IT Employment

Tips for how hiring managers should act in interviews

Lots has been written for job candidates on how to behave during an interview, but what about the person doing the interview? Here are some dos and don'ts.

There is so much written for the job candidate about how to behave in an interview. What you don't see very often are tips for how the hiring manager should act during an interview.

Ironically, many of the same principles apply. The person doing the interview should behave and be just as prepared as the person he or she is interviewing. Sit up straight, practice eye contact, be friendly and be prepared with appropriate questions that speak directly to the job.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I'm sure all of us have our share of horror stories about an interviewer who was unfocused or disinterested, dominated the interview by doing all the talking, or even asked illegal questions.

I once had an interview with a guy whose first question for me was, "So, what do you know about me?" Not about the company, mind you, but him. Since it was not a job being his PR agent, I took that question as a bad sign.

If part of your job is to interview job candidates, here's some advice for how to conduct yourself during the interview.

Have the person's resume in front of you. I'm not sure of any reason you wouldn't but I've seen it happen. This is not a firing squad you're overseeing. You're there to ask questions relevant to the person's experience. Have the decency to show the person that you've made an effort to look at the document he or she has worked hard to create. Can the high and mighty attitude. I've seen it too many times. The "power of the hire" goes to managers' heads faster than anything. But look, this is a two-way street. You're there to find someone who is going to fill a staff need and the folks you're interviewing are there to find a job and a company that fits their skills and needs. Respect the reciprocal nature of the interview. Don't purposefully lob tough questions just because you can. Nothing productive comes from making a job candidate squirm. Refrain from cattiness. In the course of explaining to a job candidate the ins and outs of the company structure, you may have wanted to blurt out something like, "But you'll find out he's totally useless." I shouldn't have to say this, but please don't speak ill of your co-workers or other departments or end-users in an interview. Don't monopolize the interview. Again, this is a two-way street. Your organization and your personal career within it might be interesting to you (and your mom), but unless you allow the job candidate to talk about his background, you're really not getting anywhere are you? Don't ask illegal questions. It is illegal to ask a job candidate about any of the following:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital/family status

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

101 comments
mikejason1212
mikejason1212

This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are great and needs to be appreciated by everyone.Compare ISAs

jezeekhan
jezeekhan

These are very good tips, but there's one thing more.The inteviewing person should also bear in mind that the candidate may be under the state of tension, therefore in order to give him an ease,before asking the main question he should speak/ask something pleasant, so the candidate feels comfotable and relaxed to answar further questions

kmgross38
kmgross38

I'll agree 100% w/ Toni. I had an interviewer ask me this ?, mind you I am there interviewing for a position to independently oversee a data center having millions of $ worth of equipment and asked me why Man Holes are Round. Wow! Well, to his surprise I new the answer and was the only candidate to answer his ? correctly. Did I get the job, Nope. Then a company denies me a position because they said I wasnt a strong enough candidate. Well, I dont think a 20 min interview and by asking me 6 shallow ?s would fully qualify as searching for the strong enough candidate. I even drove 73 miles for the interview and was willing to drive the distance for that company if hired. Now I know the difference from a good and bad interview or what the companies intentions are in seeking an employee. But get this! I have had 15-20 interview since Jan 09. I landed a misled position which was suppose to be a 3mnth/hire opportunity but my short stay of 4mnths was about overseeing an entire network upgrade on a shift they hadnt ever had head count for. What did I accomplish? Nothing! What did they accomplish? The recruiting agency got 60hr for my time there and the company received their temporary need for coverage to repair the junk on its network during an upgrade. When all along, I was to beleive I was going to land a full-time opportunity. Nothing was in the budget to my later awareness by internal people at the company. So, I have had about 16-20 interviews all of which I was very confident appying to then I get an interview that last 1hr 1/2 and have less confident in performing the duties and get the job. Go figure. So all of you out ther searching for work, know this that if they take the time to get to know you, they are serious about teaching you. Every job applied to has to be taught. If they ask you a few shallow type ???'s fill in the gaps towards your strengths for them. They'll get the hint. Use their time regardless even if they have only ordained 15mins-1hr for your interview. Good luck to all of you!

rupyoda
rupyoda

Not criticizing the list, but offering a directive to hiring managers. I, for one, want to work with leaders, not managers; and that means experiencing a level of humanity and wholeness from the interviewer. I need to genuinely like the people I work with, not admire or fear them for their stature. And, dammit! If the interview day is casual day, tell the candidate and encourage the person to fit it, instead of letting them spend time and effort on dressing up. Really!

