Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

12 Terrible Interview Behaviours that Could be Sabotaging your Hiring Process…

By James Ball | Apr 27, 2015 | Assessing Applicants

The internet is absolutely jam-packed full of guidance on how not to botch a job interview, as a candidate.

However, other than the many articles illuminating the “top interview questions to ask,” there is actually little written about how hiring managers could be sabotaging their own recruitment process (and how to fix that).

Like we always say, recruitment is a two-way street and it’s absolutely critical that interviewers are on top form, as well as their interviewees.

For instance, how can you expect to hire a rising star, if your interview technique leaves them feeling cynical, bemused and even uncomfortable?

Below, we’ve highlighted 12 of the most common behavioural mistakes that hiring managers make and how to combat them in the future to ensure that you’re attracting the right staff for your business.

1. Spontaneity (or lack of preparation)?

Some hiring managers prefer a more “spontaneous” method of interviewing.

They’ll use a more conversational tone to suss out the candidate’s knowledge and skills, as well as their natural personality and attitude.

This is all well and good for experienced interviewers who can improvise and quite naturally wing their way through a variety of questions, giving the appearance of expertise and experience.

However, there is nothing worse than an interviewer who is clearly not prepared.

Appearing nervous (see below), letting candidates take control and being in complete ignorance of the candidate’s CV, cover letter and experience will give an incredibly bad impression of the business and could even unnerve the candidate, who is left grasping to answer un-asked questions.

So if you identify with any of the above, all you have to do is prepare in advance – it really is that simple.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Prior to interview, identify the key skills and competencies that the perfect candidate will possess. Create a checklist and tick off each point when a candidate evidences it.
  • Research questions that the candidate may ask you and consider how you will answer them (we recently highlighted some interesting questions they could use to impress you).

2. Anxiety.

Every hiring manager will have to face their first interview at some point and are bound to be a little anxious.

The problem is that nerves, if not kept under control, can easily filter into the entire interview and could even be transferred to the (already pressured) candidate.

Obviously, you’re not going to get the best out of a candidate when you’re both stuttering and trembling!

Just prepare yourself (see above) keep calm and carry on!

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Practice your interviewing skills. You could ask a colleague to give you a hand, or even a friend or family member outside of work.
  • Take back-up. If you are nervous, it might be worth shadowing an experienced manager (or getting them to shadow you) before going it alone.
  • Start with an ice-breaker, to ease into the interview in a friendlier way.
  • Sit up straight and try not to fidget. These are tell-tale signs that you’re feeling nervous!

3. Indifference.

Being relaxed in an interview is definitely a positive thing; coming across nonchalant and uninterested definitely isn’t!

I once attended an interview with two managers, one who seemed very experienced and another who (put generously) did not.

Throughout the entire interview, the inexperienced interviewer didn’t say a word, but continued to doodle across my CV. By the end of the interview, my CV had been transformed into a beautiful and enchanted forest with trees, flowers and pathways.

As you can imagine, I was both distracted and completely put out by the experience.  Make sure that any candidates you interview feel engaged with you as a person, and consequently with the business.

Don’t let any indifference destroy your hopes of recruiting the perfect person.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Ask follow up questions and sound genuinely interested in the candidate (without cutting them off).
  • Don’t doodle, yawn or seem too overly relaxed (swinging on your chair, tapping your thumbs).
  • Never get distracted by other tasks and people (or by the telephone).

4. Inappropriateness.

You must never ever ask questions or make comments that could even remotely be perceived as discriminatory.

No matter how much you get on with a candidate, such topics could easily offend and have serious legal implications (not to mention the damage it could have on your company’s reputation).

We’ve heard all sorts of inappropriate interview horror stories, from sexist jokes and outwardly sexual comments, to badly-masked questions like ‘What are your plans for your personal life in the next five years?’

So, maintain your professionalism at all times regardless of how relaxed you feel with the candidate.

Recruiter Top Tips:

Do NOT attempt to discuss any of the following:

  • Age discrimination.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Marital status.
  • Cultural issues.
  • Disabilities and illness.
  • Previous criminal convictions.
  • Inappropriate jokes,innuendos and anecdotes.

For the full rundown of what not to discuss during an interview, check out our previous blog “6 interview question topics employers should avoid“.

5. Overzealousness.

You’ll never be able to suss out whether someone is right for the job and your business, if you spend the entirety of the interview waffling (or even worse, droning on).

You simply won’t be able to draw the right information from your candidate, you’ll come across as just a little bit over-excited (or even desperate) and you might even put them off accepting the potential job offer!

So, ask a question (hopefully a well prepared one), sit back and listen to the answer, and I mean properly listen to it.

Make sure you ask plenty of situational questions (who, how, why, what, where, when) and let them demonstrate how invaluable they would be to your business.

Recruiter Top Tips:

When you feel like you’ve been talking for longer than your candidate…

  • Stop and give them a chance to speak!
  • Re-visit the list of questions you came up with prior to the interview and ask the candidate something relevant (giving them plenty of time to reply).
  • Make an effort to get them involved in the conversation. ‘How does that sound to you?’ ‘Is that what you expected?’

6. Too Quiet.

In most interviews, you’ll want your candidate to do most of the talking…but a two-sided (and natural) conversation is much more likely to draw the best of your candidates.

If you remain very quiet and just rattle off a couple of questions once in a while, it’ll be difficult for you to get all of the information you need and it will also give off an uninterested vibe to your candidate.

Being more friendly and conversational will put your candidates at ease, giving them more of a chance to impress you.

Recruiter Pro Tips:

  • Be polite and ask follow up questions to keep the conversation going.
  • If you need to dig further do so in a friendly way; ‘it sounds like you know where you’d like to be in life, but why choose marketing in particular?”
  • If there is an awkward silence at any point, fill it. Ask your next question!

