How to not screw up a hire–10 tips on what to avoid


10 pointers for companies now interviewing and hiring. Want to attract and gain good talent? Then don’t do the following:

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  • Have time gaps between interviews, weeks with no idea of what or whom is next. It’s a warning sign of internal uncertainty, no sense of urgency (the role may be unclear or under scrutiny) and reflects a lack of process. I should add that some companies take great pride in lengthy times to actually hire. Google is notoriously slow, Mars also, so I assume they figure they’re that good that people will wait. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s not standard procedure. Keep the process moving, steady as she goes.
  • Skip giving feedback after interviews. All too typical, translates to not taking time to say why someone is a good or wrong fit. Feedback is owed, and when there is none, the smart candidate will discern shoddy communication, or everyone is too busy to bother. Either way it’s a communicative warning sign that they can’t be bothered to say yea or nay, and why. One of my biggest challenges. My one client who excelled at immediate (and I mean immediate) feedback was McKinsey. Which makes sense, part of their corporate culture.
  • Keep candidates waiting in the lobby. If one takes time from the job to have an interview chat, everyone’s time is valuable. To keep someone waiting for anything longer than 15 minutes is unacceptable-and I have seen much much worse. Interest wanes, and turns into ire. And when that does happen, rest assured the interviewer will seldom be prepared. It’s not a doctor’s appointment.
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    Which leads to…

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  • Allow everyone to be an interviewer.. The process can bog down with more wanting to be involved than need be, or simply having the wrong people interview. Not everyone should interview. Keep it simple, and know what you want to ask. Why more companies (HR, let’s call it for what it is) don’t brief interviewers is beyond me, in light of the nonsensical braying of ‘war for talent.’
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    Which also leads to..

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  • Enter unprepared. Read the CV, read the JD, know the job, profile needed, and know what you’d like to ask. Not the “gotcha” interview questions (“if you were a colour/weather/animal/fruit, and so on”), but questions you want an answer to, grounded in strength and accomplishment. If the interviewer is ill-informed or indifferent to the position, scope and potential, it’s not a conversation– it’s a waste of time.
  • Do most of the talking. Many interviewers ramble on about what they think and envision. That’s helpful, but can leave scant time for the candidate to say much. S’pose to be the other way around,
  • Drill in about a candidate’s salary. That is the domain of HR and the headhunter to outline, and should almost never be addressed in an interview (but HR always loves to ask..). The interview is about rapport, knowledge and insights, not package.
  • Assume everyone automatically wants to work for your company. Most of the people I headhunt are working, not actively looking. I can often engage them on the opportunity, but they have to be sold. Even if you work for a huge brand, you must be able to explain why it’s a worthwhile opportunity. If you can’t, get someone else who can, and provide a realistic and compelling story.
  • Change the job description in midstream. I recently had a C level search. The candidate told me after interviewing with some of the senior management that the job was smaller than the description on the JD (which I wrote, the client edited and signed off on). When I asked the client, I was told that, yes, that was true, but they hoped it would become a bigger role in the next couple of years, and wanted someone who could see that horizon. Nimrods… This candidate (who was a great fit) immediately stopped the interviewing,, and I stopped the search. They needed a lower level of candidate and a different description, but wouldn’t admit it. Or didn’t think it was important enough.
  • Be brusque. People who interview may let their perceived status or time constraints get in the way of common courtesy. It always comes around, I assure you. Treat candidates graciously, even if they’re entirely wrong for the job, It costs nothing and keeps the professional and personal reputations intact. When it does come around-as it always does-it won’t sting.
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    Written by Neal Horwitz, President of Henry Hale Maguire


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