1Cat2Many
1Cat2Many

So many times I have come away from an interview not understanding why I would want to work for a company. Once I asked someone, How long have you been here? And they said, Too long. I should have ended the interview right there. You need to sell your company, not just give me the third degree.

chas_2
chas_2

Excellent advice, Toni! This is good stuff for job applicants to see, as well - for them to size up the interviewer. A lot of interviewers forget that they're the public face of the company and if they look bad, it may cost them talent. Hiring underqualified employees cost companies millions every year. I would add to the list of prohibited questions sexual orientation. An increasing number of cities, states and companies all have prohibitions against asking about a candidate's sexual orientation. In addition to being rude, it may turn off candidates who may not happen to be gay themselves, but have many gay friends or relatives. There may not be federal anti-discrimination protection in the U.S. for gays - yet - but interviewers still need to realize that they still have a responsibility to handle gay candidates with the same dignity and respect they'd handle anyone else. Fortunately, in the I-T world, most organizations tend not to be so prejudiced. After all, what talented individual would want to work for a bigot?

stupid user name
stupid user name

During the NFL combine, a representative from the Miami Dolphins asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. The franchise has apologized for that interview question - it's certainly borderline taboo. And definitely in bad taste.

jaxent
jaxent

The only way to get a fair comparison is to use a standardized set of measures. Ask a few questions up front about their prior experiences. But remember it's about the position you need filled. Take notes on the question sheet, even if you are not a note taker (I am not). Write down their positives and negatives right after the interview. Then use that when you make the decision and write down why each candidate was not selected. You will make a fair choice. And if something happens, legal and HR will love you. Make your questions open. Give them plenty of opportunity to tell you about the things that they know and you don't. You want to hire people that know more than you do. The best question I ever faced, and I stole it and use it every time, is; "Tell me how the Web works. When I type a URL into a browser and press return, what happens?" The range of answers is extraordinary.

Aliappolo
Aliappolo

I'm glad you brought up this topic. i have more than 14 years system administration and a last title i hold was a computer network analyst. about my job interview with a software company about two months ago. ?due to the bad economy I apply to any low paying Jobs, such as ?level 1,2 support . After waiting more than 10 minutes in the conference room. finally the HR manager and hiring manager entered the room. whole interview took not more than 10 minutes. a question which bumped me was from HR and she asked me where do I see myself in next 5 years! and hiring manager had no question and said " resume speaks for itself. ?

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

Speaking of illegal questions - I'm not sure if this one is illegal or just stupid. Several years ago I interviewed for a Network Security Admin position. The technical side of the interview went well, and I was feeling comfortable as I already held another IS position in the company. Then one of the interviewers asked me "If you're hired, will you have any specific Metaphysical needs that we should be aware of?" Now, I believe that he was either A asking if there were any physical limitations I had (which I don't think they can ask) or B just had the world's worst brain fart and said the first thing that came to mind. Unfortunately, I was so thrown by the question, I believe my response came off badly. I replied that "my Chakras are all aligned, and I know which way to face to see Mecca, so I'm good". Needless to say I did not get that position.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

At one interview, the first words out of the interviewer's mouth were "So, you're unemployed. Aren't you glad we allowed you to interview?" I replied, "I'm sorry, I don't believe I'd be a good fit in your corporate culture," stood up, and walked out. If that was their attitude at an interview, I didn't even want to see what things looked like on the inside.

Lexxus
Lexxus

Something I haven't seen mentionned is how you dress as the interviewer. One should dress as if they are being interviewed themselves. Dress appropriately for the company. If jeans and a t-shirt are not standard dress for the office, don't think that you can get away with it as an interviewer. You are sending a message to the candidate, and just as you are interviewing them, they are also interviewing YOU and their first impression may tell them you aren't serious, and a brilliant prospective employee may choose to pursue another company.....your loss!! I have seen this several times, when interviewing for Technical support positions, and one of the interviews was obviously on a LAN Team or a Background position, coming in with jeans, an old T-Shirt, and an attitude of superiority. Not very professional, and I wondered if he was a last minute substitute and even if he knew what to ask.

jemdad99
jemdad99

Not that it matters, but why would anyone need to ask about sex, color, and race if the person is sitting in front of you?

waltjr50
waltjr50

Unfortunately the article was mostly focused on how a hiring manager should not act. How about things that should be done like: Let the person know the culture of the company, the management style, what things are important to upper management, the company vision, vacation/ days off policy, education available, what things are most likely to affect raises, maybe a tour and introduction to potential colleges, equipment. This would not only help the employer see how the person interacts with this, but would also help the candidate see if it is a good fit.

