Ahh, the interview. Probably the most important hiring stage, where hiring managers and candidates come head-to-head to create dreams (or disaster).
From avoiding unconscious bias to putting the ‘human’ back in HR, there are a ton of simple tips to become the next A+ interviewer.
But it’s not just how you interview that counts. Helping candidates be the best they can be at an interview is crucial to make sure the ‘hire-me-now’ vibes flow in both directions.
With your brand’s reputation on the line, interviewing is a high-stakes game — and there’s a lot to lose if you get this wrong.
But don’t panic. We on the Breezy team (along with some of the top HR pros around 😉) are here to help.
We caught up with some of our favorite HR experts to find out how to be a good interviewer from both sides of the table.
Ready to make your next interview a smashing success? Let’s dive in!
How to be a better interviewer
1. Use a standard format for every position
If you haven’t already heard of Tim Sackett, it’s time you did.
Tim is an HR Tech Analyst, President at HRU Technical Resources, blogger, Top 10 Global HR Influencer, recruiting executive and author. Oh, and apparently he’s also the World's Foremost Expert on Workplace Hugging. 😅
For Tim, the biggest mistake employers make when interviewing is not using a standard format for every position.
“Most hiring managers will interview each candidate a bit differently, even if it's for the same position. This has huge bias issues and can be discriminatory. ‘Oh, Tim went to the same school as me, he's male, similar age, so we kind of just talk shop. But, Mary, she went to a different school, she's female, and younger, oh, I better use the questions HR gave me.’ This is a problem!” he says.
Experts like Tim believe the best way to avoid bias is to stick to the interview script and make sure candidates feel comfortable enough to give it their all.
“You get the most out of candidates when they’re comfortable. They become comfortable when the entire process is very transparent to them. This is what you should expect and what actually happens. No surprises or gotchas. The more comfortable a candidate is, the more they'll actually share,” explains Tim.
“You get the most out of candidates when they’re comfortable. They become comfortable when the entire process is very transparent to them.” — Tim Sackett, HR Tech Analyst & President at HRU Technical Resources
2. Bypass bias with a pilot project
As Head of Employee Success at Unito, Sarah Corboliou is 100% focused on fair hiring.
So when we asked her what the biggest employer-side mistakes are when it comes to interviewing, she jumped straight to it: natural bias.
“Interviewers need to be very aware of biases. That’s a whole D&I topic, but one that we don’t mention enough is the natural bias interviewers have in favor of good presenters/eloquent people,” says Sarah.
For her, the problem appears when hiring managers give too much credit to great interviewing skills.
“Being skilled at interviewing isn’t necessarily relevant for the role you’re interviewing for (eg. for a marketing content manager). Still, interviews remain the main way of selecting employees. This bias goes against diversity practices. People from certain cultures tend to be more skilled at interviewing than others (eg. North Americans in my experience tend to be more ‘eloquent’ than people who don’t speak English as their first language). It also biases interviewers towards more confident individuals, thus against minorities,” she explains.
The solution? Pilot projects.
“Our way of combating this is the pilot project. It allows candidates to showcase their true skills and talent outside of the stressful interview environment. And the fact that it’s not theoretical work (like most take-home assignments) helps to make people comfortable too,” says Sarah.
But it’s not just biases towards introverts that cause an issue. Sarah’s also witnessed interviewers closing the door on candidates who are too ambitious.
“I’ve seen plenty of interviewers be closed-minded towards people who express a desire to eventually move towards another position. For example, hiring managers interviewing for a junior sales position and rejecting candidates because they had the nerve to say they might want to evolve to another function eventually,” says Sarah.
To skip the bias, these hiring managers need to face reality: customer-facing roles are often a stepping stone for junior contributors.
“Ambition doesn’t mean those candidates won’t give 100% to the position you’re hiring for. Hiring someone for another team who’s transitioning from your customer facing team can bring huge benefits and help you build a customer-focused mindset in the company,” she explains.
“I’ve seen plenty of interviewers be closed-minded towards people who express a desire to eventually move towards another position.” — Sarah Corboliou, Head of Employee Success, Unito
3. Create an interviewing formula
Jessica Miller-Merrell is a workplace change agent and author, recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer — plus she's founder and CIO at Workology and host of the Workology Podcast.
