Tag Archives: interviews

4 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

mock interview2

I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.

Keep the interview itself short

The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time for playing back the mock interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.

The goal of a mock interview is not to make it the length of a real interview. Where the real interview might be a marathon, the mock interview is akin to a sprint. It is intense and just long enough for the client to get the idea of how she performed. Additionally, the interview part itself can be exhausting if it is 90 minutes long.

The mock interview should be filmed and played back

If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.

Your your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”

Seeing her body language can be even more important to your client than hearing her answers, particularly if her body language is extremely poor. One of my clients came across so stiff that he didn’t move his hands the whole time. His eye contact was extremely poor, as well. He recognized this because of seeing the recording and vowed to correct his body language and eye contact.

Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.

Clients must take the mock interview seriously

Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.

This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.

The participant must also have done his research. For example, if you ask, “What can you tell me about this company, and why do you want to work here?” it is unacceptable for him to tell you he will know the answers in the “real interview.” No, he must see the mock interview as a “real interview.”

Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.

You must also take the mock interview seriously

This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense tell that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.

When conducting a mock interview, ask your client to provide two documents, her résumé and a recent job description. From these you’ll write the questions for the interview. You don’t necessary have to stay on script; you might fall into a more conversational mode if the spirit drives you.

The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.

At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.


Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.

 

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One major turnoff for interviewers: lack of transparency from candidates

Three questions that snag job candidates.

A conversation with my daughter in the past aroused in me emotions of both concern and relief. Two conflicting emotions you’re thinking. Yes, two conflicting emotions, but the feeling that stays with me is the feeling of relief.

Honest Abe

The feeling of relief because she was truthful about her faux pas, her display of bad judgement. All was forgiven, although not forgotten. “This is what the truth accomplishes,” I told her.

This is what you get when you ask your kids to be honest. This is what you get when you ask for honesty, regardless of the response.

What interviewers get from their job candidates at an interview aren’t always honest responses. Candidates are guarded, weighing every word they say, because they feel one wrong answer can blow the deal. They don’t have faith in the interviewers being understanding of mistakes made in the past.

Questions addressing candidates weaknesses

When I spring the question, “What is your greatest weakness?” on my workshop attendees, I often get a moment of silence. Their minds are working like crazy to come up with the correct answer. They think the best answer is one which demonstrates a strength, not a weakness.

No job candidate wants to disclose a real weakness. They don’t want to kill their chances of getting the job, so they creatively elude the question, or even lie.

What I impress upon my workshop attendees is that interviewers want transparency, not a coy answer they’ve heard countless times. The “weakness” question is the one that gives them the most trouble.

So they come up with answers like, “I work too hard,” or, worse yet, “I’m a perfectionist.” I tell them these questions rank high on the bullshit scale, to which they laugh. But it’s true. These answers are predictable. They’re throwaway answers, wasted breath.

Be smart, though. Don’t mention a skill as a weakness that is vital to the position at hand. Talking about your fear of  public speaking, when it’s a major component of a position requiring public speaking skills, would be a major problem and probably eliminate you from consideration.

Another question job candidates struggle with is, “Why did you leave your last job?” For those who’ve been let go this can be a struggle. Transparency is required here just like the weakness question.

Unfortunately you may have been let go from your previous position, which means you may have done something wrong; or maybe it was just a conflict in personality with your manager. Whichever the case may be, be transparent, rather than trying to make up a phony story.

For example, “My first manager worked well together because he was clear about his deadlines. However, with my recent manager, I didn’t get a clear sense of when financial reports were due.

This became a problem on a few occasions, which I take responsibility for. Because of this, I’ve learned to ask about strict deadlines.”

Note the person explained the situation succinctly (this answer must be short) and explained how she learned from the experience. This demonstrates transparency and self-awareness.

A final difficult directive might be, “Tell me about a mistake you made and how you dealt with it.” This directive is one that many people are not prepared to answer. When I ask my clients this question, they pause, or might say, “I never thought of this question.”

Like the weakness question, you don’t want to choose the most detrimental mistake you’ve made. The time you cost the organization a $3 million account due to poor follow-through with a huge client is not the example you want to bring up.

