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Interview techniques from experienced interviewers

Experienced interviewers avoid mistakes like lack of preparation, confirmation bias, the Halo Effect, social comparison bias, and the Affect Heuristic. They understand that rushing to conclusions, chasing perfection, and not knowing what to look for can lead to poor hiring decisions. They also value structured interviews.

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

Interviews have been the hardest part of the hiring process throughout their history. The best interview techniques for employers are challenging. Mistakes can compromise your judgement, from cognitive biases to lack of proper preparation, and they may have serious consequences.

Learning how to conduct an interview is, therefore, essential. Advice is there if you look for it. Whether or not you have researched the best interview questions and identified interview questions not to ask, how do you cut out mistakes that you’re not even aware you’re making?

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Experienced interviewers know that acknowledging them is a vital step to dealing with them. Here’s 10 things you should try to avoid:

  1. Lack of preparation

Hundreds of articles urge candidates to prepare thoroughly for an interview. At the same time, few remind the interviewer that they must do the same. A candidate that comes in unprepared risks losing one of a number of job opportunities, while an interviewer has more at stake. You may miss out on a chance to a systematic technique to interviewing by recording valuable historical data. Eventually you may also lose a great hire. It’s great if you know what you are looking for. But you can’t always count on “when I see it I’ll know it”. A structured interview takes time to prepare but is one of the best predictors of job performance.

  1. Confirmation bias

When a person formulates an idea or hypothesis in their minds, they will look for a way to validate it. This is confirmation bias and it should be checked. If a hiring manager decides before the interview that a candidate is stellar, they will look for (and likely find) proof of that while interviewing. Meanwhile, due to selective perception, they will be blind to anything negative that contradicts that preconceived idea. This poor interview tactic a sure route to a bad decision.

  1. Halo Effect

Imagine you are awed by a candidate’s coding skills. They quickly wrote a piece of code that is functional, clean and perfect to look at. Your appreciation of that skill is likely to spill over to other areas in which you are trying to evaluate the candidate. You find that their communication or teamwork skills are deficient, but their negative effect is lessened greatly. You may end up hiring this candidate and find out the hard way that they’re not a good fit in your company.

  1. Social comparison bias

It happens to all of us. People have a tendency to compare themselves with others in every aspect of life. When you perceive that someone is better in some way, feelings of resentment can arise. During the interview, hiring managers may view candidates who they perceive as better than themselves with some degree of competitiveness. This results in negative feelings and no hire for a highly qualified candidate. Being aware of this bias can help you overcome it. Be reminded that this candidate isn’t out to get your job, you will hire them based on potential and the benefits they can bring to the company.

  1. Affect Heuristic

So you and the candidate went to the same high school. You feel the familiarity and enjoy the reminiscence. If you don’t quickly check it, your judgement may be easily clouded and the future decision affected. Luckily, there are remedies for that. The presence of more than one interviewer is likely to reduce the effect of subjective judgement. Most importantly though a structured interview will help you focus on objective criteria.

  1. Rushing to conclusions

Half of employers report they need only five minutes to determine if a candidate is a good fit, according to a recent poll. In such a short time, you will probably be able to tell if they are polite, confident or well-dressed. But are these really correlated to future job performance? Most likely no. It’s important to remember that an interview isn’t a race. You don’t get bonus points for deciding on a candidate quickly. First impressions can easily mislead you and compromise your willingness to ask the right questions or interpret the answers. Try to wait until the end of the interview to formulate your initial judgement. Maybe you will be surprised.

  1. Chasing perfection

Often, hiring managers aren’t really trying to find the best among the interviewees. They are trying to find what they have dreamed as the “perfect” candidate. One that has all the qualifications they asked for and then some, who is diligent, polite, confident and dying to work for them. But such a candidate doesn’t exist. You will probably keep interviewing until the decision becomes urgent. Talented candidates who could’ve been trained to excel, will have found another job. Instead of holding out for “perfection”, be more realistic.

  1. Not knowing what to look for

Interviewers may occasionally rely too much on template questions they found on the internet or heard from others. Sometimes they don’t know what these questions are meant to reveal. You should think about what you are trying to assess when you ask competency based interview questions like how a candidate handled a difficult client. Is it patience, communication skills, problem-solving or all of those qualities together? Being conscious of the purpose of a question is the only way to evaluate the answer. Otherwise, you may end up interpreting it by intuition or disregard it altogether.

Using structured interviews can help you define your requirements early. Download our free guide to learn how.

  1. Not delving deeper into questions

Behavioral interview questions are a modern interviewing technique that is actually more complicated than it appears. Asking one question about a past experience may not tell you a lot about a candidate. You don’t just want to hear their story. You want to understand their way of thinking, how they reached a solution, what was the impact of their actions and how others perceived them. Every time you ask a question, you should be ready to follow up with others until you get to the core of what you need to make an informed decision.

  1. Not “selling” the company

Interviewers can forget sometimes that an interview isn’t only about them assessing the candidate. It’s also a chance to present the company in a way that will persuade the best candidate to accept their offer. This is essential, since someone with strong qualifications will probably have other options to consider too. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should get carried away bragging about your company. A sound benchmark to aim for is 80/20 listening/talking and avoid sounding arrogant or insincere. You should try to make every word count to your favor.

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