I have interviewed a LOT of people.
And you know what, I don’t mean to brag, but I like to think I’ve cracked it!
From Graduates and Apprentices, right through to Managing Directors, I’ve worked out the little things that can mean the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful interview.
But I didn’t just learn all this from a book or a blog. I have learnt a great deal more from my own experiences and more specifically, the mistakes I have made.
Here are three which I reckon are my silliest…
1. I talked, a lot.
As a Director, I obviously LOVE my company, Coburg Banks. You’d expect that to be the case.
So, when I used to interview people to join my team, I would be really ultra-enthusiastic and spend a great deal of time talking to (at) candidates about what we did, what our dreams for the future were and how amazing our team was etc.
Without realising it, I kind of turned into a bit of salesperson.
I remember walking out of an interview once (with quite a shy interviewee) and realising, I hadn’t learned a damn thing about them!
I spent the entire interview talking about how great we were and hadn’t actually asked the candidates enough relevant questions about them.
What did I learn?
- Interviews do require some sort of process and preparation – winging it is dangerous.
- Employer branding is important, but so is actually asking interview questions.
- Shy candidates may feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable if you talk at them for an hour.
I ended up contacting the candidate again (apologetically), doing a follow up video interview and hired her the following week (at least the story had a happy ending, right?)
2. I went “competency crazy.”
I don’t know about you, but as an HR professional, I’m constantly on the lookout for a way to standardise my interviews; to create a robust process that will never fail me.
So, back in the day, when I was introduced to “competency questions” I was chuffed.
An objective set of questions, that’ll help to assess any skill imaginable and require candidates to give real-life examples to justify their claims? Yes please.
So I went completely competency crazy.
And by that I mean that my interviews became hour long competency-question-after-competency-question interrogations (that’s not how I saw it at the time, but now when I look back…)
Nobody likes to be interrogated.
Having to recall experience after experience and reveal them in a positive light, on the spot, is bound to fry even the most confident of candidate’s brain.
It’s a totally unnatural experience, and immediately puts people on the defensive and that means…
- Candidates are more likely to lie.
- Candidates are more likely to panic.
- Candidates are more likely to get well and truly p*ssed off!
I discovered all of this and more, when the “perfect candidate” for a job I was recruiting for Coburg Banks turned down my offer.
She said she found the interview process “too gruelling” and had decided to accept a (lower-paid) job elsewhere as she felt she was a better fit for their culture.
Obviously I was gutted.
Need some tips on how to make candidates feel comfortable in interviews?
What did I learn?
- 3-5 competency questions per interview will be more than enough to find out important skills information about a candidate.
- “Stress interviews” are, in most cases, not the right way to go.
- The best candidates aren’t going to stick around if you interview them badly. Employer branding is important.
Think about your interview process; do you interrogate candidates?
3. I failed at follow up.
Right, those of you who regularly read our blog, will know how much we go on about the “importance of following up.” And there is a reason for that.
So many recruiters either don’t bother to follow up at all, or get it all wrong when they do.
I used to be one of those recruiters.
After interviewing candidates, I would take some (too much) time to mill over who I wanted to hire and in the meantime, all the candidates were just left waiting in the dark.
When I had made my final decision, I would always send a quick email over to unsuccessful candidates, but it was more like a template saying “sorry, you have been unsuccessful.” (Shudder).
I’d like to point out that this wasn’t down to arrogance or because I just couldn’t be bothered.
As an inexperienced interviewer, I just hadn’t really thought through the consequences of not following up. I hadn’t considered…
- How frustrated the candidates (both successful and unsuccessful) would feel, waiting around.
- That they would all continue to look for jobs while I failed to make a decision.
- That failure to follow up with them properly would leave a sour taste in their mouth and really ruin our employer branding.
And the various other scenarios that would affect my company as a result of my ignorance.
What did I learn?
I’ve got to admit, this only happened once or twice very early on in my career, because I soon learnt my lesson; I ended up losing out on a perfect hire because I took too long to make my decision.
Now, I always…
- Follow up saying “thank you” for attending the interview, while setting expectations of when the final decision will be made.
- Make my decision quickly and let the successful candidate know.
- Take phone calls from my candidates if they need reassurance or wish to check on application progress.
- Give proper feedback about the interview (not just a one-liner).
I also do all of this for my clients. And it really does make a difference.
We all make mistakes. And I’m not afraid to admit it.
In fact, the silliest mistakes I’ve made (above) have turned me into the recruiter I am today.
Recruiter Pro Tip
Three things I always tell my clients now:
- Be friendly and start a conversation, but don’t lose sight of what you’re there to achieve; finding a superstar new employee for your business.
- Use some (3 – 5) competency questions, but don’t shovel too many into the process, it’s awkward and far too intense.
- Always, always, always follow up with your candidates.
Pretty simple, really.
Have you made any similar mistakes? Or perhaps some completely different ones?
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences so please do share by popping a comment in the comment box below.
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Enjoying confession time?
If you’d like to read more confessions and real-life stories, check these out…
- Oh, the Recruiting Mistakes I’ve Made!
- The 7 Biggest Mistakes I Made as a Hiring Manager
- 3 Mistakes I Made as a Recruiter
Good luck.- Anthony Hughes