Interviews: Rambling Candidates Can Be Risky

Strong interviewing skills enable hiring managers to avoid crossing the “too much information” (TMI) line and to rein an interview back in when a job candidate oversteps that boundary.

Interviewers who are not skilled in the process sometimes ask questions or make comments that are inappropriate or irrelevant. They intentionally or unintentionally broach certain topics that are off-limits during an interview, including marital status, personal companionship practices, the Candidate’s medical history, and religious affiliations, and they sometimes use that information when making hiring decisions.

Similarly, some interviewers are not adept at reining in an interview when an Candidate goes off on a tangent or reveals personal information. That’s a problem, because interviewees who cross the TMI line reveal information that employers could–purposely or inadvertently–factor in when making an employment decision.

If the information relates to the candidate’s ethnic background or religious affiliation, for example, that could lead to a claim of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In addition, allowing an interviewee to ramble about irrelevant information, provide details about his or her personal life, or complain about a previous job, takes away from the purpose of the interview—to determine whether the candidate is the best match for the job.

Skilled interviewers are able to focus on the requirements of a particular job and how closely a candidate matches those requirements, she says.

Many employees with interviewing responsibilities need more training. Training should cover the topics that can–and can’t–be addressed during the interview process, as well as effective interviewing techniques.

To minimize your risk:

  • Know what the job entails. Before starting an interview, interviewers need to understand the requirements of the particular job and what skills and competencies the successful candidate should have.
  • Prepare interview questions. This helps ensure consistency with all Candidate interviews and keep focus on getting the information you need to make a good assessment of the Candidate.
  • Rein in the interview when necessary. Interviewees who are nervous or who don’t have a good response to a question may ramble, she says. “The onus is on the interviewer to rein it in and help the candidate get back on track.” That often can be accomplished by rephrasing a question, and not allowing the Candidate to evade the question. The goal of an interview is to get the best essence of someone you can, relative to what you’re interviewing them for.
  • Making objective personnel decisions. If an interviewee reveals personal information, the interviewer must not let his or her own biases factor into the employment decision, she says. “Bias has to be kept out of the decision-making process. It’s hard. It’s natural for all of us to interject our bias.”

One Comment

  1. We are in tough times, with the advantage with to the employer, candidates need to better better prepare for any assessment process, In many interviewing situations, the decision to hire is made in the first ten minutes of the interview; with the balance of time being use to confirm the decision. Unfortunately, many candidates miss this opening opportunity by not controlling the interview.
    There are several new books that deal with winning in the interviewing process. One of them “Finding Heroes” was written for the hiring manager but also provides some keen insight on how today’s hiring manager views and prepares for an interview. It offers inside information on controlling the interview through non-verbal movements. Also, included in the book are eighty plus designed questions that will make an interviewer sit up and listen to the responses rather than formulate their next question while you are answering a question.

    Larry Dillon
    Executive Search

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