Five Interview Pitfalls (And How To Avoid Them)

To build the best team, managers must know how to screen, uncover and select top talent. However, it's not easy interviewing salespeople. Many managers fall victim to some common pitfalls and end up moving the wrong people through the funnel.

Beth Sunshine, partner and VP talent services at The Center for Sales Strategy, says it's important to ask the right questions to gain insight into each candidate's thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The right questions allow managers to determine if there is enough evidence of talent to invest more time in a candidate.

So how can managers become better at recruiting and selecting top talent? We share Sunrise's top interview pitfalls and how to avoid them in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. Asking hokey questions about ridiculous topics. If you've ever asked a prospective employee which color M&M they would be and why, Sunshine urges you to never use that question again. The question might feel creative and even deep to some, but the odds of you learning something that will help you determine whether this candidate is likely to grow in their job, reach and exceed their goals and consistently replicate their success over time are pretty slim. Don't waste their time or yours with silly questions.

2. Failing to spend time preparing for the interview. Even with the best intentions, most hiring managers don't take enough time to get ready for their interviews. They often pull out the resume right before the candidate arrives and proceed to fly by the seat of their pants, asking questions about resume items that look interesting. It's often a long time later when they realize their missed opportunity.

3. Asking questions that always elicit a "yes" response. Sunshine says she has observed many interviews where candidates might elaborate after each question, sharing a bit about the why or the how, but they intuitively know that the right answer to a question is yes. Open-ended questions will provide you with much more to work with.

4. Allowing bias to interfere with objectivity. If the candidate attended your alma mater, shares an interest in one of your hobbies or just returned from your favorite vacation spot, it is much more difficult to get an unbiased read of their potential. It's easy to fall in love with the person you are interviewing and, with those rose-colored glasses on, throw a bunch of softballs at them before you make what might ultimately be the wrong hire.

5. Trying to cover too much ground in one interview. To get to know the candidate better, hiring managers often ask a variety of questions in one sitting. They ask questions about skills, experience, goals, personality, preferences, resume highlights and past failures instead of taking the narrow and deep approach that would have provided great insight. They may leave with lots of notes, but little of value.

Luckily, Sunshine says there's an easy way to avoid these five pitfalls and prepare for an interview that will determine whether you should move forward with your candidate. Her solution? Asking, "What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?"

From this single, meaningful question, you can branch off and ask follow-up questions such as, "What were some of the biggest challenges and how did you handle them?" or "What were the actual results achieved?"

It takes time to find the right person. Make sure you're making the most of your interviews by avoiding the pitfalls above.

Source: Beth Sunshine is partner and VP talent services at The Center for Sales Strategy. Sunshine is an expert in talent analysis, strength management and employee engagement. She has authored many articles and is a featured writer for a leading business blog.

filed under June 2019
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