It’s also worth remembering that to a certain extent, your company is on trial too.  If you’re rude, offensive or even aggressive, the candidate is bound to tell others, especially with review sites like Glassdoor readily available and steadily gaining more popularity.

A prolonged silence can appear hostile…

7. Intimidation.

I’m not talking about being physically aggressive towards your candidates when I talk about and condemn ‘aggressive interviewing techniques’ (this is just quite clearly a huge no-no).

I’m actually talking about those (of which there are more than a few) who use the interview process to test how well candidates ‘cope with pressure’.

Unfortunately, there’s a very thin line between throwing a few left-field questions to a candidate and scaring the living daylights out of them.

The latter will not only fail to give you an accurate impression of your candidate, but will also, more than likely scare them away from your job anyway.

Intimidation through silence

After clearly having finished their answer to a question, the intimidating culprits will remain completely silent, as if waiting for more information.

The awkwardness that ensues will agitate even the most confident of candidates and many will end up waffling and revealing a lot more about themselves than they perhaps would have done.

Recruiter Top Tips

  • Intimidating candidates will merely make them more nervous and negatively affect their performance (and thus your opinion of them!)
  • Never be rude to your candidates.
  • Never show anger and frustration.

Having been on the receiving end of this tactic, I can attest that (unless handled appropriately) it often comes across as rude, leaving candidates feeling just a little bit silly!

8. Unfair.

In the same vein, it’s really important not to unfairly expect too much from your candidates!

Some hiring managers (often when recruiting for technical roles) will purposely ask a question they don’t expect the job candidate to know (something beyond their experience) to see whether they try and blag it under the pressure.

This technique, again, will simply make your candidate uncomfortable, possibly stopping them from showing their true capabilities.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Make a real effort to ease your candidate into the interview before bombarding them with difficult questions.
  • Stress interviews won’t work for your nervous, shy or confidence-lacking candidates (but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not right for the job!)

9. (Too) Kind!

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should be too easy on your candidates either.

You should expect that each and every one of your interviewees will be prepared when they enter the room and (if they’ve done their research) they’ll already have a pretty good idea of standard interview questions and how they’re going to answer them.

It’s really important to come up with some fresh and more challenging questions as well as the clichés like ‘what’s your greatest weakness?

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Investigate some of the most cliché interview questions (online) and simply don’t ask them.
  • If you must use them, then make sure you include a few more difficult and creative ones too!
  • Try not to be too structured. A great candidate will be able to improvise and have a natural conversation with you, so give them a chance to do just that.

To get your hands on some more creative interview questions (that aren’t too kind) check out our 10 interview questions to ask when recruiting blog!

10. Over-Friendliness.

Often, inexperienced interviewers will (subconsciously) attempt to make a connection with their candidate, bonding over shared negative experiences, gripes and frustrations.

Just don’t.

Saying anything negative about your role, colleagues, manager, the business or industry, is bound to leave your candidate feeling a little uncertain (even if they can relate to your experience).

This may sound really obvious, but it’s still one of the most common (and most easily avoidable) mistakes that interviewers make.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Don’t mention personal or professional problems and issues.
  • Never badmouth your manager, the business owner, colleagues, ex-colleagues or competitors.
  • You should be wary of any candidate who badmouths their previous employer.

11. Dishonesty.

Before offering someone a job, you’ll want to know everything you can about them but remember, before accepting any job offer, the candidate will want to know everything they can about it too!

A serious and committed interviewee will show up with a list of questions they’d already like to ask (and will also be able to improvise and come up with new ones as the conversation progresses).

It is pretty imperative that you’re prepared to answer most (if not all) of those questions.  If a candidate has any doubts that you don’t manage to confront and quell, then they’re much more likely to reject your offer.

“Better the devil you know…” and all that jazz.

It’s also really important to not lie in an interview.  Don’t make things up simply to get someone to accept any job you offer them, it will almost certainly bite you on the backside at a later date.  Be as honest as you possibly can and you’ll leave a very positive impression in the candidate’s eyes.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Always ask the candidate ‘do you have any questions’? at some point in the interview (usually the end).
  • Take relevant moments throughout the interview to bring up the company, explaining how things do (and don’t) work.
  • You could show the candidate around your office, introducing them to their potential line manager and colleagues.
  • Be honest.  There really isn’t any point taking someone on if they have an unreliable view of the business.

12. Bias.

Human beings have a whole set of cognitive biases that fuel our decisions.

If you interview someone that you personally get on very well with, then you’re likely to feel a strong bias in their favour.

This of course means that your next interviewee will find it much harder to impress you so to find the best person for the job, you’ll need to quell the bias as much as humanly possible.

Recruiter Top Tips:

  • Go in with a clear and open mind.  This next candidate really could be better than the last!
  • Try not to run interviews one after the other, in swift succession. The chances are that your brain will still be focusing on the previous candidate.
  • It’s always a great idea to host a panel interview, especially in the later stages of recruitment. Differing personalities will pick up on different positives and negatives and you’ll be able to work together to suss out the best candidate, without unwittingly giving in to a personal bias.


After putting together your job ads, trawling through CVs and cover letters and finally shortlisting your favourite applicants, it can seem like the hard part of your recruitment process is over, but unfortunately there’s still one major hurdle to overcome; the interview!

In order to attract the most ambitious, talented and proactive candidates, you’re going to have to truly sell the business and the role both prior to the interview and during!

Also, don’t forget, if applicants have a particularly bad interview experience, they’re likely to tell others and it could reflect badly on your business.

Good luck!

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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