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10 Interview No-Nos

May 18, 2001
In-depth interviews are decisive for the interviewer and the interviewee inunderstanding what the job requires and what the employee has to offer. Don'tmake the mistake of not selling the position to an applicant by neglecting these10 common errors.

1. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions.
If you uncover anything during the reference checking or employment historyreview process that warrants tough questions, do not be afraid to ask about itduring the interview. It is important that you begin your relationship with anew hire on a frank basis.

2. Don't oversell your company.
Interviewers make mistakes by bragging about how things are booming, whilenot giving specifics to back up claims. He follows this up with a pat statementlike "Since the company was founded a little over a decade ago, we've beenon the right path and that road is now smoother than ever." An adeptinterviewer will lay out the strengths and weaknesses of the firm, putting themin perspective. Do not paint an unrealistic picture of your company in order tolure an applicant on board.

3. Don't ask for information you already have.
Interviewers ask, "Why don't you tell me about yourself? Let's see, howlong ago did you start your current position?" This shows a lack ofinterest in the candidate since this information was obtained earlier. Theinterview should be used to obtain new information or to confirm or rejecttentative information already acquired.

4. Don't allow yourself to be interrupted unless there is an emergency.
The interview is sometimes interrupted twice, first by a salesperson stickinghis head in the door and then by a telephone call. Too many interviewers allowthe interview to become disjointed by not taking steps to prevent interruptions.Your office door should be closed. Put calls and messages on hold.

5. Don't talk too much.
Interviewers tell applicants, "Well, I'm sure you have a lot ofquestions about the company and the job. Let me try to anticipate some of themfor you." This is a classic case of an interviewer who loves to hear hisown voice. At the most, an interviewer should say one word for every four spokenby the person being interviewed.

6. Don't use the interview as your therapy.
Too many interviewers use their sessions to spout out their concerns aboutthe company. When an interviewer vents emotions in an interview, he or she mayfeel better, but may lose a prospective employee in the bargain.

7. Don't be afraid to spell out in detail the requirements of the position.
When one applicant got a word in edgewise and asked about the specificrequirements of the job, she was brushed off with the pat answer, "Butthen, I wouldn't be concerned about that if I were you. I've always believedthat if you can sell, you can sell." It is imperative that people know whatis required of them before beginning a job. The interview is the time to outlinethe job's requirements, as well as your criteria for evaluating success in therole.

8. Don't gossip or swap war stories.
Many interviewers try to find familiar ground they can tread over with theapplicant. Though this might seem like a comfortable way to get an interviewunder way, inquiring about friends and relatives can get things sidetracked,wasting a huge amount of time. The interview should be devoted to obtaining asmuch information as possible in order to make a sound hiring decision.

9. Don't put the applicant on the defensive.
There is no point in creating unnecessary tension during the interview.Knowing an applicant's personality strengths and weaknesses is vital to makingthe best hiring decision. A speech embodying a long-held philosophy isinappropriate, but a frank discussion of the importance of detail in the job --and how she might deal with the detail aspect of the job -- would beconstructive and would allow both people to make a more reasoned decision.

10. Don't be afraid to make the interview as long, or as short, as you deemnecessary.
The final mistake commonly made is that interviews are concluded in anunnecessary rush. As interviewers notice the time, they realize they are latefor another appointment and excuse themselves hurriedly. To be effective, theinterview should make the fullest use of everyone's valuable time. There are notset guidelines on length, so long as you clearly spell out the anticipatedlength of the interview and so long as the time is spent wisely.

From How To Hire & Develop Your Next Top Performer by Herbert Greenberg.Copyright © 2001 by Herbert Greenberg. Reprinted by permission of TheMcGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.