However, interviewers want an honest answer. They also want you to tell as story about this mistake. This is where a brief STAR story comes in handy. Read this post to learn how to use the four components necessary to answer this directive.

make mistake

People make mistakes, they do

Smart interviewers understand that just as job candidates make mistakes, managers also make mistakes. No one is flawless in the interview process. Nonetheless, they don’t want to hear candidates dancing around their questions. It’s a waste of time and just makes the job candidate look silly.

Furthermore, interviewers want to hear self-awareness, meaning that you know your weaknesses, and are doing something to correct them. If your greatest weakness is a fear of public speaking (this is not a major requirement of the job), maybe you’ve been attending Toastmasters to get over that fear.

If you can’t admit that you slip every once in awhile, you lack not only self-awareness, but also emotional intelligence, which is a key component of your personality. Not all interviewers want the purple squirrel, the candidate that is perfect and elusive.

Employers want people who can do the job—have most of the required skills—and the motivation to take on challenges. So if candidates don’t have some  non-consequential skills, they need to own up to it. Their understanding of self and limitations is part of their EQ, which is not a given in everyone.


Back to my daughter

It’s tough as a parent to realize your daughter, or son, is not perfect and makes poor judgement calls. Life would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with these minor issues, but they are part of life.

I appreciated her transparency and, as a result, trust her more than if she hadn’t told the truth. In addition, I understand she’ll make mistakes in the future. This is not too different than a conversation that an interviewer and job candidate have. Interviewers will trust candidates more when the candidate is honest….to a point.

I’m sure there was more to the story than my daughter wanted to disclose.

Photo: Flickr, Limmel Robinson

10 ways to improve your job search in 2018

The mantra I deliver to my workshop attendees at the beginning of January is, “This is the year you’ll land your job!” And I believe this. That’s if they don’t lose sight of the prize and stay on course. But even as I’m saying it, I know it won’t be an easy journey.

Young job seekers

On the bright side, employers are opening their purses in January and beyond. While December is typically slow, it is a month when your networking will pay off now, because you’re a known commodity.

If you didn’t reach out to employers in December, all is not lost. Let’s look at ways to improve your job search in 2018.

1Know thyself. It’s important to possess self-awareness if you want to conduct your job search effectively in 2018. This means thinking about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What does this spell? SWOT. That’s right, do a SWOT analysis on yourself.

I have my attendees do a partial SWOT analysis in some of my workshops. I tell them to do a complete one on their own. You should write down 10 or more strengths, five weaknesses, three opportunities, and three threats. This will give you a better sense of what you can capitalize on and areas you need to overcome.

2. Take time to think about what you really want to do. All too often job seekers will settle for the next job that comes along. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. This stage in your life is a great time to reflect on what will make you happy.

If it’s a career change, think about how your transferable skills can make a transition easier, despite not having all the job-related skills. One woman I worked with had previously worked for Hewlett Packard in marketing. She joined our career center as a grant writer. Eventually she became the director of our Workforce Investment Board.

3. Conduct some labor market research (LMR). Whether you know it or not, you’ve been researching the labor market. For example, you were gathering labor market information (LMI) while working and considering a move to a different company or occupation.

Now, you need to gather LMI on job availability, determining which skills are in high demand, and what salaries employers are offering.  One site that gives you a broad sense of your value in the labor market is Salary.com.

But the best way to gather LMI is by speaking with people in the know, who might include other job seekers or people who will grant you networking meetings, better known as informational interviews.

4. Create a list of companies for which you’d like to work. This is difficult for many people. The sharp job seekers understand the value of keeping a going list of 10 to 15 companies they research. This is also part of your LMR. Your research can tell you which companies are in growth or decline.

You also should identify important players in the companies, hiring managers, directors, VP, CEOs, etc. LinkedIn is ideal for identifying key players in your target companies. Networking is even better, providing you have the right connections.

5. Write your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Now it’s time to write your résumé. When others jump immediately to their résumé and LinkedIn profile, they’re flying blindly. They haven’t self-reflected, thought about what they want to do, and conducted their LMR.

