Human Resources News & Insights

10 dumb ways managers drive job applicants away

Interview etiquette is a two-way street — candidates and interviewers both have to make a good impression.

Unfortunately, hiring managers — especially those with little interviewing experience — often do things or ask questions that will make candidates think twice about accepting an offer.

Here are the top 10 interviewer behaviors candidates hate, according to the report “Are You Failing the Interview?”, published recently by Development Dimensions International:

  1. Treating the interview like an interrogation (cited by 43% of respondents as a top problem) — The manager’s goal isn’t to uncover the candidate’s hidden flaws. It’s to make sure the candidate is the right fit for the job, which can only be done in a comfortable interview setting.
  2. Taking too long to call back (42%) — Just half the survey’s respondents said they were satisfied with how long they had to wait to hear back after an interview.
  3. Withholding information about salary, hours, expectations, etc. (39%) — This happens more often now, as previously high-ranked employees are applying for jobs at a lower level. But managers need to understand that painting a less-than-full picture of the job will likely come back to bite them once the person starts working.
  4. Keeping the candidate waiting (35%) — Managers have a lot to do, but scheduled interviews should take priority. If the boss doesn’t respect candidates’ time now, why would they expect it to change after they’re hired?
  5. Asking irrelevant questions (30%) — Some interviewers like asking off-beat, unexpected questions to keep candidates on their toes (for example, “If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?”). But most experts recommend sticking to job-related topics.
  6. Acting like they don’t have the time to talk (25%) — Candidates most likely took time off from another job, and they don’t want to be rushed through the interview.
  7. Being unprepared (22%) — Good candidates take the time to research the company — and they expect good hiring managers to become familiar with their resumes.
  8. Asking inappropriate questions (22%) — Managers often turn to off-limits topics without realizing what they’re doing. Questions that seem like harmless ice-breakers could offend some candidates — such as, “Where do you go church?” or “Are you married?”
  9. Never giving a candidate the opportunity to ask questions (12%) — Letting candidates ask questions is not only helpful for them, but the types of questions they ask can give a manager insight on whether the candidate’s a good fit.
  10. Having several interviewers ask the same questions (12%) — When there are multiple rounds, interviewers need to communicate to avoid an inefficient, repetitive process.

The bad news for interviewers guilty of those transgressions: 91% of candidates say the interviewer’s behavior has a big impact on whether they accept a job offer.

The best solution: training from HR. Less than half of managers said they’ve received on-the-job interview training.

You can download a copy of the report (PDF) here.

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  1. I see some people asking the same canned questions for each interviewee regardless of what is on the application or the answers they are receiving. You need a set block of questions, yes, but to rely on them as your only source of information is not only limiting, but shows the candidate that you are not that interested in them.

    I do make sure to ask if I have covered all information clearly and if they have any questions themselves.

    Anyone know a link to some good interview training?

  2. While I was waiting for my interviewer to show up, his secretary unloaded multiple issues on me about her divorce the year before. She even started crying and I had just met her. I did take the job and both of them are fortunately now gone and hopefully in therapy!

  3. We have a new manager that goes to the interviews and DRILLS the applicant. One interview I felt like crawling under the table because I thought they would fight. The applicant sent in a very professional complaint about the manager and the manager has gotten a little better.

    It was awful. That applicant, once he finds a job, will never do business with us because of this. I think people forget that every person is a potential for future business.

  4. I got asked the fruit question. I responded that I’d probably be a tomato, was asked why and said because I liked tomatoes. Then I asked if I could ask a question. No problem. Why’d you ask me that question. Because they wanted to see if I really a) was flexible, b) had a good sense of humor and c) could answer a stupid question “appropriately”. I’ve never asked the question because I couldn’t possibly keep a straight face to ask it, but I appreciated the reasons it was asked.

  5. I remembering interviewing for a HR Generalist position with a regional well known manufacturing company. I was to interview with the HR Director first and then the management team. The HR Director was drilling me with all sorts of accusatory questions. Even criticized me for applying and showing up for the interview! Worst interview I ever had. Since then, I’ve never purchased their products and I don’t recommend their products or jobs to anyone…………….

  6. I agree for the most part on the points except for the “off-beat” questions. Throwing one in there allows you get the feel for how the applicant processes the questions and based on their answer, will tell you if they are creative, analytical, think w/in the box or outside the box, and even how they handle something unexpected. It’s a psychological thing that if you pay attention, can give you a good insight on whether the applicant is a fit for the specific position or not. But for some positions, this is not necessary. You shouldn’t just throw out an “off-beat” question just for the sake of rattling the applicant or filling the silence.

