Hiring managers often make mistakes when interviewing job candidates. How do we know? Because hiring mistakes keep happening. Time and again, people are hired who are not qualified or are not the right fit for the company’s culture. Every time that occurs, it means businesses have to repeat the costly search, hire, and training process.  


To prevent your next bad hire, take note of these all-too-common interview mistakes.


Mistake #1: Not knowing what you’re looking for

Going into an interview, it’s essential that you know the precise skills and personal qualities you’re looking for. It’s not enough to have a general sense of needing someone with the expertise and experience to fill a given role. Push further. 


What are the specific skills the person must have, and which skills would it be okay for them to learn on the job? What specific tasks will their role involve, and which personality traits are essential to do those tasks well (and enjoy doing them)? What is the culture of your business and what types of people do and don’t succeed in that culture?


Mistake #2: The appearance trap

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that most interview decisions are made within the first few seconds of an interview. We subconsciously assess a candidate’s appearance—everything from their smile to their shoes—and leap to conclusions that may not be accurate or have a bearing on their potential success as an employee. 


To avoid this trap, first be aware of it. Whether a person wears a color you like or has “great energy” probably has little bearing on their ability to succeed in accounting, for instance. Having a diverse interview team can help you overcome this natural bias. 


Mistake #3: Asking the wrong questions

We all know the traditional interview questions: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where do you see yourself five years from now? A surprising number of businesses fall back on these questions because they haven’t done the deeper work to identify exactly what they’re looking for (see Mistake #1).


The right interview questions depend on the position you’re hiring for and the culture of your company, but generally they should be open-ended questions that include thoughtful follow-ups. You might, for instance, ask about a workplace conflict the candidate has faced—but don’t stop there. Follow up by probing the details of the encounter to better understand how the candidate deals with adversity and to determine whether they have a growth mindset.


Get the support you need

Insero & Co. is a public accounting firm with decades of experience working with hiring managers at businesses and nonprofits of all sizes. Our experts are available to provide consulting and other remote services, including recruiting—whatever you need to help you get through these difficult times.