Now you’re ready to address the needs of employers for whom you want to work. You know which accomplishments to highlight. You realize that a one-fits-all résumé won’t do it; it certainly won’t pass the applicant tracking system (ATS).

Your LinkedIn profile will be constructed to cover as many of the skills and experiences employers require. It’s generic, unlike your tailored resumes. However, it must show your value, just as your résumé does. Your LinkedIn profile is more of a online networking document that also shows your personality.

6. Networking is still your best method of looking for work. For those of you who have made connections in the fall at your desired companies, your networking efforts will pay dividends when employers ask for referrals to fill their positions.

Approach connections who work for your target companies or people who know people who work for your target companies. Many job seekers have great success using LinkedIn to make connections at desired companies.

I strongly encourage my clients to attend professional association events, where they can network with people who are currently working. Those who are working might know of opportunities for you, or at the very least provide you with some sage advice. To find an association, Google your industry/occupation and your location. Here’s one I found for marketing.

7. Get used to using LinkedIn’s mobile app. More than 50% of LinkedIn members are using the mobile app. This provides you with the convenience of using LinkedIn for research, communicating with recruiters, or searching for jobs.

The app is limited, but there’s still enough functionality to make it worth investing time into it. I believe the LinkedIn mobile app is where the company is dedicating its resources. Read this post on using LinkedIn’s mobile app.

8. It’s never too late to volunteer. Look, I’m not trying to sell you out. It’s a proven fact that volunteering is an effective way to land a job. Consider these four reasons:

  1. You improve your skills or gain new ones. For example, you’re a webmaster and volunteer to revamp an organization’s website to learn ColdFusion.
  2. It is a great way to network. If you volunteer in the proper organization, you can make connections with vendors, partners, customers, and others in your industry.
  3. You’ll feel more productive. It’s far better than sitting at your computer for six hours a day applying online. As I tell my clients, get out of your house!
  4. It’s a great way to pad your resume. Volunteerism is work, so why not include it in your Experience section.

9. Don’t take an interview lightly. This means any interview. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they weren’t prepared for the telephone interview. They assumed it would be just a a screening. Guess what, the telephone interview is such an important part of the hiring process–saves time and money–that they be the deciding factor. The face-to-face might be a formality.

There are seven phases of the interview you need to consider. Nailing everyone of these phases is important. Begin reading part one of this series to help you get mentally prepared for the process.


10. Be good to yourself. You’ve heard of work/life balance. I believe there’s also job-search/life balance. In other words, don’t burn out during your job search. In a recent job club meeting, I asked the members what they did during the Christmas holiday. Many of them talked about making connections with valuable recruiters.

But the ones who also impressed me were the ones who said they took some time off to decompress, sprinkled in with some job seeking activities. You must remember that your unemployment is temporary, and during this time there are other important aspects of your life.


Photo: Flickr, Ken Shoufer

Nailing the interview process, part 6: answering tough interview questions

Addressing employers’ three areas of concern.

You’ve been invited in for a face-to-face interview. You feel this job is great for you. You like the variety of responsibilities and have heard great things about the company. You’ve done everything right so far – and now it’s time to answer some tough interview questions.

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In order to do this, however, you’ll have to rely on the extensive research you’ve done on the company and position.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the interviewer is looking for three criteria in their next employee: Can you do the job? Will you do the job? And will you fit in?

Given this framework, you should be able to predict some of the questions that will be asked in the interview. Let’s address the three criteria:

Can You Do the Job?

Many employers consider this factor the most important of the three. Do you have the skills, experience, education, and/or licenses to handle the responsibilities of the position? Can you hit the ground running?

Questions related to this criterion can be quite challenging. One question you’re likely to receive will be delivered in the form of a directive: “Tell us about yourself.” To answer this effectively, you’ll need to share your elevator pitch.

You may be asked a situational question like, “How would you develop a social media campaign for our company?” Answering this type of question requires knowledge of the needs of the company, as well as some role-relevant technical knowledge (in this case, the functions and uses of various social media platforms.)

Will You Do the Job?

This component speaks to your motivation and enthusiasm, two traits that are necessary to overcome obstacles on the job. Employers feel those who are motivated will be the highest achievers in the future.