As an HR hall of famer, Jessica knows a thing or two about great interviewing. And for her, the best way to ace interviews is to plan, plan, plan.
“One of the best tips I’ve seen is to create a hiring formula. When we make decisions based on data, we can reduce things like interview bias and create an even playing field for candidates,” says Jessica.
“Be consistent in how you structure interviews for a particular position and what data points you try to elicit across candidates, and make sure every interviewer scores each candidate based on the same data points. Your data set comes from the most successful employees at your company, what makes them successful, and how to ascertain whether or not candidates possess the same,” she says.
Her other top tip is to learn from the pros.
“In his book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, Harvard Business School lecturer Mark Roberge talks about how he used a hiring formula when he was CRO at HubSpot. The goal is to identify a set of core traits on which to assess candidates, consistently score each of these traits, and update the set as you learn more about what leads to success for your organization. For example, Roberge learned after going through this process that candidates that scored highest on ‘coachability’ ended up being most successful,” she says.
“The key in the process is being consistent.” — Jessica Miller-Merrell, Chief Innovation Officer, Workology
4. Break the ice
Gianluca Binelli, is the “nerdly handsome” (his words 😅) founder and Managing Director at BoosterBox Digital.
As an ex-Googler and winner of Best Small PPC Agency at the European Search Awards, Gianluca’s approach to interviewing is simple: Keep it human.
“A common mistake I’ve noticed is not taking the time to break the ice. Often interviewing is a stressful process for the candidates. A relaxed environment can offer a more transparent and accurate view of the candidate,” he says.
For Gianluca, taking the time to break the ice and focus on the candidate experience = a more productive interview.
“Research shows that small talk can lead to a more productive outcome in meetings. Interviews are no different. Taking the time for small talk and asking general ice-breaking questions is an easy solution to ensure more effective conversations,” he explains.
So which ice-breakers are Gianluca’s favorite?
“100% whatever comes up. Nowadays there’s a lot of ‘How's this lockdown going for you’?” he laughs.
“Research shows that small talk can lead to a more productive outcome in meetings. Interviews are no different.” — Gianluca Binelli, Managing Director, BoosterBox Digital
5. Don’t just look for someone to ‘get the work done’
Steve Brown, Chief People Officer at LaRosa’s also believes in the power of putting the ‘human’ back into HR.
That’s why for him, interviews need to get deep under the fingernails of the job description to discover the best talent for the role.
“We’ve fallen into a pattern that if a candidate can parrot the bullets on a job description, then we hire that person. We say we’re looking for ‘talent’, but our interviewing processes don’t try to truly assess that. The message in the industry is laced with talent focus and development messaging, but the practice is still to fill job requirements. It needs to change,” says Steve.
And that’s not all that needs to change. Steve’s seen overworked hiring managers make rash decisions way too often.
“We use the pressure of ‘not enough time’ to be thorough in our talent acquisition efforts. We rush to hire and that can lead to blind spots,” he explains.
Looking forward, Steve wants to see employers go beyond the ‘hire and hope’ mentality and start recruiting for the long-game.
“I’d love to see employers understand that they’re adding talented people to their company in order for them to perform, and to add value and new perspectives, instead of trying to find people to ‘get work done’,” he says.
The message in the industry is laced with talent focus and development messaging, but the practice is still to fill job requirements. It needs to change.”
6. Expect awkwardness
Wendy Sellers’ bio says it all: Consultant, advisor, educator, recruiter, coach, author, speaker, disruptor, and founder of The HR Lady®.
Need we say more?
For Wendy, interviews have awkwardness built into them — so hiring managers need to work hard to get the best from candidates.
“When employees expect the average person to be a stellar interviewer, they’re making a big mistake. Listen, unless the person is interviewing to be an actress, PR expert, or door to door salesperson, we should expect awkwardness. Why? Interviews are awkward. Most candidates (except writers) have a poorly written piece of paper and 15-30 minutes to charm their way onto your payroll affecting absolutely everything in their lives,” she says.
Here’s how Wendy suggests you minimize the awkwardness, so candidates can truly shine:
- Be human.
- Give them a break.
- Make them feel comfortable.
- Share a mistake or two of your own.