  7. I was interviewed one time by a guy who was more nervous than I was. He could barely talk and was sweating like crazy.

    Another guy ask me to tell him a joke which I’m REALLY bad at. What did THAT have to do with the job??

    I prefer behavioral interviewing…you can get a lot more information about an applicant’s past employment history.

  8. Asking irrelevant questions (30%) — Some interviewers like asking off-beat, unexpected questions to keep candidates on their toes (for example, “If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?”). But most experts recommend sticking to job-related topics.

    See this blog if you want some fun!!! Be sure to read to the bottom!!!!

  9. The worst interview I ever had was for an HR Mgr. position with a small company. I interviewed initially with the recruiter, which went fine. 2nd interview was with the current HR Mgr who was leaving the position. She asked the most ridiculous questions — like “what does FMLA stand for?” After nearly 20 years in HR, that question was almost offensive. The 3rd interview was with the HR Director who grilled me to the point that I expected to be arrested on a trumped up charge afterwards. I was called back for a 4th interview with a Regional Mgr., who seemed offended and/or irritated that I was even there. By this time, I was so disinterested in working for this company that I cut the interview short, apologized for bothering him and asked to be removed from the list of possibilities. The recruiter I initially interviewed with called me the following day to tell me how unprofessional I was. Gee, really?! If this is how they treat a candidate and potential employee, what happens to me once I’m hired?!

  10. HR in Ohio says:

    The worst interview I had was for an HR Manager position. I was there for close to an hour. The HR Director kept me waiting for 15 minutes and when she came in, she spent most of the interview telling me about all of the problems in the company. She did squeeze in a couple of questions about my prior jobs and why I left. Then told me I was over-qualified because she needed someone more entry-level to just handle the personnel files. I took 1/2 of a vacation day for this! UGH!@!

  11. Tom in California says:

    Item #7 hit home with me. 20+ years ago when I was still in the public sector I interviewed for a trainer position at a large non-profit social services organization in Los Angeles. The first question the interviewer asked me was, “What position are you here to interview for?”. It went downhill from there. He hadn’t read my resume, and asked me questions that he was clearly making up as he went along. The kicker, though, was at the end. A question I always ask the person to whom I’d be reporting, this gentleman in this case, is “What do you think you’re like to work for?”.

    His answer? “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question”. I tried it 3 more times, asking different ways in an attempt to get him to describe what it would be like for me to be working for him. Each time he replied with how he couldn’t understand the question I was asking him. The best he was able to muster was a rambling dissertation about his own work schedule and hours, etc. What this told me was that he was unable to put himself in someone else’s shoes and do any kind of objective self-evaluation. An odd characteristic in a director of clinical services with a PhD in Clinical Pychology!

  12. I’ve had some very interesting interviews for HR positions.

    During a phone interview, a guy asked me what year I graduated from college. They said I didn’t get the job because I didn’t have enough excel experience. How could he tell by a phone interview?

    Another interview, the HR manager was so busy, she was 10-15 mins. late for the interview. Once in the interview, she kept checking her email and took a phone call. I wasn’t impressed with how she treated a future employee.

    Another interview, the future co-worker was asked to sit in on the interview. She was rude to the HR person. That should have been a BIG RED FLAG. I got the job, and the co-worker treated me the same. Good thing it was a temporary position!

    The worst was sitting thru a three hour interview with different people asking the SAME QUESTIONS!

    Wake up HR professionals. The candidates are interviewing the company and you too!!!

  13. As one who was hiring an HR generalist, you’d be surprised the number of people who applied with a large number of years in HR who had no clue what an I-9 was or basic HR law/forms. You’d be surprised the lack of knowledge in our field. I have to admit I was surprised, too.

    I, too, ask an offbeat question or two. My goal is to find out if someone could comfortably say, “I don’t know” and want to see if they will try to find out the answer. For me, that question is all about how someone would react to the unknown. If they try to “snow me”, I know they’ll try to come up with answers that could be wrong when under pressure and get the Company in some legal hot water. I try to avoid that.

  14. While I was interviewing for a position, the interviewer told me that I would receive 1 week of vacation after a year of service. When I asked how long it takes to get two weeks, she replied that no one had ever worked there long enough.

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