You may get a situational question such as, “How would you approach a project that is a week behind schedule?” Here, the interviewer is interested in the steps you can take to get the project up to speed, not necessarily your success in finishing the project.

More difficult are the behavioral questions, which ask you to recount scenarios from previous roles. For example, a behavioral version of the previous example question would be, “Tell us about a time when your team was a week or more behind in finishing a project. What measures did you take to get the project up to speed? What was the result of your team’s actions?”

Here, the interviewer is looking for a story, so you should use the STAR formula: situation, task, action, and result. (More on this below.)

Will You Fit In?

In addition to your ability to do the job, employers also want to know if you will be a fit for the company culture. They want to know that you will work well with others, particularly your potential supervisor.

This is where emotional intelligence (EQ) becomes critical. Defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” EQ may account for as much as 75 percent of job success, according to some sources.

Savvy interviewers will use behavioral-based questions to determine your “cultural fit,” which ultimately depends on your EQ. Sometimes, interviewers will specifically look for certain soft skills commonly mentioned in job postings, such as written and oral communication, teamwork, social skills, creativity, and/or integrity.

You’ll need to prepare for questions that address these soft skills and others. The best way to do that is practice your stories for behavioral interview questions like “Tell us about a time when you won back the trust of a customer.”

To answer the question, you’d use the same STAR formula I mentioned earlier.

A Primer on STAR Answers

If you’re not totally sure how STAR answers work, let’s take a look at an example.

If an interviewer asked you to describe a time you needed to win back the trust of a customer, your STAR answer might look like this:

1. Situation

One of our longstanding customers had left us prior to my arrival at Company X. I had heard the customer was unhappy to the point where he decided he no longer needed our services.

2. Task

My vice president wanted me to persuade the customer to return. As the new manager of a group of five furnace technicians, it was my mission to win back this customer.

3. Action

To begin, I first had to understand what made our customer unhappy, so I asked one of my subordinates who was close to the situation. He told me it was because the person who previously worked on his furnace did shoddy work and wasn’t responsive.

Armed with this information, I called our customer to introduce myself as a new manager of the company and to ask him why he was unhappy with our service. At first he was justifiably angry, telling me he would never use us again. He revealed that his furnace was never cleaned and that it still smoked.

This was going to be a tough one, based on the tone in his voice. I listened to what he said and told him I really couldn’t blame him for being upset. I agreed with him that he wasn’t treated properly. I was going to make it right.

“Too late,” he told me. He was going to go with a competitor of ours. He hung up before I had the chance to talk with him further.

I decided to go unannounced to his house to introduce myself. I was met with, “Boy, you’re persistent.”

I apologized for coming without warning and asked him if I could look at his furnace. He didn’t seem to mind and told me to go to the basement through the back.

“But I ain’t paying for nothing,” he told me.

“Fair enough,” I told him. “We want to regain your trust, and if I can’t fix what’s broken, I wish you the best.”

I am still sharp with my technical skills, so I was sure I could fix his furnace and win back his business. I spent two hours fixing what was broken – namely, the exhaust pipe was full of soot, which required vacuuming. In addition, the oil pump had to be replaced. This was not news our customer wanted to hear, but he was happy I was honest with him, and he appreciated the work I had done. He also said the former technician didn’t catch these problems – or didn’t care.

When he asked what he owed me, I told him there was no charge. I just wanted to be assured that he’d stay with our company.

4. Result

The customer told me that I had regained his trust. He also said he appreciated my honesty and my concern that his furnace would be fixed right the first time. He returned to our company.


In the above story, you see how the job candidate proves his ability to provide customer service. Of course, the interviewer will ask more questions about customer service, and further questions will likely explore both positive and negative outcomes.

Remember that it’s not only the technical skills you have to focus on. You must also think about times you’ve demonstrated motivation, teamwork, and other soft skills.

Check back part seven, when we’ll be discussing how to follow up after an interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Nailing the interview process, part 4: practice, practice, practice

To be an excellent baseball player or pianist, you need to practice, practice, and practice. You wouldn’t expect to hit home runs effortlessly or play at Carnegie Hall with no practice. The same principle applies to interview success.