- Provide insight into the day to day activities in the department including deadlines and other expectations.
“Being upfront now, even if you have a demanding fast paced environment, will get you the best candidate for this job.” — Wendy Sellers, The HR Lady®
7. Focus on more personalized interviews
With over 20 years of HR know-how, Trish McFarlane is the person to know when it comes to recruitment.
As the CEO and Principal Analyst for H3 HR Advisors and co-host of The HR Happy Hour podcast and daily vlog, Trish’s interviewing skills are second-to-none.
And she says the key to a great interview is to make it personalized.
“Employers need to focus more on personalized interviews. They tend to assume that every candidate has the ability to be interviewed in the same way — but that’s not always the case. For example, some candidates with neurodiversity issues can’t effectively interview face-to-face, so need other options. Building a more diverse workforce requires greater interview flexibility from the employers,” she explains.
"Building a more diverse workforce requires greater interview flexibility from the employers.” — Trish McFarlane, CEO and Principal Analyst at H3 HR
8. Ask quality interview questions, over quantity
For Dr. Hitu Sood, founder of Hitu HR Solutions, there’s one thing that stands above the rest when it comes to an awesome interview: quality questions.
“Some employers want to ask everything very early on. But quality vs. quantity of questions is the key criteria of successful hiring,” she says.
According to Hitu, these are the top three things to think about when deciding on your interview questions:
- “At each point in the interview process, employers need to ask themselves, ‘What is important to know at this stage about the candidate before we move to the next stage?
- Then, they need to build on the questions as the interview process progresses.
- And aim to understand the person to get a window into what they’re truly capable of. Interviewers can get the most by asking questions focused on unraveling the human behind the resume.”
But it’s not just quality questions that seal the deal. Hitu believes a fair and objective interview is everything.
“An aspect too often ignored is calibrating with other interviewers on the same questions to ensure the interview process is fair and objective. Reducing bias and hidden prejudice is a matter of practice and creating self-awareness in the hiring team,” she says.
“Some employers want to ask everything very early on. But quality vs. quantity of questions is the key criteria of successful hiring.” — Dr. Hitu Sood, founder, Hitu HR Solutions
9. Listen actively
Rachel Hammerton is an HR pro with a record for quality hiring.
As Director of Recruitment & Care Partner, Toronto at Spark Lifecare, Rachel knows the key to a great interview is to focus on the candidate and actively listen to their answers.
“One of the biggest employer-made mistakes is to make assumptions and/or make snap decisions,” she says.
So, how do you avoid that common mistake?
“Interviewers can get the most out of candidates by actively listening. Assumptions can lead to a lack of this, but active listening and allowing the candidate to talk can get you to learn more about candidates than you may think,” says Rachel.
And there’s more. Rachel believes asking situational questions helps you truly get to know your candidates for better decision-making.
“Interviewers can get the most out of candidates by asking situational questions — this helps to put them in the shoes of the position and gain a better understanding of how they would react, their critical thinking skills, and how they walk through problem solving, to get a better idea of who they are and who they would be in the role,” she explains.
“Interviewers can get the most out of candidates by asking situational questions that help put candidates in the shoes of the position you’re hiring for.” — Rachel Hammerton, Director of Recruitment & Care Partner, Toronto, Spark Lifecare
10. Practice what you preach
Owner of NYC based HR boutique East Side Staffing, Laura Mazzullo is an HR pro you’ll want to know more about.
With almost two decades of hiring experience, Laura lives, breathes and loves recruitment — and for her, the best interviews are all about empathy.
“Many employers still feel being guarded is the best way to interview. There was actually a recent discussion on Twitter about interviewers who release interview questions to candidates beforehand, in the name of fairness, transparency and preparation, all enhancing candidate experience. Yet, some still fearfully respond that there should be some element of surprise in an interview,” she says.
To choose transparency over fear, Laura suggests putting on your ‘empathy hat’.
“The best advice I can give is to put on ‘your empathy hat’ and envision being on the other side of that Zoom screen. If you were the candidate, what would you prefer? More information beforehand about what will be asked, how the process will go, what to expect? Or a bunch of surprises?” she asks.
