetical questions during interviews, it’s time to upgrade your technique by incorporating behavioral questions instead.
3. You Always Accept the Candidate’s First Answer
The majority of today’s candidates are well-schooled in the art of interviewing, and they come prepared with textbook answers to even the most challenging questions. The thing is, these candidates have designed their answers to be self-promotional. They’re trying to show off their best bits and hide and their shortcomings.
What this means is that interviewers who accept a candidate’s first answer to every question – even if the answers sound brilliant — may be unknowingly glossing over the candidate’s weaknesses. When you accept a candidate at face value, you won’t necessarily end up with a reliable or robust view of the candidate. This could lead to a bad hire situation.
It is always important to spend time probing into candidate’s answers — even their model answers — to ensure that all is as it seems. Probing and pushing back a little will ensure you get a more authentic view of the candidate.
Interviewers, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. You are the first line of defense against bad hires at your company. Make sure, then, that you regularly reflect on your interviewing technique — and if you see any of these red flags, know that it’s time to take action.