sapatnekar
sapatnekar

The 10 points are fairly good; but appear to address stereotypes. Here are a few points that have worked in my experience. The challenge for the Convenor is to create an atmosphere conducive for a DIALOGUE. The job profile details should be available to the candidate in the waiting room. In a 10 minute interview, the candidate should be talking for cumulative 7 minutes. The summary of CV should be read out by an assistant from HR. I usually ask a single question; "What are your best points in the context of the Company & the Job". The reply of the candidate does not last for more than two minutes. His replies and body language gives sufficient clues to fellow interviewers to ask further pointed and focussed questions. The candidate must be encouraged to ask questions. The quality of his questions gives a number of clues. It makes a fantastic impact on the candidate of the Chairman concludes the interviw with a compliment, appreciating a quality of the candidate. We all have been candidates sometime ...

arthurborges
arthurborges

...if you left the interview feeling confident, all it means is that your interviewer did an excellent job of making you feel so comfortable that you (1) lowered your guard and didn't think twice about how your answers could be misconstrued or simply reconstrued. If your interviewer is sharp, s/he's continuously evaluating and reevaluating every word, pause and gesture of yours through a virtual microscope. If you're quick to exploit a come-on to make a fast pal, it suggests you'll be looking around for corners to cut and loose available slack you can exploit to personal advantage: it wasn't a come-on, it was just bait.

arthurborges
arthurborges

How about staring him/her in the eye and responding: "For the same reason as a**holes!"

djed
djed

I'm less concerned with a candidate's personality than with the possibility they won't get the job done and I'll have to pick up the slack with my own unpaid overtime. Glad you have the time to socialize.

Sunny Puddle
Sunny Puddle

I ask a lot of questions (as person being interviewed) trying to determine that question. Think about it; the interview is a selling process for both sides - the interviewer needs to sell the company or department as an above-average place to work.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Those questions are covered in the EEOC rules and are strictly illegal.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

Though I have heard some voice their opinion that Jeff Ireland (that's the name of the Dolphons executive) was justified considering Bryant's background and the significant financial investment that the Dolphins would make in Bryant. I personally agree that the question was out of line but I would not be opposed to asking other questions that might give insight into his background. I think that the Big Ben situation has taught us that we need to be aware of these things.

dpereira
dpereira

Keep your sociological, and political opinions to yourself. I once interviewed with a tech company and the lady interviewing me, after noting that my address was in Palo Alto, CA, spent 10 minutes telling me how much she despised the Birkenstock wearing ?holier than thou, stuck up liberals? that lived in Palo Alto and attended Stanford, and how could I stand to live there. Needless to say, she didn?t call me back for a second interview, even though I was qualified, and was polite enough to bite my tongue during her diatribe.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I create an interview set for each job position. I use the same questions for each candidate. I do have "alternates" that try to find the same information for some of my behavioural questions - in case someone says, "I've never had a conflict with a customer". But in general everyone gets asked about the same areas. Its fair and it helps if there any issues later. Of course the interviewer should ask more questions than the base set, followup questions etc. James

SheFixesThings
SheFixesThings

Yes...in the US, it's illegal..but...a few years ago I interviewed for a managerial position in IT. I was very happy with everything said up to the point of when the two "techies" came in. I asked the one, with the jeans, cowboy boots, and slouched in his seat that with his long tenure at the company, did they provide him any training to keep his skills up...his reply went something to the effect of..."yeah..they throw some shi!! at you from time-to-time...". While the other guy was great, I determined that being the manager of someone so cynical and downright rude wasn't for me. He was probably annoyed that he was being passed up as a manager...hmmm...wonder why?...anyway...ever since then, I have applied to that company for positions where I'm 100% qualified and haven't been asked for interview since. I still wonder if my record has been flagged somehow...???

arthurborges
arthurborges

Speaking at a global warming powwow in Shenzhen in 2004, Al Gore got thrown in the Q&A period when someone chirped: "Can there be any difference between US national interests and the national interests of other nations?" After recovering, all he could think up to blurt out was: "No, because the US Constitution is founded on principles that come from God." Everybody has days like that. Personally, I'd've found it a plus to see someone who knew something about de facto opposing traditions such as Hindu and Islam. Have a great day.

jnewsom
jnewsom

I'd have a hard time not bursting out laughing at a question like that, and I would have answered with some sort of joke, myself. If they don't have any sense of humor, its important for me to know that before I take a job.