Umm, I think we know the answer to that one. 😅
“There is still a power struggle in interviews that needs to be diminished with self-awareness and checking our own egos. I often coach hiring managers who are used to asking questions on the first interview like, ‘Why do you want to work here?’ I ask them to put on their empathy hat and picture this being asked on a first round from the candidate: ‘Why do you want to hire me?’ …of course you couldn’t answer that yet!” laughs Laura.
“We have to remember not to ‘power over’ candidates and to see each other as equals in a process. Many HR Hiring Managers don’t follow competency based interview guides because they feel ‘they don’t need them’ because they ‘know how to interview’ but I really can’t stress it enough: we have to practice what we preach. We have to lead by example, and lead from the front.” — Laura Mazzullo, Owner, East Side Staffing
So how does Laura ensure a balanced interview every time?
“I have my clients follow a very structured process which ensures they aren’t making hiring decisions based on biases and gut feel; but rather really evaluating candidates for competencies that are required to be successful in the role. If we don’t trust a process and have a willingness to remain curious, to unlearn how we’ve always done it, to know we’re working towards equity and inclusion—we’ll never move hiring processes forward,” she says.
Laura’s other top tip is to stop being so darn picky.
“Interviewers are often picky and don’t recognize they’re getting in their own way!” she says. “I’ve talked to some HR Leaders who have met 40+ candidates for an open role and say nobody is ‘good enough for them’.”
Here’s what Laura believes it takes to be the best recruiter you can be:
“The first step is to look inward and say, ‘What’s holding me back from making a decision? What am I afraid of losing? What’s blocking me from seeing candidates as imperfect, flawed humans like myself? The hiring managers with the most success have self-awareness, humility, curiosity and respect for recruitment as the skill that it is! All skills are worthy of honing and development,” she says.
11. Train interviewers on best practices
Micole Garatti is an HR powerhouse.
As Director of B2B Marketing at FairyGodBoss, Writer at SocialMicole, and Author of The Most Inclusive HR Influencer List, Micole understands great interviews.
For her, the biggest mistake employers make is going into an interview without training the interviewers on best practices, what candidate questions they should be prepared to answer, and how to evaluate candidates.
“This leads to panelists asking uncomfortable and illegal questions, diminishing the candidate's experience, as well as unfair biases during candidate evaluations,” explains Micole.
So, how do you skip the lousy interviews and ace it every time?
According to Micole, if you want to make the most of candidate interviews, interviewers must come prepared with:
- Questions they need to ask
- Answers for questions candidates are likely to ask
- Guidelines on how they should fairly evaluate candidate responses in the moment
“[Lack of training] leads to panelists asking uncomfortable and illegal questions, diminishing the candidate's experience, as well as unfair biases during candidate evaluations.” — Micole Garatti, Director of B2B Marketing, FairyGodBoss
12. Hire for culture add, not culture fit
If you haven’t come across the super-talented Alison Vorsatz, it’s time you did.
The Senior Enterprise Director of Sales at FairyGodBoss is an HR pro known for great hires.
Here’s what she says about how to ace your interview skills:
“A major mistake employers make is focusing too much on experience and history in sales roles. The most successful sales hires are hired for the right qualities, soft skills, and capabilities. If you can train those people to learn your industry or products, they will far surpass people that have the right experience and will be top performers in your sales organization,” she says.
To top it off, Alison has one more tip: always hire for culture add over culture fit.
“Another major error employers make is hiring for culture fit. You should be hiring for culture add. Culture add and people that don't traditionally ‘fit’ bring innovation, agility, perspective, customer experience, and success in ways the organization has not evolved before,” she explains.
“The most successful sales hires are hired for the right qualities, soft skills, and capabilities.” — Alison Vorsatz, Senior Enterprise Director of Sales at FairyGodBoss
13. Don’t expect perfection
Tamara Rasberry is an HR ace with a talent for people-first recruitment.
And her resume proves it: Director of HR & Operation at National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a successful blogger, and an advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and mental health in the workplace.
When we asked Tamara what the biggest employer-side interview mistakes are, she was quick to jump to it: “Not being transparent with jobseekers.”
“Employers need to be honest about what the job is, the salary, the challenges of the role, and the organization's culture. Too often employers are so busy trying to sell/fill a position that they aren't honest which leads to problems after the person is hired,” she explains.
