Interviewing: The 10 most common manager mistakes

Conducting job interviews requires a tricky balance between politeness and assertive evaluation. One wrong word or action can drive an applicant away—or even trigger a lawsuit.

Pay extra attention to the following top 10 mistakes that managers make in interviews:

1. Talking too much

Don’t deliver monologues about the job, the company or your background. Resist the temptation to prattle on about your feelings about the company or its products. Aim for an 85/15 split, with 85% of your time spent listening. Don’t rush to break a silence. Give applicants plenty of time to respond.

2. Failing to prepare

Don’t quickly scan a résumé for the first time just before conducting an in­­ter­­view. Take time to review it beforehand and think about what you want in a new employee. Preparation will help you keep the interview on track and determine whether a candidate is qualified.

3. Asking questions off the cuff

A loose approach isn’t good for interviews. At best, it can be uninformative and, at worst, legally dangerous.

Hiring for Attitude D

Prepare a list of questions and stick to them. You can go deeper into an employee’s background and achievements, but start with general questions about abilities and achievements.

4. Not knowing your legal limits

Interviews are a legal minefield. Make sure everyone involved in the interview process, including employees you bring in to meet the applicant, understand what they can and can’t ask legally. Avoid questions like:

  • Are you married? Divorced?
  • How old are you? (unless it’s a bona fide occupational qualification)
  • Do you have children or intend to?
  • What are your day care plans?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you have any debts?
  • Do you suffer from an illness or disability?

Every question should revolve around one issue: How well could this person perform the job at hand?

5. Not being straightforward

Provide a realistic overview of the position, including its less appealing facets. This allows candidates who are hired to make a decision without later feeling they were duped. Downplaying a position’s unattractive aspects will result in employees who don’t like their jobs and look to leave.

6. Overselling the position

During the first interview, find out as much as possible about the applicant, rather than exhaustively detailing the open position. As mentioned earlier, listen more than you talk.

If you’re interested in the candidate, this first interview will give you insight on how to sell the person on the job. If you’re not interested, you won’t have wasted either person’s time.

Also, remember to note that your organization verifies claims on résumés.

7. Becoming blinded by personal preferences

Are you both baseball fans? Do you have kids at the same school? Avoid letting a common interest you have with the ap­­pli­­cant bias your feelings favorably, especi­­ally if the interest is irrelevant to the job. Just because you both run marathons doesn’t mean the person can keep up the pace at work.

8. Being impolite

Don’t start interviews late or end them abruptly without an explanation. Don’t cancel at the last second without an apology or read emails and take phone calls during interviews.

Candidates who value polite­­ness may wonder whether they will re­­ceive it on the job. Applicants may also question if the department is organized.

9. Not making top candidates feel wanted

The best applicants know their value. They have options and desire to go where they are wanted.

Don’t fawn over interviewees. But let top applicants know that they have valuable skills and will be considered highly. Of course, never allude to promises of employment. That could turn into a breach-of-contract lawsuit if the person is rejected.

10. Making snap judgments

Quick, negative judgments based on first impressions and “instinct” are often wrong.

Such reactions are subtly communicated and may turn off a top candidate. Be open-minded and friendly without signaling disapproval.