Stop being rude and silly when interviewing candidates

  • Post published:10/05/2023
  • Reading time:8 mins read

Stop itExamples of questions that in many countries cannot be used in a job interview: Are you married, do you want to have children, how old are you, are you disabled, are you religious?

Not hiring someone on any of these grounds is dodgy practice and the candidate may pursue legal action if they believe it’s the grounds for them not getting the job. However, it all depends on which jurisdiction (country) this happens.

In most EU countries, and in countries like Canada and the UK, the so-called gender discrimination laws prohibit prospective employers from discriminating, based on an employee’s gender, race, family situation, health, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, age, political views, religion and beliefs.

Discrimination in the workplace occurs when a person is excluded from an opportunity, preferred over another, or treated differently on the basis of personal characteristics not related to genuine job requirements.

By ILO, the International Labour Organization

Downright destructive interview practices

Sure, it’s important to conduct thorough and challenging job interviews to assess candidates effectively, but it’s crucial to maintain a professional and respectful environment throughout the hiring process.

Your aim should be to evaluate candidates fairly and accurately rather than intentionally creating destructive or unpleasant experiences.

Nevertheless, here are some examples of counterproductive and potentially destructive interview practices that should be avoided.

Excessive rudeness

Do not be rudeBeing unnecessarily rude or dismissive towards candidates can create a hostile atmosphere and discourage them from performing their best.

This approach may prevent you from accurately assessing their skills and qualifications.

Years ago, a Managing Director proudly told me that he always let candidates wait 20 minutes in the interview room before he would come in. He believed patience was a requirement to be successful in his company and that was his best way to assess candidates.

My advice to candidates if you have been waiting for 15 minutes and the interviewer has not arrived and the receptionist has not informed you about a small delay, then get out of there, pack your things, and leave.  

Aggressive confrontation

Confronting candidates with aggressive or hostile behaviour is counterproductive.

It is not the place and time to ask a question like:

“Why on earth are you here today?”

It can cause unnecessary stress and make it difficult for candidates to demonstrate their true abilities.

Unprepared interviewers

Be preparedWhen the HR- or Hiring Manager is unprepared and lacks knowledge about the position or the candidate’s background, it reflects poorly on your company.

If the interviewer will not shut up and keeps talking about himself, the company, the job you came to interview for, I suggest you think twice about ever accepting a job offer.

Wasting the candidate’s time will not reflect positively on your company and your organization’s professionalism.

How many times have I heard candidates tell me that the interviewer came into the meeting room without the candidate’s CV/Resume or pen & paper for note-taking?

Tip for candidates: Always bring a second print of your resume.

Tricky or unrealistic questions

Ask the right questionsAsking questions with hidden agendas or presenting unrealistic scenarios can confuse candidates and prevent them from showcasing their genuine skills and qualifications.

Ridiculous interview questions that are so out of touch that the interview should be fired for negligence and arrogance:

  • If you could be Batman or Robin, which one would you be?
  • What biscuit would you be if you were a biscuit?
  • Do you prefer cats or dogs?
  • What would I find in your fridge right now?
  • Sing a song that best describes you.

Needless to say and unfortunately these and similar questions are truly very poor predictors of job success (as famously noted by Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock).

Lack of clarity and communication

Women writingFailing to provide clear instructions or feedback during the interview process can lead to misunderstandings and frustration on both sides. Have a plan before you start interviewing.

The right structure of any interview, video or in-person, looks like this:

  • Warm up, chit-chat for a few minutes, and present the agenda (the four points below).
  • Introduce your company and yourself (max 5 minutes).
  • Interview the candidate with your prepared written questions. Take notes, observe but don’t judge, ask the candidate any questions.
  • Introduce the job for which the candidate is interviewed.
  • End with what happens next after the interview, the timeline.

Bias and discrimination

Allowing your own personal bias or discrimination to influence the interview process is unethical and potentially illegal.

It’s important to evaluate candidates objectively based on their skills, qualifications, and fit for the role.

In conclusion

Remember, conducting fair and constructive interviews helps ensure that you attract top talent and create a positive candidate experience, even if they are not ultimately selected for the position.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.