Here’s how Tamara suggests interviewers get the most out of their candidates:
- “Frame the interview as a two-way conversation instead of as an interrogation.
- Prepare the candidate for the interview by letting them know about everyone who will be participating.
- Before the interview begins, allow them the opportunity to use the restroom and offer water.
- Do your best to make the candidate feel comfortable but understand that they may still be nervous.
- Don't expect perfection.
- Ask relevant questions. This is key. Questions like, ‘Which animal would you be?’ that have nothing to do with the job, serve no purpose and just make the candidate worry about the ‘right’ answer,” says Tamara.
“Too often employers are so busy trying to sell/fill a position that they aren't honest which leads to problems after the person is hired.” — Tamara Rasberry, Director of HR & Operation at National Community Reinvestment Coalition
Checklist of top tips for interviewers
- Use a standard format to interview each candidate fairly.
- Be aware of natural bias and look beyond the candidate’s interview skills.
- Run a pilot project to really get to know candidates.
- Create a hiring formula.
- Be consistent in how you structure interviews.
- Make sure every interviewer scores each candidate based on the same data points.
- Take the time to break the ice.
- Go beyond the ‘hire and hope’ mentality and start recruiting for the long-game.
- Show candidates your human side to make them feel more comfortable.
- Focus more on personalized interviews.
How to be a better interviewee
1. Ask a TON of questions
For Tim Sackett, candidates have one major challenge: to come across natural and professional at the same time.
“The biggest candidate mistake is two-fold. 1) They aren't themselves, and 2) they don't match the formality of those interviewing. The funny thing is, many times those can be congruent to each other, so it puts the candidate in an awkward position. Do I act myself, or code switch and match the interviewers? The hope is there is something in the middle that works for both,” he says.
For Tim, the way around is to ask a ton of questions.
“Almost always, candidates will be working with an internal recruiter who can give them great insight into the interviewers, the position, and the culture. Ask a ton of questions! Ask stupid questions! This way you'll go into the interview in a much better position to be successful,” he says.
“Ask [your recruiter] a ton of questions! Ask stupid questions! This way you'll go into the interview in a much better position to be successful.” — Tim Sackett, HR Tech Analyst & President at HRU Technical Resources
2. Drop the BS
Unito’s Sarah Corboliou has experienced her fair share of bad candidates. But most of the time, the errors are easily avoided.
“Bullshitting is a common mistake. If you have good interviewers in front of you, it won’t work, so just don’t do it,” says Sarah.
And she’s got more great advice.
“Not testing the product (if possible) is another candidate pitfall. It’s not a deal breaker because most people don’t do it, but it’s a huge step in the right direction if you do! If the product doesn’t have a free trial, spend some time on the knowledge base if available. Whatever the situation, make sure you have a super good understanding of what the company sells before your first call,” she says.
For Sarah, there’s one last interview rule to hit: do your due diligence.
“Finally, not asking enough due diligence questions is a biggie. Don’t forget that it’s a two-sided process. You need to do your due diligence on the company as much as they do on you. Ask some questions and ask away (just make sure you choose the right time and ask interesting ones). Plus, it will make you look like someone who won’t just settle for any job, which will give you a leg up in the negotiation process,” she says.
“Don’t forget that it’s a two-sided process.” — Sarah Corboliou, Head of Employee Success, Unito
3. Do your research
For Workology’s Jessica Miller-Merrell, there’s one pet peeve she’d rather not see again: candidates arriving unprepared.
“One of the most common missed opportunities I see from candidates is not asking questions. Most interviewers will wrap up an interview with ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ If the answer is no, they may assume you haven’t done any research about the company for which you want to work,” she says.
So how do you avoid that awkward post-interview silence?
“Take time beforehand to come up with a list of smart questions (assume some will be answered during the interview) like, ‘What does a typical day look like for [role]?’ or ‘How does your team/company define success for [role]?’ Questions like these don’t just show that you’re interested in working for the company in that specific role, they’re also the kinds of questions high performers tend to ask,” she explains.
Most interviewers will wrap up an interview with ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ If the answer is no, they may assume you haven’t done any research about the company for which you want to work.” — Jessica Miller-Merrell, Chief Innovation Officer, Workology
Show the interviewer some TLC
At BoosterBox Digital, Gianluca Binelli has also seen a ton of candidates turn up unprepared — and he can even remember making the same mistake himself.
