When the Interviewer Falls Short

“He did WHAT???”

That’s the question I never want to have to ask my client when we debrief after they’ve run an interview. Unfortunately, there are times a candidate completely botches the interview and my client calls to share the details. I’ve heard them all — candidates who show up late, are completely under or overdressed, are totally unprepared, exude apathy or say something completely off the wall or inappropriate. Luckily I’ve yet to have a candidate lose a job over their curiosity in fabric.

I could write a dozen articles on interview horror stories. However, the purpose of this blog is to focus on the other side of the interview — when a company blows the interview and, as a result, loses its chance of hiring a candidate. With the economy rebounding and jobs stabilizing, we’re entering a “candidate market,” where candidates are back in the driver’s seat, interviewing for jobs while gainfully employed and being picky with opportunities they pursue. Candidates are interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the candidate. A company can increase its ability to hire the best people by running an interview process that is professional and leaves the candidate excited about the prospect of joining the organization.

In my job, I educate candidates on interviewing and provide a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Nailing these basics will never land the candidate a job. However, candidates who blow even one of these fundamental interview tasks will likely lose the job. Likewise, for your organization, conducting great interviews won’t always guarantee you’ll land the best and the brightest — your brand, financials, competitive edge, growth trajectory, etc., will have a lot to do with it.

However, it will put you in the best position to impress everyone who considers your organization. Just like a candidate interview checklist, I recommend a checklist for your teams.

Let’s break down Interviewing 101 for employers.

Be on Time: Candidates who wait in the lobby for 15 to 30 minutes will conclude that other business takes precedence over their interview. If you’re running late, call the candidate just as you would expect the candidate to call you if he or she was lost or stuck in traffic.

Make a Positive First Impression: Candidates wear their best business attire for interviews because they want to make a positive first impression. Don’t you want candidates to have a positive first impression of your business? To that end, have a lobby and reception area that you’re proud of. Display recent awards your company has earned, have relevant and current reading material, and keep your bathrooms clean. Whether you’re a bank in a high-rise or a small business in a strip center, you can control the look and feel of your office.

Be Prepared: I’ve spoken with countless candidates who were convinced that the interviewer wasn’t sure what role they were being considered for. Candidates are turned off by interviewers who take a first look at their resume when the interview is starting. Review the resume ahead of time and have questions prepared based on your research on the individual.

Give the Candidate a Great Experience: Don’t treat the candidates like cattle and have 10 people huddled into your foyer waiting to interview for the same position. It’s quite likely that there would be candidates who know one another and would prefer to keep their interview confidential. Alert your administrator or whoever runs your front desk that you’re expecting a candidate and have that candidate greeted warmly. Offer the candidate a beverage and treat him or her like you would a customer.

Conduct a Thorough But Fair Interview: Candidates will appreciate detailed and direct questions. What they cannot stomach is when their intelligence is challenged or their accomplishments, education or career progressions are belittled. If candidates are not qualified for the job because of their employment history or education, they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Be Transparent: Communicate the positives of your business, but be transparent with the challenges your company is facing. This style of direct communication will likely leave candidates enthusiastic about the impact they can make, or will facilitate their decision to pass. Either decision will be positive for your business since the goal is to hire candidates who are excited about your company as it is, not as you wish it was.

Commit to a Timeline and Stick to It: At the end of an interview, give a candidate an understanding of your timeline for conducting the remaining interviews and making your hiring decision. But here’s the key part: stick to that timeline. Silence kills deals and it will also kill your chance to land top talent.

Follow Up: Candidates are expected to follow up after interviews, so why shouldn’t a company do the same? Hiring managers should communicate with the people they’re considering.

Based on this checklist, are you able to grade your interview process favorably? To lure talented candidates away from their current employers, you must make a positive impression and leave the candidate enthusiastic about joining your team. One poorly prepared interviewer, an unattractive office or lack of follow up can cause a great candidate to pass and wait for something better.