Mastering the interview: 4 ways to avoid making hiring mistakes

We speak to hundreds of hiring managers every year and happily, in the vast majority, it’s rare for a client to admit they've made the wrong hire. As a business, we spend a great deal of time ensuring that any candidates we submit are likely to be a good fit for the prospective organisation. We therefore pride ourselves on the retention rates we can achieve for our customers.

Nevertheless; it’s inevitable that, on occasion, a company’s new starter just doesn’t quite fit the bill. This may well be nobody’s fault – after all, the person may be perfect on paper. However, if a mistake does happen, the origin of that error (assuming it’s not ours) can usually be pinpointed to one particular point in the hiring timeline: the interview.

Here are four tips to maximise the effectiveness (and efficiency) of your interviews and to avoid making hiring mistakes.

1. More tasks, less chat

This tip can seem a little cut-throat, but it could be a vital way of separating the good from the bad. As an interviewer, how often have you walked out the room and thought, “that candidate was great, very engaging and a really nice person, but I’m not 100% sure whether they can do the job?” It’s so easy to have a ‘nice’ conversation for an hour or so, but at the end of the interview if all you’ve deciphered is that your candidate is a good communicator, then you’ll be taking a risk if you offer them a job without inviting them back.

By getting a candidate to solve relevant problems during your limited time together, you’ll reveal a lot more than if you discussed a theoretical situation. Interviewing a designer? Get them to design something. Or an analyst? Give them some data and ask them to tell you what they learned. These tasks can even be done as prep exercises or take-homes and will give the opportunity to ask “why” when the results are in.

2. Have an initial impression? Try and disprove it

As a recruitment company, we completely understand that it’s hard to find great people. Similarly, it’s also easy to miss great people. It only takes a mediocre first call to a candidate to completely write them off – but if you’ve already formed an initial impression, it doesn’t always mean that you’ve got an accurate picture of their talent.

If you’re asking a candidate a question and they stumble and fluster their way through the answer, it’s easy to assume they aren’t great at a given skill. But; treat this as your hypothesis, and then test it. Ask another question or two to try and understand whether they really aren’t great at the skill you need.

Candidates can get things wrong for a lot of reasons. Maybe the question wasn’t clear. Maybe they assumed something that threw them off course. Don’t give up too soon. Don’t let a good hire get away because you jumped to conclusions.

3. Understand what drives someone

It’s easy to assume that a candidate is applying for a job because they love your company already, they know your brand and they want to work for your amazing business. However, making these assumptions can be a huge mistake. Sometimes candidates can apply for a role and appear great in an interview, even if they don’t want the job. Perhaps they just want a ‘foot in the door’ or they are too lazy to travel elsewhere, or perhaps they just need the money.

Be confident that your candidate’s drive matches the role you are offering, not just their skills, otherwise you could be left with someone who’s unmotivated and uninterested in the tasks required. Be straight with your questioning and ask your interviewee about makes them tick, what frustrates them and where they want their careers to go in 2, 5 and 10 years time. Often; you’ll find that the things that annoy your candidates will be exactly what is expected of them – making your decision a lot easier.

4.  You’re being evaluated too

The most common thing we hear with the very best talent is that they have the most options. This means that, as the interviewer, you are being evaluated too. Countless times, we’ve heard via a candidate’s feedback that they want to work at X or Y company because the hiring manager was super engaged, driven and asked challenging questions.

The best candidates want to know what their boss will be like and ultimately what it will be like to work at your company. They might be attending 2-3 other interviews consecutively, so the interview is your best chance to show how great your company is, using both specifics and intangibles. If you want the best, you need to be the best.