Don’t assume that just because the economy is in the doldrums, companies won’t be hiring this year. Many firms will hire due to growth or organic employee turnover in 2009, while other well-positioned players will snag quality staff laid off by their competitors. You could be in a hiring position before you expect to be—but when times are tough it will be more important than ever to avoid bad hiring decisions.
What do do? In her book Boost Your Hiring IQ, author and professional interviewer Carole Martin highlights seven of the most common mistakes made by interviewers and how to avoid them:
- Making snap judgments: Even if the candidate flubs the first five minutes of an interview—or astonishes you with their brilliant command of industry-applicable jargon—don’t assume that she is (or isn’t) the right person for the job. Martin argues that keeping an open mind throughout an interview is crucial to assessing a candidate properly.
- Failing to prepare: Would you hire someone who hadn’t prepared for an interview? Probably not, which means you should have at least read the candidate’s resumÃ© and prepared questions that directly pertain to his work experience and the available position.
- Dominating the conversation: Martin feels that strong interviewers are those who allow job-seekers to do about 80% of the talking during an interview. Keeping mostly mum helps guarantee you hear enough information to make a proper assessment of the candidate’s skill set.
- Telegraphing desired responses: Leading candidates with a question such as “You don’t mind travelling for your job, do you?” will elicit the answer you want to hear, not the one you need to hear. The more effective question in this situation: “How do you feel about travelling for your job?”
- Asking closed-ended questions: As a rule of thumb, questions such as “Have you ever presented to large groups?”—which can be answered in a single word—require you to spend more time probing for more information on that topic. That’s time you could have spent querying the candidate in other areas.
- Asking threatening questions: Queries such as: “What was the real reason you left your last job?” or “Why didn’t you stay at your last job longer?” imply that the candidate did something wrong in seeking to leave their current or former employer, put the candidate on the defensive and create a barrier between the two of you—none of which is conducive to determining the candidate’s fit for the position. Martin’s advice: avoid threatening questions at all costs.
- Losing control of the interview: It’s your job to determine the progress and general tone of the interview. Martin says remaining objective drastically improves your chances of making an objective hiring decision based on fact and ability—not gut’ feelings.