5 Ways to Ruin the Interview Process (and what to do instead!)

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

People don’t just complete a process.

People experience a process.

Crafting a process for humans is designing something for feelings, memories and motion. These are especially heightened when it comes to an interview process.

It's inherently stressful to change jobs or add new team members. Your process should be built for the best outcome and the best experience for everyone involved.

Here are five mistakes that will ruin your interview process and what to do instead.

1- Not designing a consistent process at all.

It can feel natural to decide on next steps as you go. First, you meet them. You have someone else meet them. Then you do something similar with someone else. Then you want one person in particular with specific skills to meet one candidate but not another.

This opens the door for subconscious bias and welcomes it in. That’s unfair to your candidate and to your team.

Whether you did this quickly or over ten concocted steps, you’ve also wasted quite a bit of time. Without a plan, everyone likely focused on the same few skills over and over thinking that someone else was thinking about other pieces of the role.

This is not to say that adapting and changing a process can’t happen. It’s incredibly likely that you’ll find parts to change or improve as time goes on. And you should change them. But making those changes with intention will be tenfold more effective than winging it over and over.

2- Thinking you’re the only one deciding on something.

It’s easy to be so caught up in your own decision making that you lose sight of the fact that there isn’t one hiring decision.

There are TWO. The candidate is under no obligation to say yes. In fact, if they’re the awesome “A Player” you think they are - they probably have plenty of options headed their way.

Your process needs to be set up for both screening and selling from start to finish in about equal measure.

Smart people want to work with other smart people. Selling in a process doesn’t mean softball questions or only hitting the highlights of the role. Selling throughout your hiring process means giving these candidates a chance to really feel and understand the role, team and company.

3- Trying to not hire the wrong person instead of making sure that you hire the right person.

It’s incredibly easy to visualize how much you’ll dislike working with the wrong hire. It’s really too easy to picture.

It is so much harder to imagine all of the missed opportunity of losing the best person. Picture your favorite team member. Now imagine they had a bad day on the day you interviewed them. They never existed on your team.

What would be different? What wouldn’t you have today?

That actually happens in real life.

For most people their instincts will be going crazy to assure that the wrong hire doesn’t happen. The “red flag” antennae go up and stay up. That’s fair enough but you do not need a process that caters to those fears.

A process made to eliminate bad apples is a process that by its nature solves for average. Per mistake #3, exceptional people have options and what you DO in your process and every action will outweigh anything you can say.

This is an opportunity to give people an experience that will wow them. Don’t be so busy avoiding the wrong hire that you actually lose out on the best one.

4- Interviewing for a great candidate and not a great employee.

If you’re hiring for a recruiter or a salesperson then great social skills, banter and nerves under pressure are all valid criteria to use for selection purposes. Those are all “interview skills.”

But if you’re hiring for a role that doesn’t require those skills then your process should focus on skills you actually DO need them to have. Otherwise you end up with an almost absurd (and unintentional) focus on hiring a great candidate and not hiring a great employee.

The closest you can get to a realistic example of what this job actually involves - the easier it will be to tell who is a fit and who is not.

Consider timing as part of that reality. A creative person often has time to come up with ideas - not 5 seconds. Imagine what a designer could do if they could work as they would in the job and not under the pressure of an interviewer giving a scenario and demanding creativity.

Someone good could possibly come up with something quick off the top of their head.

Someone exceptional could need a day. If the reality of your job is that they would have time to think, then that’s a factor you’ll want to include in the way that you test that skill.

5- Letting time make decisions for you.

Enthusiasm has a shelf life. No matter how great your process was and how engaged they were - life happens.

Other experiences and time will erode their excitement. It will start the minute they leave the interview.

A process that takes too long, has too many gates or ends in weeks of delayed decision making will never yield the best results.

Eventually time will make the decision for you. They will find another role or their fears about making a move begin outweigh anything you’re offering. Their circumstances could change at home or at their current company.

If you decide not to hire, that’s ok. But leaving someone waiting is also an extremely unpleasant experience for them and not a good impression to leave with anyone. Give them the courtesy of delivering the news in considerate time.

A well designed process will intentionally assemble all of the information you need to make a decision in a timely manner. If you don’t have that – it’s time to fix your process not time to keep taking more time.

By designing your process for real people – judgments! fears! habits! – you can create a system that actually helps you to hire faster and better.

Put personality into your interview process. It needs to look like your company and feel like your team. This isn’t just a process. It’s an experience.

Happy hiring! 

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