With the kind of crunch that there is at middle managerial levels today, in many industries, finding the right person is increasingly becoming a tough task. To do this now, companies are setting up processes in many areas – how to identify the good resumes, how to conduct background checks in industries where experience is easy to fudge, and ofcourse the right compensation packages to offer. There is one area however, where it is still difficult to do away with human intervention, and by association, human error. This is in the area of interviewing. Based on my own experiences and on stories I’ve heard from reliable others, these are some common mistakes that companies, or people often make.
- Making an interviewee wait – Too often, a candidate goes through a preliminary interview with HR, and then – cools his heels waiting for the concerned business manager or head to appear. This may have been acceptable in the days of job scarcity, not now. Many companies seem to be under the fallacy that theirs is the one dream job that everyone is waiting for. Even if that is the case, not all those waiting are the right person for you. You don’t want to drive away that one right person who is disgusted at your unprofessional behavior. While being late to conduct an interview is bad manners at any level, when you are interviewing for mid to senior level positions, you are also wasting a significant chunk of what is known as time-cost.
- Being inflexible – Too often, companies seem to forget that the people they are interviewing have full time jobs currently. That means deadlines to meet, bosses to please, and no, they can’t kick them aside to meet you at 2 pm in the day. If they did, you probably don’t want such people in your company, do you? Companies can try being more flexible on these issues, perhaps arranging meetings at lunch time, after 5 when it’s easier to get away, or over a weekend. Sometimes, employees may not be comfortable coming over to a competitor’s office. This does happen in highly secretive industries. This may mean meeting them at a neutral venue, or perhaps a telephonic to begin with. Some companies do operate like this, but in many cases, interviews are scheduled based on when senior people within the company are available. That may be convenient to you, but not likely to get you the best person.
- Gender stereotyping – A favorite question this one. If the candidate happens to be a woman, interviewers will often feel compelled to ask whether she is married, planning to get married, or planning to start a family. Grow up, people! Employees move jobs for all kinds of reasons, including men moving for a better pay package or to be back in the hometown with their parents. Women moving due to a husband’s transfer or the arrival of a child is only a subset of that. Please don’t treat women as some sort of special candidate on whom a large X mark signifying danger needs to be placed. It reflects very poorly on the kind of workplace you will offer them.
- Asking personal questions – This is related to the previous one, but applies more evenly to both sexes. While being friendly with an interviewee is acceptable, and may even help you gauge personality better, there is no need for getting excessively personal. I am not here to marry you, so please stop asking me about my dad, his career, my siblings, what they do and so on. (No kidding, this has happened to me). It makes me wonder whether I am being evaluated on parameters totally unrelated to the job.
I am sure there are a few more, but the bottomline is that companies need to put in place some sort of a guide to professional interviewing. Very often, the interaction is great till a professional HR person is present. Post that, every business head simply plays it their own way. Which is fine, if there are basic minimum standard s adhered to. It would be interesting to read of companies which have formulated such guidelines, and if so, how are they being implemented.