Interviewing Do's and Don'ts [Back to Article]  





The Do’s

Preparation Precedes Success – Write a good job description. Read the resume and accompanying notes before the interview. Sometimes you will note discrepancies in the dates or gaps which require explanation. Think about the key factors that will make an employee successful in the job including both the technical skill sets and personality/attitudes.

Establish rapport When the interviewer smiles, leans slightly forward, rephrases candidate's answers and nods, candidates will relax and usually perform better in the interview providing more information. Letting the candidate know the schedule will also put them at ease so that they can have some idea about what to expect.

Suspend Judgement - Try to suspend judgements based on the candidates' appearance or language skills if those qualities are not relevant to the job.

Listen, Listen, Listen - spend at least 80% of the time listening and no more than 20% of the time asking questions, introducing the job and your company. Listen for the inspiration behind the idea, for the motivation behind the action, and the thinking processes behind the analysis. Listen for inconsistencies that can indicate lying or the hiding of information.

Probe, Probe, Probe Never be satisfied with a surface answer or a claim. If a candidate becomes defensive or can not elaborate how they went about accomplishing an achievement, then it is highly likely that they did not do it or they were only executing another's order. If they can substantiate their answers with detailed explanations about their thinking processes, inspiration or methodology, then they are probably telling the truth.

Challenge - If the candidate has a good self-image and the position is for a senior role, then challenge some of their statements. Being a bit aggressive in the questioning can provide a good indicator of the candidate's emotional maturity, ability to handle stress and ability to think on their feet. Many perform even better in the interview with a bit more pressure.

Sell the Opportunity – Outstanding candidates do have choices. Do take the time to outline the benefits of working for your company and the good points about the job.

Ask Third Person Questions - ask the candidate to comment on a third parties' perspective regarding their performance. In Asia more traditional managers or those without exposure to the west sometimes find it difficult to outline their strengths because it may seem rude and arrogant. It is usually difficult for Asians to say "I am good at íK.". However, most candidates can easily answer the questions: "Why did your boss promote you and not someone else?" "Why did your boss select you for that project?"

Inexperienced or Conservative Candidates - Some inexperienced or conservative candidates may be very cautious about providing detailed information fearing that they may be hurting their current employer's business. When you are not getting the type of detail that you require and the individual seems bright, it is often a good idea to stop the interview and to explain to the candidate why you need to know. Assure them that you do not want any secret information but that you need to know how they think and solve problems in order to assess their suitability for the position. This also signals to them that they need to do a better job in the interview.

Technical Expertise - When you have technical expertise, the company will rely upon your assessment of the candidate's technical knowledge. Be sure to have a few questions that will probe technical know how and be clear about who among the panel of interviewers will cover these questions.

Same Questions - Give a few of the same questions to all the candidates. For example, tell me about a time when you saved your employer money? How would you solve this problem (then outline a common challenge in the job)?

Ask Questions Related to Skill Sets Rather Than Personal Questions. For example ask, "Can you travel 50% of the time?" Don't ask, "Are you married with kids?"

Remain Objective - Remain objective and wait until the end of the interview to make conclusions about the candidate's suitability for the job. Both when the chemistry is very good or very bad, there is a tendency to loose objectivity resulting with a poor hiring decision.

Good Impression - Leave the candidate with a good impression of your own professionalism and the company by being well prepared, objective and respectful. Office etiquette is important. Turn off the mobile phones, hold the calls and start the interview on time. If candidates ask questions about their performance say a few positive words noting their strengths. Tell them that the interviewing panel will need to confer for the final decisions.

Candidate Questions - Allow some time for the candidates to ask questions. Their questions can often be very revealing about their values and thought processes.

Prejudices and Generalizations - Be aware of your own prejudices and points of view. In the United States, companies can be sued for large sums should a firm be found guilty of discriminating against a candidate for his or her race, religion, sex, or age. Although laws in Asia differ, managers are well advised to follow the corporate headquarters' example. There are also more subtle prejudices that influence decision making such as preconceived ideas about staff from certain companies, schools, or neighborhoods. We all make generalizations about people based on the categories in which we place them. While generalizations based on experience are frequently accurate, it is important to check with probing questions whether our generalization is accurate regarding a particular candidate.

Comments - Write down your summary comments shortly after the interview. Do take some time to reflect on the candidate's suitability based on the different job requirements.

Feedback - Provide accurate, detailed and timely feedback to your recruiters. They will be able to hone in on your requirements much more quickly.

The Don’ts

Don’t talk too much!!!!! Remember the 80/20 rule of interviewing.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions! Most unskilled interviewers make a judgement in the first 5 minutes of the interview based on the candidate's appearance and manner of speaking, spending the rest of the interview justifying their initial impression. Sometimes interviewers allow the reputation of an employer or a school to color their judgement about an individual. Sometimes good people are passed over and mediocre people are hired because a person has been evaluated as being either suitable or unsuitable based on the reputation of their school or employer rather than their ability.

Don’t Assume the First Explanation is Correct. Backtracking in your interview can sometimes throw the candidate off guard and provide more information. Do this especially when there are inconsistencies in the presentation.