arthurborges
arthurborges

Some hirers are idiots, but you have to assume it's a carefully aimed shot across your bow. In either case, the idea is respond firmly without losing a wisp of your courtesy. Hang in there until you're sure you're dealing with a living specimen of the Missing Link. Several companies have an arguably sadistic penchant for loading interviews with cleverness, e.g. an ex-student of mine once applied for a techy sales position with a multinational and arrives in a room of some 40 fellow candidates who are paired off. The HR vizir then instructs everyone to interview their other half for five minutes before doing a sales pitch for him. Alas, after instantly and mindlessly hypothesizing that a great pitch would amount to undercutting his own chances of a job, the lad turned in an unenthusiastic performance.

edh1215
edh1215

It's amazing the things that are said to people... Good for you for leaving.

jaxent
jaxent

I had an interview at Microsoft after our team at Sun got cut. One of the first questions I got there was, "Why would you want to work here? You Sun guys hate Microsoft." I thought hmmm a little too much Kool-Aid drinking from this one. My answer was, "I just love creating Software. Both companies are industry thought leaders." But I knew from the question there would be no offer, their mind was made up already.

jaxent
jaxent

It is customary for a good candidate to walk through the door 5 to 10 minutes early. You need to show that this position is important to you. If you are late you send signals, the candidate may think that this is not a team that respects its members, or everyone is overworked and stressed out. These signals will not get the best interview out of the candidate. Once the candidate thinks they might not want to work there, the interview is going to go downhill. It is your job to find the best fit ,not the smartest, the fastest, etc., the best fit for the team. In order to do that you must make each candidate feel comfortable. Then you can get their best and weight the choice with better information. This is a research project not a trial.

GSG
GSG

They made the law very broad and covering a lot of areas. It says that you can't ask sex or race as part of the hiring process. Part of the hiring process is having the applicant fill out the application. While it's obvious, most of the time, what someone's sex/race is when you are face-to-face with them, this prevents the applicant from being weeded out on this prior to the interview. So you can't say the laws apply only to the interview. They apply to the whole hiring process. In addition, you can't document any of thise either. It may be obvious during the interview that I'm a female, but you can't document in your official notes that I'm a female, or that I mentioned whether I had kids, etc..

drichardson
drichardson

In general, the "illegal" questions come about because that are criteria that are illegal to use as reasons for rejecting someone. If the choose is between close candidates and you raised the topic like marital status or gender in the interview, then a candidate could argue that you used these as a decision criteria. This doesn't mean that you can't raise the topics at all- or that people don't regularly raise them in interviews- but if you don't have an understanding for the seriousness of the possible problems, then you should probably avoid the questions altogether.

blarman
blarman

I echo this comment. It would have been pretty easy in my estimation to come up with some pointers like: 1) Create a standard list of questions that focus on how a person would fit the job role. Asking the same questions to each candidate enhances an objective decision and makes it easier to compare them. 2) Ask open-ended questions wherever possible. 3) Take notes on what the candidate says. This is especially helpful if you are going to confer later with a group about the candidate. 4) Be interested in the candidate. Use your posture (lean slightly forward), your eye contact (don't stare, but show interest) and your mouth (smile, but no Cheshire Cat) to show respect for the candidate. 5) Re-state and use follow-up questions so both of you have a chance to avoid misunderstandings. This also lets those who aren't quite as good at interviews think for a moment about their answers and make corrections where necessary. 6) Formality. Sitting next to the person - like across a corner - conveys a "partnership" attitude and will make the interview more relaxed. Putting the entire desk between you acts as a barrier, creating a very formal interview with a "power" attitude. Use whichever is most appropriate. 7) Always greet the interviewee with a handshake, eye contact, and a smile and escort them to their seat.

arthurborges
arthurborges

The candidate's direct supervisor should be part of hiring interview.

jaxent
jaxent

I understand that there is a cultural difference. But just reading the description of the environment sent my stress level up. Pointed and Focused, Scary! Open and vague works better for me. I look to find what I didn't know I needed. One on one with a series of interviewers that are each tasked what a different aspect of the interview based on their strengths. Ask the interviews not to speak with each other about the candidates until all interviews are done. Then ask for them to come into to the meeting with the candidates ranked ahead of time. No cross biasing or group think that way. I agree with the point of having the job description clear up front. That should be covered during the phone screening as well. The hiring manager should be the first and last interviewer. First to intro the job, the company and the team. And putting the candidate at ease. Last to answer any follow up questions. Agreed they are important and the best candidates ask question all along the way. Is this how you would research a new technology you were thinking about deploying? Your team is your most important tool.

