Are You A Terrible Interviewer?


Katherine Burik

Also known as the Interview Doctor, Katherine Burik is part of the Aegis team specializing in interview techniques that produce outstanding hiring results.  We are proud to be featuring one of her articles this week.

“Terrible” is such an awful word.  I don’t mean to insult anyone.  I really don’t.  But now that I have your attention let’s test this concept bit.

I come to this conclusion after talking to a lot of hiring managers who regularly interview people.  They hate interviewing.  Some hiring managers might bluster a bit, but if pressed they will admit it is hard to fit recruiting and interviewing into their busy schedules.  They are never sure if they are asking the right questions or if the candidate is telling the truth.  They don’t think they do it well.

My personal experience also leads me to this conclusion.  When I was in human resources, I learned to interview the old-fashioned way.  My boss said I was scheduled to interview someone in two hours.  She gave me a list of frequently asked questions and a resume and said go to it. It was awful.  I was terrible at interviewing.

Many interviewers start that way and never get much more skilled. Most interviewers are unprepared, not sure what to look for, and very afraid of making a mistake.

Let’s test this theory.  Take our quiz and see how well you interview.

I never got any training to interview. I am a natural. YES NO
I ask questions from the 30 Frequently Asked Questions list. YES NO
I talk more than the candidate? YES NO
I believe everything the candidates say. YES NO
I have a sixth sense about candidates that I use to select the candidate to hire YES NO
I was too busy to do much planning. I know everything will work out just fine. YES NO
Every candidate is about the same. I choose the candidate I like to talk to. YES NO

How did you do?  If you answered four or more of these questions “YES,” you could be a terrible interviewer too!

I hate interviewing people, but I love being interviewed.  Kind of ironic for someone who coaches others about interviewing.  But, sometimes to teach is to be twice taught.  I am always learning too, seeking a better way to find the right candidate.

Tips to be a better interviewer are hidden in the questions themselves.  Just turn them around, like this:

  • Get some training.  Like any other skill, you need to learn some good techniques then practice until you get it right.
  • Design your own questions, preferably behavioral questions that address the core competencies needed to achieve they key objectives of the job.
  • Stop talking so much during interviews.  If you talk too much, how will you learn anything about the candidate?  The interviewer should talk 20% of the time and let the candidate talk at least 80% of the time.
  • Listen to candidates but consider whether what the candidates say makes sense so you can ask follow-up questions.
  • Don’t use a sixth sense to evaluate candidates.  Evaluate candidates compared to the criteria necessary to achieve the key objectives of the job.  You can only know this if you determine those criteria prior to the interview in the planning stage.
  • Don’t assume that everything will go well.  Take the time prior to the interview to PLAN, so everything will go well.
  • Some candidates are better than others.  Compare candidates to the criteria (knowledge, skills, abilities and behavior) needed to achieve the outcomes we need.

Be a great interviewer. We can help. Check out the 30 FAQs to be sure you think of better questions to ask at your next interview.