Blog, Human Resources, Organization

Interviewing Tips for Interviewers

There are a lot of ‘experts’ and ‘how to guides’ giving tips on interviewing and how to interview candidates for a position. Most of these tips are good…but people should also be careful to interject a little bit of personality and common sense into interviewing. See my list of Interviewing Tips for Interviewers at the end of this post for some ideas and tips.

Organizations and hiring managers need to start thinking about their hiring practices and how they interview candidates. I recently experienced an interview (actually 2 interviews) that completely removed all interest I had for working with the organization that I was interviewing with.

Apparently, I’m not alone. According to a study reported by Management Issues there are many more people running into the same issue. The study, as reported in the article titled “Poor interviewers driving away talent” suggests that:

Two-thirds of job seekers report that the behavior of interviewers influences their decision to accept a position, according to a study released by consulting firm Development Dimensions International (DDI) and

Based on a survey of almost 6,000 staffing directors, hiring managers and job seekers, the study reveals that despite the fact that companies are increasingly desperate for talent, many are becoming their own worst obstacles when interviewing qualified candidates.

A recent example of poor interviewing

A few weeks ago, I spent 5 hours at a potential employer interviewing for a position that I was fairly interested in. The organization was a non-profit organization based in the Dallas area, which would have been an interesting challenge and something new for me. Taking the job would mean that I pull myself off the market as a consultant but I think it would have been worth it…the opportunity seemed very good.

The interview process started well. I spoke with a recruiter and then the hiring manager. About a week later, they brought me back in for a long afternoon of interviews with members of the senior leadership team and a few people that would be peers. The day started out OK with the first two interviewers…both people had read my resume and had prepared questions for me based on my background. Neither used a prepared list of ‘canned’ questions.

The trouble started when it was time to meet the Executive Director (the non-profit version of the CEO). He was impersonal, uninterested and unprepared. He hadn’t reviewed my resume and didn’t really know what the job was that I was interviewing for. He then pulled out a prepared list of ‘canned’ questions and began reading them off line by line. These weren’t behavioral questions (example shown here) but simple questions like “what do you want to do in 5 years?” and “What does your father do?” He then proceeded to ask me what I knew about the organization even though he hadn’t spent any time getting to know my background prior to the interview.

The rest of the afternoon was more of the same. One of the last interviews was with a ‘takaholic’ who spent the entire interview telling me how badly the organization was run, how poorly the team performed, all the mistakes my predecessor had made, etc, etc. This interviewer would have been my closest peer in the organization and I could tell very quickly that the two of us wouldn’t get along well. This person seemed more interested in pointing out problems with others than interviewing me.

After the interview process, I decided the organization wasn’t the right fit for me and would tell them so if made an offer. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to do so…they apparently felt that I was too ‘laid back’ for their organization and ‘not a good fit’ since I didn’t fit into the right ‘personality’ category. The leadership team had just come back from a Leadership Retreat where they had taken a personality assessment…they decided that since 70% of their leaders where all of one type of personality, they needed to hire more people like that. I’ve written about these types of hiring dangers in posts titled Organizational Culture, Follow-up to Organizational Culture and The Problem(s) with Linear Thinking.

Interviewing Tips for Interviewers

I tell the above story to emphasis a few things:

  1. When interviewing candidates, be personable and professional.
  2. Be prepared. You expect the candidate to do their homework, do yours.
  3. Don’t read from a list of ‘canned’ questions during an interview….probe into the background of the candidate.
  4. Have a conversation with the candidate…don’t talk ‘at’ them.
  5. Understand the role that the candidate is interviewing for.

The best interviews I’ve been involved with are those that are not interviews, they’ve been conversations between myself and the hiring manager (or candidate if I’m interviewing someone).

If the interviewer does their homework and preparation, they can easily fit any probing and behavioral questions into a conversation without needing to make the discussion feel like an interview.

[tags] Interviewing Tips, Interviewers, Hiring [/tags]

About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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16 years ago

Eric, I agree with you. How timely that I just posted an article this morning from the perspective of the guy on the other end of the desk: I also hate the canned HR questions and rarely use them (certainly not in such a rote fashion as that Director did anyway). I prefer to have a conversation (as you mention) and throw questions aimed at getting to the root of whether they are smart and can get the job done. I have to admit though that on occasion, I can be less than organized on interview day because of… Read more »

Eric Brown
16 years ago

Rob – Great post..thanks for the link. {Note to self: If you ever interview with Rob, be prepared!} 🙂

There is a difference between being unorganized (e.g., can’t find a resume) and being unprepared (e.g., not reading a resume).

Thanks for the comment. Good luck on the interviews.

Steve Foerster
16 years ago

It’s very true. I once interviewed for two positions at two different organizations in the same day, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. The people in the first interview were approachable, had read my resume, and seemed interested in what I had to offer. The afternoon experience was more of an interrogation than an interview — I knew within ten minutes I wouldn’t enjoy working with them. Sure enough I accepted the offer from the first organization, which was especially telling since the second one was a better fit for me on paper.

Eric Brown
16 years ago

Steve – Thanks for the comment…looks like your experiences are very similar to good portion of others.

I really think organizations need to rethink their interviewing practices…many are driving good people away.

16 years ago

This is a useful resource for all the job seekers and interviewers.

16 years ago

Very good post. It is unfortunate that some companies don’t take the time to train those interviewing others. The people interviewing potential candidates must be knowledgeable, friendly, and truly have the best interest of the company and the people at heart or as you say, or good people will walk out the door.

I have more thoughts, but I would like to think about them. I will link to you when I get my thoughts together.


[…] If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know I’ve blogged about Interviewing (here and here for example) and that I think that an organization should try their darnedest to hire the […]


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