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You may be flummoxed when the superstar candidate you invite in for an interview basically bombs. This is a tough situation because an interview says so much about a prospective employee. If you say goodbye to the interviewee and are shaking your head and wondering … then maybe they deserve a second chance.

The questions running through your head include, “Are they really superior talent? Can they make an impact on our company? Did they demonstrate a functional and cultural fit? What was the miss?”

You’re left with the conclusion that you just may need to dig a little deeper before putting this particular candidate out to pasture.

Why Bad Interviews Happen to Good People

At first blush, the reasons behind a weak interview may be hard to understand or justify, but candidates are human, after all. They make missteps and blunders even in critical situations like a job interview.

  • There may be underlying reasons for sub-par performance. Perhaps the candidate is in the midst of a personal crisis and even they didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have. Or maybe they simply didn’t feel well but decided to soldier through the interview regardless.
  • Maybe they just got nervous. Again, you’re walking a very fine line here. Chances are you need an employee who can think on their feet and produce under pressure. However, in certain positions, someone who is shy or hesitant when put in the spotlight may do a successful job.

Assess Skills and Cultural Fit

When deciding whether to dismiss a candidate following a less than stellar interview, give careful thought to whatever positive attributes they brought to the table. Only then can you make the best decision about their possible future with your organization.

Despite fumbling during their interview, did the candidate:

  • Demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile? Literally and figuratively? Did they go out of their way to make it to the interview, even if it meant inconvenient or lengthy travel? Did they indicate a commitment to doing whatever was required to get the job done?
  • Show a strong knowledge of your company? Anybody can get basic facts and figures from your corporate website. Was the candidate up to date on relevant news, innovations and announcements? By possessing more than just surface-level knowledge, a prospective hire shows genuine interest and enthusiasm for joining your team.
  • Listen? One of the most important purposes of an interview is to begin the process of relationship building, even if every aspect of the conversation does not go according to plan.
  • Follow up with an appropriate level of persistence? Stalkers aren’t welcome, but a thoughtful thank you note or email says a lot about a candidate’s professionalism and interest. For instance, if you talked about data collection techniques, a candidate may include a sample process checklist that they developed.

Maybe It Was You?

In some cases, you may have to do a little self-assessment and give the candidate the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself and your interview team:

  • Did we talk too much? For an interview to be successful, you have to strike a balance and allow candidates to express themselves without feeling overpowered. Pay attention and be cognizant of when it’s your turn to listen versus speak.
  • Were you late, distracted or interrupted? At best, this is rude and off-putting. It can be a source of true intimidation to already nervous candidates.

A job interview is a two-way street. Be sure it’s navigable for everyone involved as you pave the way for long-term hiring success. For more tips and guidance, contact BrainWorks today.


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