“One of the main issues I see is when candidates haven’t taken the time to prepare for the interview. As a candidate this is a mistake I made too many times. As an interviewer I also see the same mistake quite often,” he says.
Gianluca’s top tip? Take time to research the role, the company, and the interviewer.
“Taking the time to review the job description, the company website and the profile of the interviewer can go a long way. It’s quite easy to slide in the conversation, ‘I noticed you worked at XXX’. It’s not really about boosting the ego of your interviewer but signaling that you did your homework,” he says.
For Gianluca, this is one step not to miss.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to ask questions about the interviewer’s role. Questions aren’t only a great opportunity to assess if you as a candidate really want that role, but also a great way to prepare answers for your next steps,” he says.
Here are some of the questions he suggests asking:
- “What are the key elements to succeed in this role?
- How do you see the role developing in the future?
- What are the main challenges I would face?
- What teams/people will I work with?
- What superpower do I need to succeed at this role?
- How do you define success?”
And he has one final bonus tip:
“Send a thank you note after the interview. It’s just a sign of good manners. Politeness goes a long way,” says Gianluca.
“Taking the time to review the job description, the company website and the profile of the interviewer can go a long way.” — Gianluca Binelli, Managing Director, BoosterBox Digital
5. Look beyond the ‘interview dance’
Chief People Officer at LaRosa’s, Steve Brown, says candidates need to know that interviews are a two-way street.
“Candidates would do better if they ‘interviewed’ the company as well to get a better picture of the company culture, the role and how it really functions, and the performance expectations from the hiring manager,” he says.
For Steve, side-stepping this approach can lead to some pretty sticky challenges down the road.
“Too many candidates are solely focused on landing the job. Then, after they start, they realize they didn’t dig deep enough to see what the role/company is like beyond the interview dance. It’s a big miss,” he says.
So, what’s the answer?
“Candidates would be better served by preparing a set of broad interviewing questions themselves to gauge these factors. That way, they’re making a better step forward in their career and not just getting a job,” he says.
“Too many candidates are solely focused on landing the job. Then, after they start, they realize they didn’t dig deep enough to see what the role/company is like beyond the interview dance.” — Steve Brown, Chief People Officer, LaRosa’s
6. End the negativity
When we asked The HR Lady® Wendy Sellers what the biggest candidate-side mistakes are in interviews, she got straight to the meat of it: “Negativity!” she says.
“When candidates speak negatively about a previous employer, or anything for that matter, it rightly or wrongly sends out signals to the interviewer that this candidate might be a future problem employee,” she says.
Candidates need to know that in some ways, they’ve actually got the upper hand.
“Assuming a candidate is qualified in the first place, most candidates have a bit of an upper hand in the ‘talent war’. While candidates can do their research on many sites getting current and former employee feedback, employers rely on what the candidate says and maybe on an employee reference or two. But let’s face it, most former employers are too afraid of lawsuits to tell the truth about former employees, so they don’t,” she says.
And she’s got some great tips to tackle the age-old ‘Why did you leave your last role?’ question, with minimum negativity.
- Option A: I loved my team however the overall company culture changed during the pandemic (or whatever other reasons such as new owners, etc.) and I decided that I needed to move on.
- Option B: As we continued to grow, I realized that I enjoy being part of a smaller organization.
- Don’t complain about money, evil directors, workloads, lack of staffing, etc.”
“Listen up candidates: end the negativity and chart a new, positive path ahead.” — Wendy Sellers, The HR Lady®
7. Ask for what you want and know your worth
As an interview pro, H3 HR’s Trish McFarlane has seen it all. But the most stand-out candidate pitfall is candidates not knowing their worth.
“Candidates need to feel comfortable asking for what they want. Whether it’s an accommodation during the interview process, greater transparency to how the interview process works, or faster response time post-interview,” she says.
And that’s not all.
“Candidates should also take more time researching compensation before they interview. They need to come prepared with what a ‘fair salary’ is for THEM, then be able to communicate that. Often, they wait for the employer to ask for a range. Know your worth going in,” she says.
