A Short List of Bad Interviews

Posted on February 13, 2012.

I haven’t been on the Interviewee side of the table in a long time, but several of my friends have recently. Maybe it’s because of the lackluster economy, but it seems that candidates get treated pretty poorly. Maybe the interviewers don’t know any better, but it wouldn’t hurt for them to think about the experience they’re giving potential employees.  After all, what comes around goes around and Karma can really be a bitch. So here is a short list of bad interviewing skills:

Not letting the candidate get a word in edgewise. OK, this is not terrible behavior, but it really defeats the purpose of the interview, which is to find out if the applicant can do the job!

Not following up. We teach job hunters all the time that they should follow up every interview with a thank you, but we should teach interviewers to do the same.  Many people tell me of having a phone interview or a face to face and never hearing anything back from the interviewer at all.  Come on, we know that no one likes to deliver bad news, but the professional thing is to close the loop and let them know that they are out of the running.

Disappearing, then reappearing suddenly. A friend applied for a job online and never got a response beyond the automated email. Boy, was she surprised when they called her four months later for an interview! She had been on her new job for a month, so she had the pleasure of telling them they were too late. It is perfectly fine to hold on to resumes after you have filled the position for future openings, but it is more professional to let the candidate know when you filled the position, and ask them if they would like to be called for future openings.

Leaving the candidate waiting in the lobby well past the interview time. Your best candidates are people who already have a job, so they probably are taking a big risk interviewing with you. Don’t add to their nervousness by making them worry about being late getting back to work, or that they will run into someone in your lobby and have to explain why they are there.  Let them wait out of view of the masses. If things are running late, have someone check to see if that will put the candidate in a bind and reschedule if necessary.

Asking the questions that are off limits in a roundabout way. Everyone who interviews job candidates should know that there are several things that you cannot ask by law, namely age and marital status. Someone described their weirdest interview as one where the interviewer spent most of the interview asking questions about the candidate’s college experience – bizarre because the candidate had twenty-plus years of relevant job experience. He realized that the interviewer was trying to ferret out his age without breaking the law and asking. 

Most of these things involve nothing more than having common courtesy for the individual.  Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want things to be handled. There is no evidence that making the interview process fraught with aggravation and discomfort for the candidate gives you a better outcome. On the contrary, treating the candidate with respect may not insure a great hire, but it will help your company be viewed positively.