Mock Interview

At this point, you’ve come to understand the feelings of despondency caused by losing your job. You’ve learned about yourself by using a SWOT analysis. You’ve researched the position, company, industry, and the interviewers themselves.

Now, it’s time to practice.

Job candidates often walk into interviews without practicing first. They think they can just “wing it.” They’re overconfident, and they’re making a mistake.

Instead, do the following things to practice before every interview:

Practice by Yourself

It might seem unnatural, but practicing by yourself will make you less self-conscious. Use a mirror to practice answering questions. Observe your facial expressions and body language.

When I was out of work, I practiced for interviews on my daily walks. Sure, people would occasionally overhear me reciting my elevator pitch. They would catch me answering potential questions. They would see me gesticulate with my hands as I practiced refining my body language.

You might feel more comfortable practicing by yourself while driving. This is perfectly fine, but expect to get some weird looks from other motorists.

Practice With a friend

This takes more courage than practicing by yourself, but it is also more useful because it gives you the chance to get feedback on your answers and body language. The friends you chose to help you should be objective and somewhat critical, but not discouraging.

Having done your research, you can predict (up to a certain point) the types of questions that will be asked. Write these on a note card and have your friend pose them to you. Practice answering the questions with confidence, proper body language, and accurate content.

Mock Interview

A proper mock interview is perhaps the best way to practice. However, they’re not easy to come by, especially if they are done properly.

Most mock interviews are conducted by career advisors who use digital cameras to record the interviews. When the recording of your interview is played, you can observe your body language and hear the content of your answers.

Are you fidgeting with your fingers? Are you maintaining eye content? Are you answering the questions directly? Are there too many “ums” and “ahs”?

A trained career advisor will point out your body language and comment on your content. Most importantly, they’ll let you see and hear your mistakes. You’ll leave with the video on a flash drive so you can rewatch the session in the days before the interview.

What does practicing do for you? Ultimately it prepares you better for the interview, which gives you more confidence. Coupled with the research you’ve done on the company and position, practicing answering the questions you predict interviewers will ask you will be the key to your success.


As mentioned above, you can’t expect to perform well in sports or music without practice. Treat the interviews you attend with the same mindset. Confidence comes from research and practicing beforehand.

Check out part five, where we talk about making a good first impression.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Green Dot Public Schools

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

As a career strategist, I often come to the defense of older workers who experience ageism, but I don’t talk enough about reverse ageism. In other words, how older job seekers treat younger interviewers during the process.

older-candidate

I hear accounts from some older job seekers about how they had a hard time taking the younger interviewers seriously. Their arrogance speaks loudly as they talk about their interviewing experienc.

Let’s Reverse the Situation

When I talk about reverse ageism, this is the message I deliver to my clients: think about if you were younger and on the opposite side of the table interviewing people like you for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities.

Think about how you would react if an older job candidate looked at you with disdain, seeing you as inexperienced and beneath his level? You would feel, as the younger interviewer, that hiring you would not be a marriage made in heaven. You would feel that you’d have to prove herself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis.

Your every decision would be questioned. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You would finally reason that hiring him would be the wrong decision.

Here’s Fact

The large majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models.

But this goes out the window when older job seekers think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced they’ll experience ageism at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, who directed the National Senior Network, writes:

Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.

Susan Jepson is an older worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who practices reverse ageism against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do.

1. She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

2. Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

3. She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of older workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

4, She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

5. She might fear that you’re after her job. So put her fears to rest by NOT talking about how you would eventually want to assume a position like hers, or her position specifically. Rather, assure her that your career goal begins with doing the best possible work at the position in question. Ultimately you want to help the company succeed.

6. Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where ageism is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man and leave with your pride intact, your head held high.


An organization that wants to succeed will hire a diverse workforce, which includes people of different races, religions, genders, ages, etc. Do your part to make the company succeed by accepting that younger employees have a great deal to offer. As much as you want a chance to get hired, give younger interviewers the chance to do their jobs.

If you enjoy this post, read why younger interviewers shouldn’t discriminate against older workers.

