10 Interview Tips to Avoid Hiring An Idiot

October 5, 2007

Interviewing potential staff does not come naturally for most. In fact, I completely f…ed up the whole recruitment process several times, and I’m still learning. But, making the wrong recruitment decisions can be fatal for a new business and you don’t want to hire complete f…wits. So here’s a few interview tips to help you avoid screwing up:

1) Practise on Your Dog: Interviewing can be just as nerve racking for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee. Practise on someone else first - family, friends, existing staff, your dog - anyone who is willing to help.

2) Don’t Interview Idiots: When you’re sifting through application forms - don’t be tempted to interview any “maybe’s”. There is no point wasting time interviewing people who don’t even sound right on their application. I have done this many times before, and whilst you sometimes get to hear interesting stories in these situations, it’s no fun interviewing someone who is quite obviously as high as a kite.

3) Plan Like MI5: Plan your interviews carefully - write down questions in advance, and stick to those same questions for each person you interview. And if you can, have someone in the interview with you to take notes. If this isn’t possible - take notes yourself.

4) Set the Eggtimer: Before the interview begins - tell the candidate how long it will take. Also explain that you have set questions you wish to ask, and if he/she has any questions - they may ask them when you’re done.

5) Tell Them To Shut Up: Sometimes a candidate will chatter a little mindlessly at the start of the interview, because they’re nervous. However, if they won’t shut up, and take over the interview, preventing you from asking questions, politely terminate the interview early. Don’t feel bad about doing this. I’ve sat there for over 2 hours listening to someone who wouldn’t shut up. If you employed someone like that, you’d wind up strangling them anyway, so there is no point in allowing the interview to continue. It just wastes time.

6) Don’t Expose Yourself: Be careful not to ask too many questions on the same topic. We were obsessed with recruiting someone honest, and asked too many questions about honesty during one interview. And obviously, any candidate with half a brain will get an idea of what you’re digging for and give you the answers you want to hear.

7) Dig Up The Dirt Ask specific open ended questions. Eg: Don’t ask “Do you think it’s important to go the extra mile for customers?” Say, “Give me an example of a time when you went the extra mile for customers.”

And don’t ask “Do you enjoy your current job? And how do you get on with your boss?” Instead say, “What do you like least about your current job? And tell me about your boss’s weaknesses.” Believe me, these type of questions will help you find out a whole heap more about a potential candidate than the softly softly approach.

8) Don’t Get Ripped Off: Don’t use an agency to find permanent staff for you, unless you are absolutely certain that they offer a top notch service. I’ve paid thousands to agencies before, only to discover that they didn’t even interview the candidates, never mind vet them.

9) No Buts: If you’ve interviewed your shortlist and nobody seems suitable - don’t recruit out of desperation. Keep interviewing until you get the right applicant. I’ve interviewed people before and said things after the interview like - “They’re ok - but they talk far too much, so they’ll probably do that when they’re meant to be working”, “Or they’re ok, but I don’t think they’ll work well unsupervised and we really need someone who can do that” etc etc. And you can guarantee - if you give them a job, you will prove yourself right about one thing - the “but” will become a reality.

10) Listen to Yourself: Go with your gut instinct. If you have a bad feeling about a candidate, no matter how well the interview seemed to go otherwise, you’re probably right.

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15 Responses to “10 Interview Tips to Avoid Hiring An Idiot”

  1. Ian on October 5th, 2007 3:53 pm

    That’s a great 10. All good tips. Especially think gut feel is important. You have to listen to that.

    I’ve let gut feel over-rule on a couple of occasions and the “BUT” I had didn’t happen.

  2. Modern Worker on October 5th, 2007 7:02 pm

    Straight and to the point, I can sense you have experience in this already ;-) (I feel your pain)

  3. SEO Optimization on October 5th, 2007 7:13 pm

    I won’t say a thing, i will simply bookmark this post. ;)

    Thanks Cath.

  4. cathlawson on October 5th, 2007 8:12 pm
    Ian - I think gut instinct is a good thing. I’ve ignored this a couple of times - to my peril.

    Modern Worker - You are right, I have really f….d up in the past re: recruitment, but it does get better honestly.

    Astrit - V wise. I have found the recruitment part the most difficult thing in business. And I would love to help others avoid the same mistakes.

  5. Donald Mckenzie Jr on October 5th, 2007 8:53 pm

    These tips may sound funny at first, but they are highly effective. Practice makes perfect.

  6. Samson on October 6th, 2007 4:09 am

    Nice tips, this adds a bit to my HRM skills set, which I nearly forgot :p

    Luckily, I am not actively in the HR Recruitment field :)

  7. Asako on October 7th, 2007 8:38 am

    I agree on 9) no buts. Another thing I learned is, keep interviewing people even if I do not need to hire someone at that moment.

    It takes for a long time to find the right person, and I agree sometimes we high people out of desperation. When we think we need someone, it is too late to start an interview process. I learned I need to keep interviewing disregarding, and when I find someone really good, bring the person in, even if I did not have a specific position in mind, as far as the person will meet the future need.

  8. Mrs. Micah on October 7th, 2007 2:47 pm

    My current boss used an agency to find me but then did a full interview herself. I suppose she did take the risk of wasting her time. Apparently the girl before me was from an agency and just didn’t work out…

  9. Barbara on October 9th, 2007 6:23 pm


    These are all great tips.

    Asking those open ended questions can reveal so much. Before they know it, an applicant has spilled their guts, and sometimes tell you more than they really wanted you to know.

    We also avoid hiring people who bad mouth their past employers. You know they’ll do it to you as well, if they don’t work out. (Funny, how it’s aways someone else’s fault….)

    And the talkers….they just can’t shut up. Hire them, and they may just talk their way through the day. So much for getting the job done.

    One thing we try to do now, is also interview “out in the field”, and give our current employees a chance to meet the potential candidate, and maybe ask a question or two. Since we have a great group of guys right now, we want the new employee(s), to be a good “fit”.

  10. Money Blue Book on October 14th, 2007 6:06 am

    Er…instead of practicing on your dog you might want to try a mirror first. It simulates a person better. : )

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