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Five Interview Don'ts

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The interview is a hiring manager's most valuable tool in the hiring process. You are trying to discover each candidate's capability to perform the essential job functions, and how they will fit into your organization. Doing this while treating each candidate equally is a balancing act that avoids going to extremes like probing about personal information or overselling your company. Here are five common interview don'ts that can derail your ability to truly evaluate an applicant.


#1 Ask Illegal Questions
Familiarize yourself with federal and state antidiscrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The list of topics you may not ask questions about includes:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital Status

This is not intended to substitute for legal or professional advice to the specifics of your situation. Consult with counsel familiar with specific labor laws that apply to your local area.

#2 Overshare
During interviews, psychologists note that the person asking the questions holds more power. With this power comes responsibility, and it's important not to get carried away by your own words. Descriptions of your company and details about the position should be brief and it's unacceptable to ramble and be oversharey with information. Your end game is to give the applicant catalysts to talk about themselves and to reveal whether they are a good match for the position.

#3 Resort to Asking Easy Questions
Although you don't want to make an applicant squirm under scrutiny, you also don't want them firmly entrenched in their comfort zone. Avoiding tough questions about holes in employment or past relationships with employers emboldens applicants. This sets a precedent that makes them believe they can get away with questionable behavior. The most effective method of interviewing is to ramp up to tougher questions. This way, the applicant will be relaxed and prepared to reveal their true self.

#4 Talk Yourself Out of Gut Instincts
Intuition is there for a reason, and often hiring managers ignore their gut feelings about a candidate. Whether these feelings are positive or negative, it's good to give them credence instead of talking yourself out of them. Most hiring managers who make a decision they later regret reveal they had instincts they chose to ignore.

#5 Grade on a Curve
This is a common mistake — instead of evaluating each candidate according to your criteria, you grade them against each other. It's easy to do when you have a "dud" candidate followed by a capable one, making the second candidate appear relatively brilliant. Try to start each separate interview with a beginner's mind and focus on whether the applicant's personality and qualifications make them a good fit for the position.

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