jaxent
jaxent

Control over the interview is important. In a past life I ran a couple of tech support departments. It was great to see how seasoned support people would fight you for control. If they were good at it, they got the job. For support it was much more important than the technical skill set.

raiderh808
raiderh808

You do realize that personality has a lot to do with work ethic, right? With that attitude, I would flip you off and walk out of the interview.

tinareidrowe
tinareidrowe

Another thing that the hiring person should be aware of is some people may be totally great at the job - but suck at interviews. I can't help it, I get very very nervous to the point I can hardly remember my name. Take this into account and try to make the person relax. Don't just stand there or sit there all high and mighty and gloat. I have heaps of experience and once in the zone I am fantastic in my field, but I just totally suck at interviews. I can't even do phone interviews very well and always think after the fact of good questions and good answers but never during an interview. Yet when I am working and under stress and the job needs doing, no matter what time day or night I am there and so logical and bang on. Check my references, they all say the same thing - I am an introverted thinker, but once in the zone I can teach the most confused person technology and make anyone feel comfortable around computers. But I am the biggest dork in the world in interviews.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

you will be on the reject database now. Why employ you now when the would not before kind off thing...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Wasn't sure I really wanted the job, anyway. When the universal response to "I'm going to interview at Company X" is "Hope you don't mind working for a$$holes," it says a lot about the working environment.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

I've been doing this blog for years and have on many occasions covered what you SHOULD do. We've even published downloads with sample questions for specific positions. This is just another angle.

edh1215
edh1215

How about just act like a human... Ask questions that are relevant, talk about the company, get feedback from the candidate. Pretty simple. Reading things like: "4) Be interested in the candidate. Use your posture (lean slightly forward), your eye contact (don't stare, but show interest) and your mouth (smile, but no Cheshire Cat) to show respect for the candidate." makes me only go into an interview thinking and feeling that the interviewer has absolutely no interest in me and is following some weird robotic guidelines for interacting with people. And the stuff about sitting next to the candidate, etc. - we have all see this before, so how can the supposed conveyance of partnership come into play? We know it's some psychological BS the interviewer is trying to play with us.

raiderh808
raiderh808

HR should butt out and leave the whole process to the direct supervisor of the candidate. In fact, I think HR should have nothing to do with the actual hiring process at all other than pushing papers, regardless of the names on those papers.

cjreynolds
cjreynolds

One of the toughest, yet the best interview I've had, was back when I was a technician, interviewing for a company that made super-computers. a group of a half dozen people stood me up in from of a whiteboard and gave me logic problems (diagram a certain circuit and describe the output wave), parity problems, and a barrage of complicated technical issues to work out on the board in front of them. I came away KNOWING that they knew exactly what I was capable of! (I got the job) What a refreshing change from the all-too-typical technical interview where you come away not really knowing if the interviewer could tell how much expertise you have! joe

edh1215
edh1215

You don't care about personality yet you mention socializing more than once. It takes a certain type of personality to want to socialize - so considering you don't want your employees to socialize, then I guess you really do care about personality. Who would want to work with or for you? And I guess you don't know how to manage if you feel the need to do your employees work for them. Maybe interviewing and worrying about personality type would help you. Good luck with your micro-managing.

djed
djed

I've had many different personality types work for me. I don't really care what type they are. The ones that spend a lot of time socializing are the least likely to get the work done, whatever their personality. Please don't walk out. The other applicant would work a solid 8 hour day. If I don't have to cover for your slacking off, I might have nothing to do after 5:00 pm.

arthurborges
arthurborges

Join some organization or association where you will learn the art of public speaking. I'd suggest Toastmasters but there are others. Start by asking more questions at any meeting that invites you. PTA? Local townhall meeting? Your favourite political party? The last is nice for learning how to handle folks who go rabid as soon as you say anything outside their box. Once you can speak comfortably in front of 50 semi-strangers, you'll find yourself doing better at interviews and in other eyeball2eyeball situations. There's nothing arcane and predestined about your issue. It's like simply not knowing how to swim or drive. No more; no less.

arthurborges
arthurborges

I guess the "1215" after your initials stands for your lunchtime. But more seriously, you have a holistic approach to people. It's a way of feeling out your ability to bond with a candidate. Go for it. It's mine too, but it's also not for everybody though.

jaxent
jaxent

It sounds like the problems given you were prepared. I think that the biggest mistake that is made in interviewing is that interviewers just walk in unprepared a do each interview off the cuff.