1. Beware of small talk

Indulging in small talk before or after an interview can be a great way to connect with your candidates, set them at ease, and learn a little more about their personalities. However, it’s important to stay aware that you’re conducting an interview, even while chatting on the way out the door. Questions like “When did you graduate college?” or “Do you have children?” can open the door for ageism suits or claims that you won’t consider candidates with kids. Though these claims might be rare, they do happen — and the get-to-know-you questions listed above certainly aren’t worth the risk. 

Small talk also becomes dangerous when you start using it as part of the interview process. Perhaps you’re turned off by candidates who aren’t as chatty, or you get excited about candidates who think your jokes are funny. We’re all human, and of course we lean toward hiring people who we see ourselves getting along with. But, though it’s important to find someone who will fit into your company culture, making decisions based on how well you get along with a candidate is a surefire way to make the wrong hire. Being funny or easy to talk to isn’t a requirement for most jobs, so hiring based on personality rather than experience, skill, or professionalism is a huge mistake for most companies. 


  1. Ask real questions

Don’t be afraid to ask real, hard-hitting questions! Obviously, you should never inquire into a candidate’s personal life, but there are plenty of revealing professional questions to be asked. For instance, instead of the fluffy and uber-positive “What was your favorite position so far?”, ask “What was your least favorite part about your last position?” Both questions are geared toward understanding whether your candidate will be happy in their new position, but the second is much more revealing than the first. 

First off, most candidates know the general description of the job they’re applying for, so if you ask for their favorite job, they’ll probably just tell you about the position most similar to the one they’re interviewing for. However, candidates probably won’t know about the difficulties that will arise in the position, and are thus much more likely to be honest. If they disliked an aspect of their previous job that will be present in the position you’re hiring for, such as a fast-paced work environment or team-oriented work, you’ll know immediately that they won’t be a good fit. If they dislike their old boss’ relaxed managing style that sounds a lot like yours, you’ll avoid hiring and training someone who might quit weeks later. 

Here are a few more questions that are sure to get honest, informative answers:

  • “Give me an example of a time you had to do something at work that you disagreed with.” 
  • “Do you consider yourself successful?”
  • “What can you bring to our company?”
  • “What would your first 60 days look like in this role?”
  • “What should I know about you that’s not on your resume?”


  1. Be honest

If you know the job you’re hiring for will be incredibly difficult or tedious, it can be tantalizing to smooth over the worst details and present a euphemistic picture of the position. I’m here to tell you — Stop. Doing. This. 

While some employees might stick it out at a job they weren’t prepared for, others won’t be afraid of packing up their desk and leaving if the job is more difficult than they expected. Though it may allow you to hire quicker, avoiding the truth of your position may lead to the purgatory that is on-boarding and training an employee, only to have them quit two months later. Also, if being honest about your position causes candidates to drop of out of the running or stalls your hiring process, that is a glaring sign that something is wrong. Is the position too much for one person to handle? Is your honesty about your management style turning people away? Does the compensation not fit the role?


  1. Do a phone interview first

This is the biggest recruiting time-saver out there. While you may not be able to tell if a candidate is a perfect fit over the phone, you’ll certainly be able to tell if they’re a terrible fit — from a lack of professionalism to a lack of experience and skill, there are many red flags you can identify over the phone that will keep you from having to waste time planning and conducting an office interview. Even delegating these phone interviews to a trusted employee can streamline your hiring process without taking too much time away from your business. 

If a candidate misses their phone interview, you can cross them off your list without having wasted an afternoon preparing for the seeing them in-office. If a candidate begins relentlessly bashing their previous employer, you can politely listen to this red flag over the phone without inwardly groaning about having to sit through the rest of the office interview. When it comes to making the right hire as quickly as possible, trust me — phone interviews are your friend. 


  1. Know When to Ask What

Speaking of phone interviews — are there questions better fitted to remote interviews than office interviews? The answer is yes! 

Phone interviews are the initial vetting stage of the hiring process. Use this time to ask basic informational questions, such as “What are your salary expectations” and “When can you start?” Once you’ve got those out of the way, there are many open-ended questions that make bad candidates stick out like sore thumbs. Questions such as “What would you do when faced with a rude client?” or “What would you do if a tedious project forced you to work late?” are great for the vetting stage of phone interviews. Though there are many right answers to these questions, there are also quite a few wrong ones. Failing on a hypothetical question — which is a great platform for idealistic, perfectionist answers — is a giant, glaring red flag.

However, when it’s office interview time, hypotheticals may not be as helpful. Assuming your candidates have made it through the phone interview stage, they’re clearly skilled at answering hypotheticals. So, instead, give them something that recalls their real-world experiences. These questions (most of which begin with, “Tell me about a time when….”) are just as revealing as hypotheticals, especially when you analyze why the employee chose the answer they did. For instance, the question “Tell me about a time when you were proud of your achievement at work,” can have numerous possible answers, and whichever one your candidate chooses will tell you a lot about their personality. Are they proud of impressing their superior or solving a problem? Finishing a project pre-deadline? Being promoted? Winning a company award? This will help you understand what motivates them, which will be a great tool for helping a new hire succeed. 

Though real-world questions can also work during the phone interview stage, there are plenty of bad candidates who have done occasional great things over the course of their career. Real-world questions are better for understanding your potential employees, rather than for screening a dozen candidates. In the screening stage, questions that have obvious wrong answers will always be more effective for identifying bad candidates. 


These interviewing tips will ensure a smoother, more effective, and less risky recruiting process for hiring managers. For more tips and advice for business owners, visit the other blogs on our page or stay tuned for next week’s post.

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