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Conducting an Interview with Know-How

Conducting an Interview with Know-How

By: Carole Martin, author of Boost your Interview IQ (McGraw Hill)

With so many people out of a job these days, the hiring process should be easy -- just pick the best candidate out of the bunch -- right?  If only it was so.

If you are feeling challenged by the pile of resumes that is quickly becoming a mountain -- whether virtual or paper copies -- you are not alone.

Some of the pitfalls to look out for when you are in this overwhelming position can work against you. The result: you end up picking someone just because they are not as bad as some of the others, instead of finding the “piece of gold” who will make your job easier by being the right person for the job.

Here are some of the top mistakes made in the hiring process when conducting an interview.

1. Judging By the Cover
Some studies done have shown that the majority of decisions are made about a candidate in the first 30-60 seconds. That’s pretty frightening when you consider how many wrong impressions people get in those first minutes of the interview.

Even if you get a favorable impression in those first few minutes it is advised to give the person the benefit of the doubt and listen to what he or she has to say. You’d be surprised what you can discover by asking the right interview questions and carefully listening to the answers, while reading between the lines.

If your instincts were correct from the beginning, then consider this a backup for your hiring process to make a more objective decision.

2. “Winging” the Interview
Think about the last time you conducted an interview and how much preparation you did before the interview. If you prepared the questions and reviewed the resume in advance then you are head and shoulders above the majority.

Most interviewers give a brief look at the candidate’s resume they are about to interview -- scanning it for anywhere from 30-60 seconds. What a waste.

When you take the time before the interview to think about the job skills of your new hire and then compare your “wish list” against the person’s qualifications you will be closer to hitting the mark. 

3. Biggest Mistake -- Talking too much
There is a rule of thumb in how to interview that will assist you in getting the information you will need to make a savvy decision on a candidate:

“The candidate should talk 80% of the time -- the interviewer 20% of the time.”

One of the complaints heard from candidates is that they didn’t get a chance to talk or to tell what they had to offer because the interviewer talked most of the time and didn’t ask many interview questions. 

You can learn a lot more by listening than you can by talking.

4. Asking Closed-Ended Questions
One of the purposes of conducting an interview is to find out as much as possible about the candidate by soliciting information from their past experience -- their past behavior.

When you ask questions that can be answered in one or two words you are missing an opportunity to find out detailed information. You may have to ask three or four follow-up questions to reap the information you are seeking.

An example of a closed-ended question:

“Are you OK with the idea of public speaking as part of the job?”

The candidate can answer the question with a “Yes” or a “No” answer and you will have missed the opportunity to find out more about what public speaking experience he or she has had.

A question that will reap a great deal more information is to ask a behavioral question:

“Can you tell me about a time when you spoke before a group as a part of your job and how it went?”

You are asking for a specific example of past behavior that will require the candidate to provide you with an example of how they behave.

Remember -- past behavior is often an indicator of future success.

5. Not Controlling the Interview
You are in charge of the interview from start to finish. When you are prepared and ask probing questions, the interview will stay on track.
If you are unprepared and move from subject to subject the interview can spin out of control. The end-result is your not knowing enough about the client to make an objective hiring decision.

Don’t let the interview go longer than needed. Cut to the chase and save yourself and the candidate time by collecting information that will assist you is a decision as to whether this person is the right person for the job.

By following these few simple steps, your hiring process can be efficient and informative. You will find out more quickly whether this person has the qualities that you are looking for. 

Final tip: be sure that you clarify what you are seeking in a candidate -- skills, abilities and personality traits. Doing so will undoubtedly improve your hiring outcome.

Author Bio:
Carole Martin
is America’s best-known interview coach. She is author of Boost Your Interview IQ and Boost your Hiring IQ -- both from McGraw Hill. An acknowledged expert in the use of behavioral techniques, Carole is certified by The Human Resources Certification Institute as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).  Visit

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