Devon turned to Abel Personnel after three rounds of identifying candidates online, conducting interviews, making an offer, and then having the offer declined. Each time the reason received for not accepting employment sounded hollow, an issue that could have been addressed in negotiation. This was an IT opening that he desperately needed to fill, and was ready to entrust a professional recruiter to identify qualified, available, and interested job seekers for consideration to fill the role. This outsourcing would allow Devon to focus more fully on operations and allow the organization to move more effectively towards its goals.

The recruiter did not disappoint. Of the five resumes provided for his review, three exceed the quality of the candidates to whom Devon had previously offered the position. Based on the recruiter’s detailed account of her interviews with each candidate, Devon was optimistic that all the candidates would meet his requirements and his focus would be on identifying the best fit. He was somewhat concerned that he might be inadvertently scaring off candidates, which he confided to the recruiter. Interviewing potential staff wasn’t covered in Devon’s MBA program. His request, which he thought was what he thought was a tough ask: How could he conduct the interview to be sure the candidate said “yes!” if Devon later chose to offer the position?

The Abel recruiter was unfazed by this query. Although more accustomed to counseling candidates on how to shine during interviews, it was an easy pivot to counsel hiring managers. She suggested five cautions:

  • Confusing Communication: How a company communicates is an indication of the company’s culture. Responses to interviewee questions must be clear, concise, and direct, creating an image of how information is shared and concerns are addressed at the company. Evasive answers or suggestions that certain procedures are not always followed (however true) will inform the interviewee’s opinion of the company during the interview, and may inadvertently cause unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty.
  • Judgmental Gossiping: Sharing with the interviewee about the circumstances of the departure of the person who formerly held the position, perhaps a sudden resignation or dismissal, sets a less professional tone. This might suggest that the hiring manager will readily gossip to others about the interviewee. It also implies that the interviewee’s job performance will be measured against the departed employee, rather than on her combination of skills and accomplishments.
  • Meeting Brevity: If the interview is too short, it leaves insufficient time for the interviewee to get a feel for the company, and to try to imagine themselves working there. It may also leave an unintended impression that the hiring manager is either not really considering the interviewee or is not particular about who is being hired and just needs to fill a slot in a hurry. A brief interview compels both participants to rely solely on first impressions, which may not always be the most telling. A tour of the facility before the sitdown interview may relax the interviewee (and interviewer!) and spark questions giving both an opportunity to better understand each other.
  • Resume Shorting: Trying to downplay an applicant’s skills or experience creates a sense of mistrust, or appears to be a ploy to justify offering a lower position or salary. Resumes should be verified through references. If looking to challenge an applicant to observe the pushback, focus on a process strategy or a technical issue.
  • Downplaying HR: Whether or not the interview process entails involvement by the hiring company’s human resources component, its presence should be referenced with respect. HR is typically the guardian of employee rights and corporate culture; downplaying their role sends an inadvertent signal to the interviewee about corporate values.

Devon was grateful for this input, although he did not share with the recruiter whether his previous interviews were marred by any (or all) of these missteps. After the phone call, he created a sticky note with the names of these cautions so that he could discreetly glance at this reminder as he scheduled and proceeded with each interview. A week later, the Abel recruiter was pleased to share with Devon that all three interviewees who had met him said they would accept the position as fully described if offered when the recruiter performed her debrief with each of them. Now Devon was in that desirable position of deciding which well-qualified and enthusiastic candidate to select in an otherwise tight labor market.

Sourced from Career Contessa, “21 Interview Red Flags You Can Spot in a Bad Workplace”, May 5, 2022.

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