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4 Traps To Avoid When Interviewing Candidates

By Paul Slezak - May. 4, 2015
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As a business owner or hiring manager, have you ever really stopped to think just how important it really is to find the best people for your business?

Not just someone who submits their application and who happens to be immediately available or who you just think looks too perfect on paper to possibly let get away.

Having personally helped hundreds of businesses build their teams over the years, one thing I saw happen far too often was just how reactive (not to mention how extremely rushed) the recruitment (and in particular the interview) process was within so many organisations.

Weeks would go by with a position still unfilled, and the hiring manager would suddenly start to panic. Then someone would apply who almost met the criteria set out in the job brief (and by almost I mean aside from having a pulse and a clean shirt was so far off the mark it wasn’t funny) and they would get hired.

Here are a few tips to avoid what, in the recruitment world, is often referred to as a “bums on seats” or “churn and burn” approach to hiring.

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1. Never settle for second best

It’s so important to wait for the right candidate to hire and not just a candidate who happens to be available ‘right now’.

It’s much better for the business in the long run to wait a bit longer to find the perfect person, than to fill the vacancy with a poor hire.

There are certainly many traps or temptations a hiring manager can fall into. Fortunately the majority of them can be avoided by taking the recruitment and interview process seriously, looking at potential candidates objectively and most importantly not rushing through it.

2. Don’t always listen to your gut

Well not when it comes to your first impression anyway. Research shows that the majority of recruiting errors are due to the hiring manager (or interviewer) relying too much on personal biases, opinions, gut feel or first impressions.

It is critical for any hiring manager to control their emotions during an interview. Don’t let your emotions take over. Don’t hire in your own image (easier said than done).

And never make a decision based on non-job related criteria such as where a candidate lives, where they went to school, what they’re wearing etc.

During an interview try to spend at least 30 to 40 minutes assessing the candidate’s previous work history in terms of key competencies and accomplishments. Looking back at past performance is the best way to determine how someone will react in a similar situation in the future.

3. Avoid hypothetical questions at all costs

Over the years I have been on the receiving end of some pretty strange interview questions. “What modern pop song can you relate to most, and why?” “If you were stuck on an island, what three possessions would you want to have with you?

Ineffective. Pointless. Futile.

Whilst the answers to these questions may be interesting, in no way do they help you accurately assess a candidate’s past behaviour, core competencies or ability to in fact do the job in question.

Gone are the days of just asking about strengths and weaknesses. And hypothetical questions are a thing of the past. The only way to determine how a candidate will perform in a role, is to ask questions around how they performed a similar task in the past.

By asking these types of questions, not only will you get a far better feel for whether they would be right for your business, but they will also get a good feel for whether your job is right for them – potentially saving everyone a lot of wasted energy and frustration.

4. Don’t go into sales overdrive

You need to ascertain exactly why your candidate has chosen to meet with you. Far too often a hiring manager will be so excited by the fact that someone has actually applied for their role, that they fail to find out what happened in their last position, or more specifically what they are hoping to gain out of their next career move.

When this happens the interviewer spends far too much time selling the benefits of their company and the role that the candidate can walk away feeling that they were unable to contribute to the interview at all.

A successful interview is one where the interviewer spends 20% of the time talking and 80% of the time actively listening to the candidate sitting in front of them. These (and many other) common recruitment and interview traps have always been there – and will always be there. It’s up to you to steer well clear of them so you (and your business) don’t get burnt.

*       *       *

Any guide designed for candidates reinforces the fact that a job interview is really their one chance to make a lasting first impression. It’s just as important for any employer to appreciate that the interview is their opportunity to create a lasting first impression too. Nobody is disputing that you are an expert in what you do in your business.

But when it comes to recruitment, all of a sudden you are expected to become an expert recruiter … a specialist in personality assessment, organisational psychology, and behavioural analysis.

How can you really identify the ideal candidate? What should you really be looking for during an interview? How can you really distinguish between the candidates’ skills and competencies?

Your pulse rate and blood pressure are probably increasing just thinking about it.

The war for quality talent is fierce. So if you are lucky enough to have identified that ‘diamond in the rough’, and you have them sitting right there in front of you, you need to ensure you make the most of the situation … and not waste either party’s time.


Paul Slezak

With over two decades of experience in the recruitment and human capital industry, Paul Slezak has established himself as a transformative force in the realm of leadership and career coaching, group facilitation, and talent acquisition. His unique perspective, drawn from his early career as a leader in global recruitment firms and his entrepreneurial success with his own start-up, has enabled him to make a significant impact on leaders, teams, and organizations across the world. Paul's passion for helping others achieve success and high performance is evident in his commitment to transforming leaders and their teams at local, national, and international levels. He specializes in promoting the importance of human-centered intelligence, focusing on soft skills such as authenticity, transparency, and trust to complement business-centered acumen and drive better workplace outcomes. As an impartial facilitator, Paul brings his expertise to team offsites and strategy days, ensuring alignment on goals, values, and culture while keeping participants on task. His engaging and energetic presence, coupled with his unique "entertraining" and "edutaining" delivery style, enables him to connect with audiences both large and intimate, sharing personal and professional anecdotes that inspire and energize.

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