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10 Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Adequate preparation and an understanding of effective interviewing techniques can help you make more informed hiring decisions.

The success of a business depends greatly on hiring the right employees. Interviews are an essential part of this process, but all too often critical steps are overlooked or handled incorrectly. The following are 10 common interview mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. MISTAKE: Inadequate preparation. Lack of preparation can cause interviews to go off course and leave candidates with a negative impression of your company.

SOLUTION: Set aside adequate time prior to the interview to review the candidate’s resume and application form. If you’ve conducted a phone screen, you should also take a look at any notes you made during your discussion with the applicant. After reviewing these materials, prepare a list of relevant interview questions.

2. MISTAKE: Inconsistency. Consistency is important for demonstrating that your interview process is applied fairly. All similarly situated candidates should be subject to the same set of pre-employment requirements.

SOLUTION: Candidates for the same job should be asked the same core set of questions. Not only will this enable you to make comparisons among candidates, but it will also help to demonstrate that all candidates were treated similarly.

3. MISTAKE: Asking impermissible questions. Federal law protects employees and job applicants from discrimination on the basis of a number of characteristics, including but not limited to: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, age, citizenship status, disability, genetic information and military status. Note that state and local jurisdictions may also have additional protections. Questions revealing one’s membership in a protected class must be avoided.

SOLUTION: Only ask job-related questions and avoid questions that could, directly or indirectly, identify the candidate as a member of a protected group. For example, because age is a protected characteristic, avoid asking for a candidate’s age, date of birth or the year he or she graduated from high school.

4. MISTAKE: Failing to ask behavioral questions. Behavioral questions enable candidates to share past experiences handling specific work challenges − those they’ll likely encounter working for you. This technique assumes that a candidate’s past behavior can be a predictor of future performance.

SOLUTION: To better assess a candidate’s potential for success, behavioral-based questioning should be used, at least to some extent, in every interview. When asking behavioral questions, request the candidate to provide details concerning the specific situation or task, the action he or she took, as well as the end result. For example, if the candidate is applying for a customer service position, you may ask him or her to tell you about a time when he or she dealt with an angry or frustrated customer, how he or she responded and the end result.

5. MISTAKE: Relying on closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and are often considered to be leading questions. Open-ended questions are more likely to elicit valuable job-related information by encouraging applicants to give a more detailed answer based on their knowledge, experience and beliefs.

SOLUTION: Instead of asking a closed-ended question, ask the candidate to describe an experience dealing with a particular set of circumstances. For instance, instead of asking “Are you adept at handling disputes between employees?” you may want to ask the candidate to describe a situation in which he or she had to handle a dispute and the end result.

6. MISTAKE: Neglecting to take notes. It’s important to jot down notes during the interview so that you can recall valuable information when it comes time to compare candidates and ultimately make a hiring decision.

SOLUTION: Keep notes factual and avoid expressing opinions or including information that is unrelated to the job, even if voluntarily disclosed by the applicant. Document your decision and keep records showing why applicants were either hired or rejected. Note that Equal Employment Opportunity laws require you to retain interview notes for one year.

7. MISTAKE: Inadequate training. Supervisors are often tasked with interviewing potential hires, but may not be trained on the process.

SOLUTION: Supervisors (and anyone else involved in conducting interviews) should be trained on your company’s selection procedures, the types of questions that should be asked, the types of questions that should be avoided and how to get the information needed to make a quality hiring decision.

8. MISTAKE: Veering off track. From time to time, even experienced interviewers must deal with interviews that have gone off track for one reason or another.

Consider sending letters to every applicant who comes in for an interview.

SOLUTION: Practice ways to handle some common interview problems. For example, you may run into a scenario where the interviewee’s responses are long-winded. To help avoid the candidate going off on a tangent, ask more targeted questions or politely remind the candidate that you want to make sure there is enough time to answer all questions. Conversely, if a candidate evades a question, try asking it again or in a different way.

9. MISTAKE: Making promises. It’s extremely important to avoid making promises, regardless of how desirable the candidate may seem. Before committing to the next step of the hiring process, you want time after all interviews have been completed to compare candidates.

SOLUTION: Let candidates know your time frame for making a decision and that you will be in touch in the near future.

10. MISTAKE: Failing to send rejection letters. Even if you decide not to hire a candidate, maintaining good relations is important. Sending a rejection letter demonstrates that you appreciate the candidate’s interest in working for your company and allows the applicant to move on in the job search.

SOLUTION: Consider sending letters to every applicant who comes in for an interview. Letters should be sent promptly after making your decision and should be personalized with the applicant’s name and the position for which he or she applied.

With adequate preparation and an understanding of effective interviewing techniques, you can make more informed hiring decisions. n

Rebecca Morris is the content development manager for ADP HR411. Whether it’s human resources, payroll or benefits, ADP provides the services and insights that let you focus on what matters: growing your franchise. For more information, contact ADP Vice President of Franchising Joe Francis. Find him at via the directory.

Disclaimer: This content provides practical information concerning the subject matter covered and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal advice or other professional services. ADP does not give legal advice as part of its services. While every effort is made to provide current information, the law changes regularly and laws may vary depending on the state or municipality. This material is made available for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should review applicable law in your jurisdiction and consult experienced counsel for legal advice.

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