Interviewing - Successful Selection

by Jane Tredgett

Common pitfalls

There are some common pitfalls into which many interviewers fall – sometimes including those who should know better!

Poor preparation

Lack of preparation can give a negative impression to a good candidate and put them off working for the organisation. It also leads to inconsistency and unstructured interviews, resulting in some or all of the following mistakes:

  • The interviewer may ask inappropriate questions – either discriminatory or leading; good questions are the backbone of an effective interview and they need to be carefully planned and considered before the interview
  • Interviews being held in an inappropriate environment – a room that is too hot, too cold, with little space or no privacy can make a candidate more nervous and can have a negative impact on their impression of the organisation
  • Lack of structure – managers who fail to prepare will often take a haphazard approach to interviews, so questions do not flow logically and are asked as the interviewer thinks of them. Interviews with more than one interviewer often end up feeling confused as one interviewer adds something to the other’s question or asks a question which is inconsistent with the previous one. This can be confusing and annoying for candidates and makes the assessment after the interviews very difficult.

During the interview

You may have allocated time for preparation, but mistakes can still happen during the interview:

  • Visual (body language) clues are missed – this often occurs as a result of intense note taking on the part of the interviewer; remember that when you have asked a question, vital clues may be given before the candidate begins to speak.
  • Failure to take notes – many interviewers try to rely on memory and find they cannot remember which candidate said what; this also leaves the interviewer open to accusations of discrimination.

Hasty decisions...

With all the above correctly in place, a poor candidate may still end up being selected, usually for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Pressure to select the best from a poor bunch to fill the vacancy – many interviewers fall into this trap, taking on a candidate who is not really appropriate. Usually the candidate leaves (or has to be pushed) and the exercise has been a waste of time and money. It is best to wait for the right candidate, although this can be hard to do at the time
  • The halo effect – the average decision time an interviewer takes to make their mind up is under four minutes (Webster 1964), and the rest of the interview is spent justifying the decision they have already made. Beware of falling into this trap – try to reserve judgement until you have asked all your questions and seen all the applicants
  • Interviewers may select people who are like themselves! It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to spot a shared hobby on a CV or application form and immediately decide that the candidate will fit nicely...