Volume 63: You’re Messing Up Your Interviews

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over 30+ years of recruiting, it’s that people are not nearly as good at interviewing as they think they are. Every week, we hear back from candidates that think they knocked the interview out of the park. They are sure an offer is imminent.

Then the client tells a totally different story.

The frustrating thing, as a third party, is that the issues employers bring up after these meetings are very avoidable by the candidate a lot of the time.

Companies tell us that the candidate showed up in a baseball cap and untucked shirt for an interview that called for a higher dress code, or that they were late and didn’t call ahead. Maybe the candidate went on a ten-minute, incredibly negative rant about a former boss when asked why they left a certain company.

Companies can be equally at fault for an interview process going awry, though.

Most high-level candidates can tell stories of a company that stretched out the interview process over months, and then went AWOL and stopped answering their phones. Or times when the company didn’t have a unified vision of what they were looking for in the role, with one interviewer looking for one set of traits and goals, and another coming in with different expectations.

So, we’re going to talk about this process for the next few editions, but here’s a little preview of some of the things we talk about with companies and candidates before interviews.


Start with the little things. What is the first impression you’re going to make on someone? Are the first 12 words out of your mouth about how terrible the weather and the travel was, or are you using that first sentence to thank them for the opportunity to come in? Do you know how to get to the facility, and do you have a plan to make sure you arrive early? You only get one chance to make a good first impression, don’t screw it up.

Be specific. Companies are going to be wary of vague answers to questions about how you accomplished past goals. Know the stats of how much you improved things within your facility. Be able to talk about the kinds of things you did to create that improvement. You’re not trying to give all of your trade secrets on the first date, but you do need to show that you know what you’re talking about, and can make an impact.


Don’t delay too long. For the first time in decades, there are more job openings in this country than there are job seekers, meaning that the candidate that you’ve got waiting for you can almost certainly find another opportunity if you drag your feet. It’s a seller’s
market right now, and companies need to act like it. Be decisive, or lose the type of candidates that can take your company to the next level.

Be open and honest. If you’re not interested in a candidate, let them know ASAP. There’s nothing worse as a candidate than being strung along with “we’ll be in touch” and then not hearing anything back. If a position isn’t a good fit for someone, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know that. It’s not a personal indictment, but a reality that not everyone is a fit for every role.

On the flip side, letting candidates hang out to dry gives your company a bad reputation in the marketplace. If you’re having trouble getting qualified people into the organization, consider taking a look at the way you treat people that do apply. In tight knit industry like ours, tales of a bad experience spread like wildfire.


The biggest thing that baffles me in today’s interviews is that people seem to be afraid to express interest. Candidates don’t want to lay it all out because there’s a chance they’ll get rejected, and hiring managers have the same hang-ups.

This is silly.

If you’re interested in joining someone’s team, or having someone join your team, express that interest. Let them know that you are motivated to get this done. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t weaken your negotiating position; it strengthens the resolve on both sides to put together an offer that is fair.

And isn’t that the point of the interview process? To find a good match, and put together a fair agreement to make the company and candidate’s lives better?

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