This post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
When you’re happily employed, you probably don’t give much thought to job interviews. If you are career savvy, you nurture your network, maintain your thought leadership brand, and keep your skills updated. But actual job interview training can wait until you need it. This is fair…IF you are talking about your interview skills as the job candidate, but NOT if you are the interviewer in the hiring position. You probably don’t think of your job as interviewing and hiring people. But if you want to advance your career, grow your scope of responsibility and take on more, then you’ll need a team to support you. You will need to hire, even if it’s just selecting among internal colleagues. You need to have job interview skills –as the INTERVIEWER– on the other side of the desk.
Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a former recruiter for Citigroup, Warner Lambert and Merrill Lynch and my co-founder at SixFigureStart®, works with employers to ensure their employees know how to interview other people. She often sees interviewers make these 5 mistakes:
You can’t stop talking
You probably experienced this as a candidate at some point in your career. The interviewer spends all the time talking about herself or the company, and when it’s over you realize you didn’t get a chance to highlight any of your skills or experience. The interview must always be a two-way dialogue. If you’re talking too much, your candidates can’t share what makes them a great fit (or a wrong hire). You may overlook someone who could really contribute, or you may favor an attentive and flattering listener who does not have any other skills.
You are too distracted
You’re too busy for this interview stuff, so you glance at your email while the candidate is speaking or pause the interview to take a phone call. Like the non-stop talker, you can miss good candidates or warning signs by not paying attention. You also come across as someone who doesn’t care about hiring. The best candidates have choices in where to work and won’t choose the manager who can’t find time to listen.
You don’t know what to ask
If you don’t take the time to think about what you’re hiring for, you won’t know how to screen. Interviewing well requires advance preparation. Making the time and effort forces you to prioritize what you really want from this hire, which will ultimately enable you to do a better job yourself.
You only speak in clichés
If you don’t take the time to prepare your interview questions to match the job you’re hiring for, you also run the risk of asking cliché questions that promote canned responses, rather than useful, honest information. What is your biggest strength? What is your biggest weakness? Why did you leave this job, that job, that next job? Candidates who intend to game the system will prepare for these boilerplate questions. Furthermore, unless you’ve thought about what strengths you need, what weaknesses are deal-breakers, or what signs of motivation indicate this candidate really wants your role, then these aren’t the right questions for your interview.
Your questions leave the company vulnerable to lawsuits
Oh, you went to Jane Doe High School, too? When did you graduate? You might get along so well with a candidate that you forget this is a professional conversation and certain questions that are fine for a social event are off-limits here. You can ask about college graduation date, but not high school (that’s seen as fishing for age). Do you know all of the issues that are off-limits? What happens if you don’t like a candidate and would have closed them out but they volunteer off-limits information? How do you safely close them out then?
If you want to advance in your career, even if it’s exactly where you currently are, you still need to know how to interview – as the interviewer. Your experience as a job candidate does not qualify you to be a job interviewer. You still may be guilty of one or more of these 5 interview mistakes. Invest the time to learn proper interviewing skills. Making hiring a priority, and prepare in advance. Get coaching from HR, your mentor, or your coach. Knowing how to interview and hire is a career advantage that many professionals overlook at peril to themselves and their company.