7 ways managers can improve the hiring process

For you hiring managers, you might have taken notice upon seeing the title of this post. While it’s true that job seekers can benefit from advice on their job-search techniques, there’s something to be said about how you can improve the process.

hiring-manager2

You can make the hiring process a better experience for job candidates. This is within your power, as you are usually the one making the hiring decision. Your goals is to hire the best possible candidates; it’s to your company’s benefit.

Read this article by FastCompany.com about some mistakes hiring managers have made.

Are there hiring managers who interview well? Absolutely. They have mastered the process and hire great candidates. But for those who don’t, here are seven things to consider.

1. Get trained on how to interview properly. Smart companies send their hiring managers to training on how to interview properly. Hiring managers are taught about which questions to ask and how to conduct an interview that draws the best attributes out of job candidates.

“I’ve been managing people for years, and I was never trained how to interview candidates,” one of my workshop attendees said after I made the bold statement that some hiring managers are not the best interviewers.

The statement from my workshop attendee did not surprise me; training can be expensive and time intensive. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) provides training for hiring managers. Among the various techniques SHRM teaches is which questions to stay away from, namely illegal ones.

2. Don’t ask illegal questions. One of my clients told me he went to an interview and the second question the hiring manager asked was, “How old are you?” I asked him to repeat his statement. I was so shocked by this blatantly illegal question.

Although it’s hard to prove, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 candidates 40-years and older are protected by age discrimination. But age is not the only topic hiring managers should stay away from. Questions about nationality, marital status, gender identity, race, disability, political preference, and religion are taboo.

3. Don’t discount the value of the mature worker. Related to the previous reason, some hiring managers—young and older alike—discriminate against age. They are subtle about it, or quite obvious. Many of my clients, who average 53-years of age, tell me about times when they could see this on the hiring manager’s face.

This is not only illegal, it’s bad practice. Mature workers add value, through their job experience, maturity, great problem-solving skills, dependability, and more. Am I saying that mature workers don’t lack some skills younger workers do? No. Every age group has strengths and weaknesses.

4. Hiring the best candidate is a priority. Probably the last thing hiring managers want to do is interview someone for—as an example—an office manager, when she has multiple projects to oversee. Here’s the thing, the hiring manager needs someone who can run the office and make her life easier. She needs a problem solver.

Yes, overseeing the projects is important, but finding the right administrative assistant should take priority. Rushing through the process could lead to a wrong hire which doesn’t relieve the problem and can be expensive (approximately 30% of the candidates first annual salary).

5. Be willing to interview strangers. The preferred method of hiring a candidate is through a referral because candidates come with a mark of approval. But sometimes the best candidate is not known someone who works in the company or someone who knows someone who works in the company.

Herein lies the rub: hiring managers need to go through the process of reading résumés from strangers and interviewing them. As unpleasant as it may be, if they want the true problem solver they seek, the right person might not be a referral.

6. Work with your recruiters and HR. A complaint I often hear from recruiters and HR is that they need to play a bigger role in the process. They want to do more than conduct phone interviews to determine a candidate’s salary  and experience.

Recruiters and HR want to be business partners and know hiring managers’ thoughts before approaching potential applicants. They should not go into screening candidates without a full understanding of what hiring managers are looking for in terms of: “the must haves vs. the nice to haves,” the interview layout, etc. Read this article from the Muse.

7. Stop looking for the purple squirrel. This is a common term meaning the candidates must be perfect. Candidates must be able to hit the ground running, a fit for the work environment, and liked by the hiring manager.

A candidate who has the required experience and  is compatible with his colleagues and the hiring manager is essential; but some hiring managers want a clone of themselves and someone they would want to go out for drinks with. What’s most important is that the candidates possesses high EQ.


This last point is why many of my clients are frustrated by the time it takes employers to hire them. Three, four, five rounds of interviews. According to SHRM, the average time it takes employers to hire job seekers is 26 days. This figure seems low to me, as I’ve seen some of my clients wait two or three months for employers to pull the trigger.

Coupled with poor hiring methods and a long process, job seekers are frustrated. Do you blame them? I don’t.

Photo: Flickr, Kristof Ramon