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5 most common interview mistakes, according to research – and how to fix them

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Any seasoned HR pro knows the importance of the interview: It can give hiring managers a glimpse into what the candidate could be like as a potential employee and whether they’d be a good culture fit. In fact, it takes the majority of recruiters less than 15 minutes to decide whether a candidate will be a good fit during an interview. 

But just as interviewers are looking out for red flags, potential hires are often doing the same. After all, the interview is a two-way process, where both parties decide if the position is a good fit. And interviewers aren’t always on their best behavior; many make interview mistakes that can directly affect whether a job offer is accepted.

Case in point: 42% of candidates decline job offers as a direct result of a bad interview experience, according to new research from SHL. Here’s what a negative interview can look like – and the devastating effects it can have for a potential hire. 

Top interview mistakes hiring pros make

Poor interview experiences have been on the rise since the pandemic, according to SHL research, with the number of negative hiring experiences doubling and job offer declines tripling since 2020.

But it’s not just interviewers that make the candidate experience poor; although nearly half (45%) cited the interviewer as a contributing factor to a negative experience, more than half (52%) said the interview process itself contributed to a negative interview experience. And about a quarter (23%) said the recruiter contributed to a negative experience.

SHL’s research found some of the top interview mistakes that lead to a negative candidate experience.

1. Unprofessional behavior 

One of the most common interview mistakes is an interviewer being downright rude – like those who are dismissive, condescending or hostile. An unprofessional interviewer can make a candidate feel offended – and certainly doesn’t paint the company culture in a good light. 

2. Lack of respect for time 

“Interviewers who cancel or reschedule an interview on short notice with little or no explanation, or who join the interview late display a lack of consideration for the candidate’s time and can leave a negative impression with the candidate,” says Sara Gutierrez, chief science officer at SHL.  

3. Inadequate preparation

Being unprepared is one of the all-too-common interview mistakes. Interviewers who aren’t prepared – like those who don’t have a full understanding of the role requirements – can be a red flag for a candidate. Interviewees may end up feeling like the hiring company doesn’t care about finding the right candidate for the role.

An unprepared interviewer can also make a candidate who spent a lot of time prepping for the interview feel like they’ve wasted their time and energy. 

4. Lack of focus

A distracted interviewer can be a big interview mistake; it can convey disinterest and lead to the candidate feeling undervalued. An unfocused interview can also make the interviewer – and subsequently the organization – look underprepared and unprofessional.  

5. Not turning on a webcam

One of the biggest interview mistakes SHL’s data uncovered may surprise you. “A critical finding of SHL’s research was the link between negative candidate experiences and interviewers not using their cameras, making candidates twice as likely to have a negative experience,” says Gutierrez. “In not turning on their webcam, interviewers may hinder communication and make the interview feel less engaging.”  

How HR can help hiring pros avoid interview mistakes

Prioritizing a positive candidate experience is a no-brainer – it can lead to a higher chance that the job offer is accepted and help start candidates off on the right foot. Plus, it can reduce turnover and quick quitting.

But how can HR pros help hiring pros avoid interview mistakes and improve the interview process? 

“Established research indicates the most effective way to improve interview practice is to utilize a structured interview format,” says Gutierrez. “Structured interviews follow a consistent and standardized format, with predetermined questions asked in the same order for all candidates. This approach eliminates bias and ensures a fair evaluation of all candidates based on the same criteria.” 

Along with a structured interview process, here are some of the actions interviewers can take that lead to a positive interview experience, according to SHL research – and ways HR can help ensure common interview mistakes are avoided:

  • Asking questions directly related to role requirements: “Candidates perceive the interview process as an opportunity to showcase their unique experiences and skills; the interview is their time to shine,” says Gutierrez. “When interview questions are closely aligned with the job requirements, candidates are provided with a platform to demonstrate their suitability for the role.”

What HR can do: Provide a predetermined set of questions that relate to job responsibilities to keep the interview relevant and avoid seeming unprepared.

  • Discussing the organization and culture: “Sharing valuable information about the company’s culture, values and work environment can create a more engaging and informative interview,” says Gutierrez. 

What HR can do: Provide interviewers with key messaging and encourage interviewers to set aside time to discuss it.

  • Being on time: “Delivering the interview within the expected timeline is crucial,” says Gutierrez. “Additionally, interviewers who are punctual and respect the candidate’s time demonstrate professionalism and consideration, contributing to a positive overall experience.” 

What HR can do: Derive processes and tools where possible so interviewers can easily schedule interviews and stay on top of interview times.

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