On getting recruitment and selection right

Ten crass things managers do when recruiting

Blog PostWritten by John Berry on 31st August 2020. Revised 27th October 2020.6 min read

The Interview jonathan-borba-fNmUtZQwErM-unsplashThere’s much talked of about how to recruit.

Recruitment can be done well. Or recruitment can be done badly. Here are some things not to do, and why.

The essence of these comments is threefold:

I. Interviews are two-way affairs. Many managers forget this and assume that the interviewee is super-keen to have the job – and as a result the manager can do anything and say anything to the interviewee without negative effect on their organisation. You and your management team who might conduct interviews are on measure too.

II. Remember, the interviewee could, one day, be a major decision-maker in your organisation’s success and even personally in your career. You may decline to hire them, but they may then go on, for example, to be a major decision-maker in a potential customer. Even if you don’t make them an offer, you need them to leave the interview with a very positive opinion of you and your organisation.

III. Don’t do anything to the interviewee during the process that you would not be very pleased to have done to you. And don’t ask any questions, or frame the questions in a manner, or make comments during interview that you would dislike yourself.

So, don’t be crass. Don’t do any of the following:

  1. In hiring people, never suggest that they have got the job, prior to actually interviewing them. This simply builds them up, to have them crash down when you tell them they are unsuccessful. And when they land, they’ll think bad of you.

This is particularly relevant in internal job opportunities and promotions. If you ask someone to act up temporarily, remember that they must be able to return to their former role with their head held high. So, don’t snub them once you’ve appointed someone else. And don’t ask someone else to act up instead, following the first candidate’s interview (when you suddenly decide that they’re not the right person).

  1. Never hold panel interviews. They are confrontational. This is of course difficult right now with CoVid restrictions. The aim is a relaxed atmosphere when both parties can discuss openly.

This likely means one-on-one discussions, or at worst one interviewee to two interviewers.

  1. Start an online interview just as you would face to face – with small talk about, for example, how the interviewee is finding lock-down or what technology they are using today and how they find that works. In a face to face interview, you wouldn’t go straight in to questions, so don’t do that online.

  2. Never open with, “I don’t know anything about you other than your name, so…”. That’s an insult. The interviewee will likely have spent several hours researching you, your managers and your organisation. So, do the same. Read their CV and LinkedIn profile, and search their online footprint to learn who they are. That also gives you a rich source of discussion, and potential questions.

  3. Never record an interview. That’s a breach of trust. Don’t even ask permission – no interviewee will refuse permission, but it’s a bad way to start a relationship.

Only police officers record (and transcribe), because they may need to rely later in court on some small contested matter of detail. If you do your job right, no-one will contest the outcome. Have your scoring worked out, and score as you go, making minor reminder comments beside the score. See our other blogs and books on interview scoring.

There are also practical reasons not to record. Typically, an hour’s online recording produces a file of something like 200Mbytes – significantly more if you include video. Management of such a big file probably means it will be put in the Cloud. And managing any personal data brings in GDPR privacy overheads, requiring personal data to be captured, controlled and managed only for the purpose and duration needed. It’s an overhead that you don’t need.

  1. During an interview, never block the interviewee’s responses mid flow as they provide examples and evidence from other domains with which you are unfamiliar, and that you view as irrelevant. Work with the candidate instead to understand why they are relevant to your organisation and domain.

You might just learn something.

  1. Don’t insult the interviewee’s approaches and background as they respond to your questions. If they answer from a base of theory, ask them to relate the theory, but don’t say, “I hear another theoretical answer coming here…”, and block their flow.

Remember that they might just know more than you do.

  1. Don’t insult the interviewee when discussing what they do today, for example by saying that what they are involved in today is of no value.

  2. Never turn a candidate down with an officious letter attached to a one-line email. And don’t turn them down through a third party, like a recruitment agent. Think about how you will decline them. How would you want to be turned down?

For an internal candidate, always see them in person. The discussion is not about turning them down for your present vacancy. It’s about how you can help them to go on to some other more relevant job. Remember, as a manager, you need to build a great team. The interviewee may have a place in that. At some point you thought they were good enough for your present vacancy. Then you decided that someone else was better – and the question you must address is, “…and now what?”

  1. And finally, never do anything to leave the candidate spitting.

Always leave them smiling. For every person appointed, there are potentially several others who will be incredibly disappointed, and you must manage that. Only one can get the job, but you must avoid the other candidates seeing only bad in you, and your processes and organisation.

Managers must remember that all interviews are two-way affairs to be managed well. It’s easy to be crass, and there’s a lot of poor process taught. Getting it right takes knowledge and understanding. Learn to recruit well.

Now see our companion blog for the fourteen crass questions that managers should not ask at interview – and why.

Further Reading

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