Helping Managers Interview


I’m so frustrated. After what I thought was sufficient training in interviewing dos and don’ts, one of my hiring managers apparently asked a candidate if they had children. Why don’t they get it? We could get into big trouble for a slip like that. What can I do to keep these managers on track and out of hot water?


Interviewing can be a slippery slope, especially when you have a hiring manager that doesn’t have to interview frequently – or may not have ever done it at all. Don’t be too harsh on your managers. It takes time learning how to interview and what seems like common sense to an HR professional, doesn’t make sense to someone on the outside. The manager might have been just making friendly conversation – unaware that his questioning was a potential hotbed for a lawsuit.
One of the best ways to ensure that things don’t go awry in the interview process is to provide interview guides and training to your managers. You mentioned training them, but how long ago? Did you leave them with an interview guide that they can use to refresh their memory next time out? Did you only give them an interview guide and not talk about “why” they cannot ask certain questions. Often by explaining the reasons behind something you get better recollection and response. Here are our best practices for helping managers interview:

  1. Partner with your hiring managers. HR knows how to select the best candidates, while hiring managers know the best skills and experience needed for the job. Engage the hiring manager throughout the hiring process; not just the interview.
  2. Provide managers with training. This can be a review of the entire recruitment process or just tips on interviewing. If managers don’t interview often you may have to offer a refresher course or give a quick 15 minute review before they begin in the process.
  3. Offer multiple training resources. Remember everyone has a different learning style. Combine instruction with role play to allow practice of new skills. Have handouts and reference materials for follow-up and quick referral.
  4. Provide an interview guide. Unstructured interviews are a recipe for trouble. Having a guide to work from help keeps the manager on track (asking the right questions) and keeps the interview consistent between candidates.
  5. Teach behavioral interviewing. Focusing on past performance (situations, behaviors and outcomes) will help avoid inappropriate questions by focusing on the job and skills needed to be successful.
  6. Differentiate between internal and external hires. While the mechanics of the two interviews are the same, the way they are handled is vastly different. Internal candidates need to be treated as “kid gloves” – with the utmost of respect and concern. How you treat your internal candidates can often mean the difference between filling one position as planned, or unexpectedly having to fill two.
  7. Encourage candidate feedback. Provide an interview evaluation to be filled out with each interview. This not only helps evaluate candidates, but also documents the reasons behind the hire and could support a hiring decision should discrimination be charged.
  8. Provide hands on guidance. Sit in on the first few interviews with your hiring manager. Your presence can help calm a nervous first-timer or guide an interviewer that has gotten lost in his notes or wanders into dangerous territory. Define your role before the interview – allowing the manager to take the reins if ready, or the back seat until more comfortable.

Remember, to be a great interviewer takes lots of practice. If hiring doesn’t happen at your company often you will have to play the role of teacher each and every time you hire.

Interviewing is more difficult than it can seem. Strategic HR knows that asking the right questions can help you find the best Talent, and asking the wrong questions can leave you with loads of trouble. That’s why we have experts to help you with your recruitment. And we have resources to help you with functions such as Recruitment – take our Recruiting Questions Desktop Reference for example. This handy reference provides your hiring managers with the right (and wrong) questions to ask in an interview – all in one useful document. Visit our Recruitment page for more information on this topic.