Don’t Accept a Shallow Answer or a Claim. If you meet resistance, challenge the candidate.

Don’t Read the Resume at the Last Minute in Front of the Candidate . At best, this communicates that you are busy, at worst it communicates that you are unprofessional and uncaring.

Don’t Think About the Job Only in Terms of the Previous Holder . Sometimes a new candidate can do more or can take up a slightly different role in the organization. It is good to think about what the job could be rather than what it currently is.

Don’t Follow the Candidate’s Script. Some candidates want to tell you too much or they want to control the interview. You need to lead the interview and bring them back to your questions and agenda. Usually you can ask them a new question to bring them back to your agenda. If this does not work, give them the time out signal used in basketball and explain that you do need to cover certain questions in order to determine whether they are suitable for the job.

Don’t Telegraph your Expected Answer to Questions . Sometimes interviewers allow their face to communicate their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with an answer. Try to look encouraging no matter what is shared.

Don’t Complete the Candidates’ Sentences . You will lose the chance to understand how they think.

Don’t Over promise or Misrepresent the Job to Candidates This will only result with disappointment and resentment once the employee starts the job.

Don’t be Impatient - Sometimes it is painfully boring listening to some candidates who are monotone or unorganized. Often the candidate's poor performance is due to fear, nervousness, lack of preparation and interview experience. Be patient and try to put them at ease. There are some candidates who are fantastic workers but lousy interviewers while others are good interviewers but mediocre employees.

Don’t Comment Negatively About the Candidate's Current Employer or Their Colleagues. . This just makes you look unprofessional.

Don’t Let the Candidate Know who you Know in Their Company . When candidates know that you have relationships with their present colleagues, many become guarded. Some people will clam up, fearful that news of their application will be leaked back to their employer. However, there are times when it is useful to let the candidate know that you are knowledgeable about their company. When you suspect that they are exaggerating or only telling part of the story, letting them know that you have knowledge about their company, often yields a more true picture.

Don’t End the Interview Too Soon . Get the facts before ending the interview.

Don’t Keep the Candidate Waiting for a Long Period Alone in a Conference Room or Reception Area . If you are running late, let them know and provide them with reading materials and an indication as to how long they will need to wait.

Don’t Ask Personal Questions.If the candidate offers personal information, note it but don't ask personal questions such as "Are you married?" You can ask questions about the candidate's ability to meet certain job criteria such as "Can you travel 60% of the time to China?" If the job will require a family to be relocated then it is appropriate to query family members' support and willingness to live abroad.

Don’t Ask Sensitive Questions About Their Current Employer's Profit or New Product Lines . Conscientious employees will not tell you, and suspect you of conducting an interview to gain market intelligence. Foolish candidates will tell you but will often feel resentful after the interview if they are not offered the job.

Don’t Share Sensitive Information or Plans About Your Company . Some executives come to interviews only to gain competitor intelligence.

Don’t Leave Sensitive Information in Site of the Candidate, whether it is other executive's resumes or your company's data. It is best to meet in a conference room.

Types of Questions

Topic Openers

Definition: Broad Open Ended Questions such as:

- What

- When

- How

- Why


- Reveals how a candidate makes a decision and deals with ambiguity.

- Reveals how the candidate structures his/her thought processes.

Self-Appraisal Questions

Definition: Asking the candidate to explain a fact or accomplishment.

Purpose: to provide insights about the candidate's intellect, motivation, and interpersonal skills by allowing the interviewer a variety of situations in which to listen for evidence of different types of behavior.

Comments: There is no right or wrong answer. What makes the answer correct is what it tells the interviewer about the candidate fit for the company and the job.

Used to follow up on the information gathered during the candidate's responses to Topic Opener Questions.

Situational Based Questions

Definition: Questions that ask the candidate how he would perform in a given situation or environment.

Purpose: To allow the interviewer to focus, explore, refine and confirm information that has been gathered in the open ended questions. They also allow you to evaluate the candidate against specific situations that are important to the job and your company.

Comments: Should be tailored as much as possible to situations that are likely to occur on the job that you are trying to fill. Should be carefully phrased so they don't reveal the answer you hope to hear.

Four Types of Situational Questions

•• Problem Situations

Definition: Present the candidate with a problem to be solved. The problem can represent something they encountered in their previous job(s) and should be something they are likely to run into in your department.

•• Continuum

Questions that ask candidates to self-assess, using two positive qualities as points of reference. At least one of the attributes is important in the company but not obviously so.

•• Comparison

Questions that ask the candidate to compare two different situations, one of which is important to the job you have to fill.

•• Future Assessment

Questions that ask the candidate how he believes he will perform on the job. These questions usually reveal a great deal about how well the candidate understands what is expected of him/her on the job that he/she will do.

Wrap-up Questions

Definition: A question or statement that turns the control of the interview to the candidate for a short period. (i.e. is there anything we have not covered that you feel I should know about you?)

Purpose: To signal a major shift in the flow of the interview.

To allow the candidate to ask a few questions.





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