Interviewing Candidates – What Your Questions Say About You

It’s no secret that an interview is a two-way process, at the same time when you are asking your candidate a question and evaluate their performance based on responses the candidate across from you doing exactly the same. Your questions, your reactions and even your body language can tell candidate a lot about you – and shape up his next response.

There are a few things to be aware of. Sometimes you don’t want to pass along anything at all and put on your “poker face”. If your candidate is any good he will immediately realize that and figure you are hiding something. What is it that you are hiding he doesn’t know, but it can make him either too nervous and uncertain if he even gets anywhere near what you are looking for, or too confident that you are trying to hide something bad about the job itself and, as a result, such candidate will pass on your offer even if it is better than your competitor’s.

There are no set rules, of course, but there are few cases that pretty much outline the major mistakes hiring side made during the process. I happened to be interacting with either business that was hiring or coaching the candidates so I have sort of first-hand information on each account.

Case 1: Business advertised a managerial position with some hands on skills required. At the beginning of the interview process candidate was assured that position requires about 30% of actual hands-on process as there are other people who handle it. However, the technical part of the interview was so detailed to one particular aspect of hands-on operations that candidate immediately assumed that this part will be his engagement 100% of the time. As a result, candidate has turned down the job offered to him.

Case 2: During the interview process the hiring manager repeatedly advised candidate on his skills as an interviewee instead of concentrating on actually interviewing the candidate on skills pertaining to the job – according to candidate’s account such comments added up to about 30% of the overall interview time. As a result the candidate has turned down the next round of interviews suggesting picking up someone from the kindergarten so that the hiring manager can fully embrace his father-role in the game.

Case 3: The interview with the hiring manager was immediately followed by two more separate interviews with two members of the team. Questions that two team members were asking, aside from basic concepts, revolved around the same technical problem presented in two slightly varied ways. Candidate decided not to proceed with the interview with third team member on the assumption that the team is looking for a solution to a problem, not another team member, and was using the interviews to extract some fresh ideas from candidates.

Case 4: Business advertised a position that had a split responsibilities between managing outside vendors and hands-on work in house. On the last round of interview he was asked the question of which part of this dual-hat wearing position he would appreciate more, to which he responded that ultimately he would be interested in managing the processes 100% of his time. Business, after very long consideration, decided to go a different route and hire two people to handle both aspects separately. The candidate was not offered a job, since business considered him overqualified for hands-on job and not having enough experience for managerial role.

Case 5: Recruiting company approached a candidate with a consulting position for an undisclosed company that was conducting a “discreet candidate search to replace one of the workers”. The interview, done by one of the consultants, consisted of basic questions on technology as a whole and complaints about the person being replaced. Most notable complaint was “he works like he’s playing chess, sitting there, thinking”. Given that the work required significant amount of mental labor it was very strange that one of the main issues with the worker that was being replaced was that he isn’t typing as fast as the other consultant. Obviously, the candidate turned down the position with words “I don’t want to get fired for needing to stop and think”.

As you can see, there are a few early signs that business is not ready to make a move on hiring a candidate right now or even do not know which qualifications of the candidate are most important. A well prepared candidate can spot these signs and decline a job even though you might want him for your company. Here are a few stop signs that, while not definite red flags, but are taken as “proceed with caution” signs. You might want to avoid them when hiring.

– Hiring manager saying “We will hire when we’ll find the right candidate” – tells the candidate you are not ready to make a move so he can move on.
– Interviewers asking “Have you ever worked with _some tiny little niche of the responsibilities_?” – tells candidate that’s all you really care about.
– Interviewers not asking anything except very basic questions when interviewing for anything above very junior level or asking about minute details without assessing conceptual understanding first – tells candidate someone wrote those questions for you and all he has to do is guess the right answer.
– Interviewers asking for specific area of knowledge or resolution to specific problem while disregarding anything else – tells the candidate you are looking for a solution to an immediate problem and he may not work for you as long as you promised him he would.
– Interviewers asking questions directly from “Worst 100 interview questions” book without even realizing it – tells candidate you simply don’t know what you are doing.