“Candidates need to feel comfortable asking for what they want.” — Trish McFarlane, CEO and Principal Analyst at H3 HR
8. Practice makes perfect
With over 12K published articles, and having spoken at 300+ HR events in 30 countries, Dr. John Sullivan is known as the ‘Michael Jordan of hiring’ for a reason.
When it comes to best practice for candidates, John has one top tip: Practice and prepare.
“Failing to practice is the #1 candidate-side mistake. Practice makes perfect in interviews, so video the most popular questions and get them perfect,” he says. “It's also a huge mistake if you fail to visit glassdoor.com to identify the likely potential questions from the company, or if you fail to periodically ask the interviewer if your just presented answer is sufficient.”
So, what advice should you give candidates to avoid these pitfalls and navigate a better interview?
Here’s John’s advice:
- “Start out by asking the interviewer to mention the top three characteristics of their perfect candidate.
- Then boldly and proactively highlight how you meet each of them.
- Always try to show and estimate the dollar impact of your business impacts when you provide an answer.
- Whenever you provide an answer, even though it occurred at another firm, try to ensure that how you acted closely aligns with the values and the product philosophy of the company with the open job,” explains John.
“Failing to practice is the #1 candidate-side mistake.” — Dr. John Sullivan, Corporate Speaker, Advisor, and Professor of Management at San Francisco State
9. Be prepared
Stacey Gordon, Executive Advisor and Diversity Strategist at Rework Work is committed to supporting companies to boost their DEI efforts and helping diverse candidates get meaningful work (her latest free course is a must).
When we asked Stacey what the biggest candidate-side interview mistakes are, she agreed with her fellow HR pros: “Not being prepared.”
“If you can’t confidently convey three reasons why a company should hire you, the interviewer isn’t going to do it for you. You need to have an answer ready for every question they may throw at you. Being prepared will allow you to be confident, self-assured and leave room to let your personality shine through,” she explains.
"You can’t be yourself when you’re fumbling for answers to the interviewer’s questions.” — Stacey A. Gordon, Executive Advisor and Diversity Strategist at Rework Work
10. Show that you actually care
As CEO at Red Branch Media and host at Red Branch MIDIa podcast, it’s safe to say Maren Hogan is an HR legend.
When it comes to candidate do’s and don’ts, Maren is all about encouraging candidates to show they actually care about the role (and not just the compensation).
“The biggest candidate-side interview mistake? Making it all about the money. Yes companies should pay more and be more upfront about compensation. But it’s frankly off-putting to hear that a candidate’s inspiration to apply was ‘a paycheck’ or ‘I googled companies and yours came up.’ While there is a transactional nature to a job, it’s also important to try and make a human connection,” says Maren.
Here are Maren’s top four tips to help candidates ace the interview:
- Remember that the person interviewing you has been on the other side of that table.
- Listen as often as you speak.
- If you need a question or scenario repeated, ask for clarity.
- Find a reason you are interested in that company before the interview.
"It’s difficult to like someone who isn’t interested in what you (the interviewer) spends their entire day doing.” — Maren Hogan, CEO, Red Branch Media
Checklist of top tips for interviewees
Here’s a recap of the key advice to help candidates to help be their most authentic selves and ace the interview process:
- Be your (professional) self.
- Ask a ton of questions.
- Don’t BS.
- Test the product (if possible).
- Do your due diligence.
- Come up with a list of smart questions.
- Take time to research the role, the company, and the interviewer.
- Send a thank you note after the interview.
- Know that interviews are a two-way street and ‘interview’ the interviewer.
- Dig deep to see what the role/company is like beyond the interview.
- Speak positively about previous employers.
- Know you’ve actually got the upper hand.
- Ask for what you want and know your worth.
Make the interview a smooth ride for both parties
There’s no question about it: interviewing is a two-way street — and as the employer, it’s your job to make sure the interviewer and interviewee have everything they need to make it a smooth and successful ride.
From creating a clear and consistent interview strategy for your hiring managers, to sending fool-proof interview expectations to candidates, there’s a lot you can do to get the most out of your next interview.
Just remember to make sure everyone has the same info so that it’s a fair process that leads to the best possible hiring decision.
Ready to create a memorable — and human — interview process? With these expert tips under your belt, there’s no stopping you. 💪🏼