13 Common Interviewer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

A smiling male interviewer in glasses and a business suit reviews a resume during a job interview, engaging with a female candidate whose back is to the camera in an office setting.

When you’re the interviewer, you might not think too much about the impression you’re making on the candidate being interviewed. After all, they’re the ones who are supposed to wow you, right? 

While it’s true that the interviewee is probably more eager to impress, it would be a mistake to assume you’ll be totally free from judgment just because you’ll be sitting in the interviewer’s chair. From bad manners to poor interviewing techniques, interviewer mistakes can turn off candidates and even lead to hiring the wrong person for the job. Before your next interview, brush up on these common interviewer mistakes and follow our tips for avoiding them.

The Importance of Avoiding Interviewer Mistakes 

Provide a great candidate experience

Whether it’s a minor faux pas like awkward small talk or a major blunder like mistaking the applicant for someone else, interviewer mistakes lead to a bad experience for the candidate. This can damage your employer brand through word of mouth and negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor, which will make it more difficult for you to hire. Polished interviewers, on the other hand, create a great candidate experience, which strengthens your employer brand and leads to more accepted offers.

Make accurate hires

Some mistakes, like generic questions and subpar scoring criteria, make getting an accurate read on an interviewee’s skills impossible. This can cause interviewers to misjudge a candidate’s capabilities and hire someone who isn’t actually qualified to perform the necessary duties. Or, they might be completely misaligned with your company culture. In any case, the outcome could be a bad hire, which will cost money to correct and could negatively impact operations. 

Avoid legal trouble

Did you know that some aspects of a job interview are regulated by law? If you’re unaware of these restrictions (or you know about them but choose to disregard them), you could land your employer in a lot of trouble and even put the company’s livelihood at risk. 

So, it pays to avoid these common interviewer mistakes. 

13 Common Interviewer Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

1. Showing up late

If a candidate showed up late to the interview, it would quickly give you a negative first impression. It’s no different on your end; keeping a candidate waiting for more than a minute or two communicates that you feel your time is more important than theirs, which doesn’t bode well for their impression of your company. 

How to avoid it: This is an easy one. Show up on time! It’s a good best practice to build an automatic five—to ten-minute window into your calendar when scheduling meetings. If you’re running more than a few minutes behind, call someone in the office who can let the candidate know and reschedule if necessary. 

2. Failing to understand the job

All too often, the person conducting the job interview doesn’t fully understand the role for which they’re hiring. Without this knowledge, making an informed decision about whether the interviewee is a competent, capable candidate is impossible. It’s also impossible to ask effective questions–more on this in mistake number seven. 

How to avoid it: Before you go into the interview, review the job listing and speak with colleagues to gain a firm grasp on A) the job duties, B) the skills required to accomplish those duties, and C) the KPIs that will indicate success in the role. 

3. Not reviewing resumes ahead of time

It doesn’t matter how experienced of an interviewer you are. Walking into an interview cold without first reviewing the candidate’s resume is a bad idea. You risk asking irrelevant questions or missing out on the opportunity to dive into aspects of their background that make them a particularly strong candidate. 

How to avoid it: Even if you’ve seen their resume already during the screening process, glancing at it for a few minutes before the interview begins will give you a quick refresh and help you get the most out of the conversation. 

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4. Being too lighthearted

We all want to make candidates feel at ease, but being too light in your mood can make the interviewee question whether you’re taking them seriously. Maintain a balance between warmth and professionalism to communicate respect for the process and the candidate’s time. 

How to avoid it: Avoid excessive jokes, cursing, and oversharing, all of which can set an inappropriate tone for a job interview. 

5. Being too serious

On the other hand, being too serious can also be off-putting to candidates. An overly stern demeanor can prevent a candidate from performing at their best and raise concerns about the company culture.

How to avoid it: Be friendly and create a welcoming environment where a candidate feels comfortable talking openly. A smile, a warm handshake, and a minute or two of small talk can all set an inviting tone. 

6. Being distracted

Whether it’s a pinging cell phone, a looming deadline, or another candidate you perceive as being more qualified, distractions take your focus off the person in the room with you. This is disrespectful of their time and the interview process itself. 

How to avoid it: Eliminating distractions will foster a productive exchange and provide a positive candidate experience. Give candidates your full attention and practice active listening. 

7. Asking vague/broad questions

Questions that tend to be more generic don’t drill down into the qualifications that matter most when making the right hiring decision. They can also signal that you didn’t review the candidate’s credentials beforehand, which can be discouraging. 

How to avoid it: Spend time preparing specific, relevant interview questions that are tied to the job. Prompt candidates to provide detailed examples so you can thoroughly assess their skills and experience. 

8. Not following a schedule

Disorganization reflects poorly on the company’s professionalism and can frustrate candidates. Not only that, you risk running out of time before you’ve had a chance to cover critical topics. 

How to avoid it: Set a schedule for your time with the candidate and stick to it. Allocate time to discuss technical skills, soft skills, background experience, work style/preferences, candidate questions, and other topics pertinent to making the right hire. 

9. Jumping to conclusions

It’s only natural for us to have thoughts or feelings about a person upon (or before) initially meeting them. However, these snap judgments can cloud your thinking and prevent you from assessing candidates objectively. 

How to avoid it: Set first impressions aside and take the time to thoroughly evaluate each candidate based on the criteria you outlined in the job posting. Consider using software that helps mitigate bias in the screening process, like tools that remove the suggestion of certain details (gender, ethnicity, etc.) from a candidate’s resume. 

10. Making decisions based on your gut

Relying on your intuition to make the right decision is another way to introduce bias into the hiring process. Bias can cause us to overlook qualified applicants and downplay noteworthy shortcomings in candidates we like. 

How to avoid it: Supplement your instincts with evaluation criteria, such as interview scorecards and pre-hire assessments, to judge candidates objectively. 

11. Asking prohibited questions

It’s normal to want to learn about a candidate on a personal level, and you might be doing so for genuine reasons. However, asking about a candidate’s age, marital status, race, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics violates anti-discrimination laws and can result in legal consequences. 

How to avoid it: Familiarize yourself with prohibited topics so you can steer clear of them. Keep the conversation focused on job-related inquiries. 

12. Not answering candidate questions

Candidates value transparency. Providing evasive or inaccurate responses to a candidate’s questions can breed mistrust. What’s more, it’s in your best interest to provide complete and accurate information during the hiring process to avoid shift shock–a disconnect between what a new hire expects and what the job really is. 

How to avoid it: Give candidates a chance to ask questions and be forthcoming in your answers. Set expectations about aspects of the job that could be a deal-breaker for some candidates, like weekend hours or physically demanding labor. 

13. Failing to discuss next steps

Leaving candidates in the dark about the hiring process can lead to uncertainty and frustration. When you have a great candidate, you want to keep them interested and let them know you’re interested, too! 

How to avoid it: Clearly communicate the next steps in the process on your end as well as the timeline for them. Send follow-up messaging to maintain a line of communication with the candidate and keep engagement strong. 

By avoiding the common pitfalls outlined above, you’ll create a positive interview experience that benefits the candidate and produces high-performing hires. 

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn