Job interviews are stress, for both the candidate and the hiring manager. After all, both sides want to show themselves from the best angle, make a good impression and ideally confirm a second meeting, right?
There are many dos and don’ts (here are all from this blog). But what is the number one worst thing you can do to a candidate in the interview? Read on, the answer might be different than what you think of.
You are the interviewer and have prepared yourself more or less well for this interview. Maybe you read the resume in detail and checked the LinkedIn profile of the candidate thoroughly; maybe you rush in 5 minutes late and barely prepared anything. Yet even if you prepared yourself well, chances are high your candidate prepared much better than you did: If s/he (“she” as of now) did it right, she googled you, learned the key figures and the history of your company by heart and printed financial statements (at least, if she read my recommendations – or is one of the candidates I presented in my function as a headhunter). This is an important meeting for her, one of the most critical ones in this company, even if she will work here for the next 10 years. There are high expectations and she wants to make the best impression on you.
Which are the mistakes you can commit as an interviewer? You know already that mixing up name or past employers of your candidate, not listening, checking your emails during the interview, talking 90% of the time or taking phone calls will turn your opposite down. If you behave like this in the first interview where you are ought to sell yourself as a boss and an employer, how will you be in “real life”? (I turned down a job many years ago because my opposite talked 99% of time)
Yet this is not the worst thing you can do to a candidate in the interview: Whatever you do during the interview will be over after 60 minutes. The pain you can cause after the interview, however, can hurt for weeks:
It is the 7 words “Thank, Ann. We will let you know”.
Why is that, isn’t that how 90% of the interviews end? Yes, but so what? This does not mean it is right. In my experience, you know after 15 minutes at the latest if this is the right candidate or not. Often, “we will let you know” is a way to avoid a negative response and negative things is what we try to avoid.
I recommend a clear feedback and there are only three possible answers to me (cultural must also be taken into consideration and the wording will vary in different locations):
- “Thanks Ann. I think you are a great candidate for this job and I have the feeling we would get along together very well. I confirm there will be a second interview from my side. What is your feedback?”
- “Thanks Ann. I really think you are a very interesting candidate but I do not think I have the right job for you: I am looking for someone with more experience in the topics A, B and C (or: I am not sure you would be at ease in this company, it is just a feeling but my guts always tell me the truth). As a conclusion, it would not be fair towards you to go any further, potentially hire you but put you in risk as of the beginning. I am sorry but I think this is not the right job/ company for you. I appreciate you came here and if you wish, I can give you some tips what to do better in my opinion”
- “Thanks Ann. I think you are a very interesting candidate. However, I am insecure about the place you could occupy here. It is hard to say, I cannot put it into words. I have a doubt. It is just a feeling but my guts always tell me the truth. The times I went against my guts, it did not work. I am sorry but I think this is not the right job/ company for you. If you wish, I can give you some tips what to do better in my opinion”
Sounds very direct, maybe a little too direct?
Point 1 is important as you want to secure this top candidate for you too, right? And if she says now “Actually there is one thing I do not understand/ that is missing to me”, now is the time to clarify and sell the job (but not oversell).
For answer 2 and 3, be fair towards the candidate, don’t let them hope in vain and let that hope die because you don’t come back to them (80% don’t…), send a standard email or, at the best, give them a call in a few days.
Yes, this is a different approach and many candidates will not be used to it. But in the end they will appreciate it and say “XY did not hire and I did/ did not understand the reasons. However, she was fair and respectful and even gave me tips nobody else did.”