What can you learn about the candidate from awkward interview moments?

One of the most important interview skills you can have as a hiring manager is the ability to read people. HR professionals should be able to interact with employees of all levels from the entry level positions to the executive team. As a hiring manager, you should also seek to understand different perspectives and relate to your prospective new hires on various levels. The interview is much like a first date in that candidates are sure to present their best self to you, hoping to sell you on their positive attributes and land the job. As the interviewer, you should be prepared to notice and interpret a few awkward interview moments on this list, and to adjust your view of the candidate based on these mostly non-verbal cues. Get ready!

  1. Silence – At times, it can be golden. But in an interview, silence should lead you to dig deeper, rephrase the question, or ask if you can clarify anything. Candidates will most likely be nervous, so give them time to answer, but if the silence drags on, it’s your job to keep things moving.
  2. Nerves – Nerves are par for the course for many interviews. But, you can try to lighten the mood or get real with the candidate by simply taking a break from the tough questions (ask about the weather, their favorite sports team, etc.) or by stating the obvious. Interviews are awkward, but you’re both there for the same reasons – to make sure the candidate is the right fit for you, and that the job is the right fit for the candidate.
  3. Eye Contact – If someone can’t look you in the eye, do you want them on your team? Addressing the lack of eye contact is one way to resolve the issue directly. Again, this can go back to nerves, but if you bring it to the table and the candidate doesn’t attempt to correct the problem, then there may be trouble brewing in terms of communication and culture fit for your organization.
  4. Rolling Eyes & Chewing Gum – Unprofessional and rude non-verbal cues can go a long way. If they present this way in an interview, what do you think their second month on the job will look like?
  5. Posture – Again, putting your best foot forward is something all interviewees should be aware of…or at least the ones that you want coming in to your workplace and joining your team! Slouching, leaning back in the chair, and stiff posture could mean things about the candidate that you don’t necessarily welcome on your team.
  6. Attire – Your candidate should be dressed according to the position. A mechanic may not wear a suit and tie to the interview. That’s ok! An Assistant Superintendent of Business Services candidate at the local school district should probably not be sporting jeans and a Nirvana T-shirt to make a lasting impression on the Board of Education who may or may not be hiring him. The shoe should literally fit the role!
  7. Tattoos & Piercings – Don’t judge a book by its cover…I know plenty of individuals with Master’s degrees who have facial piercings and full arm sleeves. However, if your company has a formal dress code policy or this position will be interacting with clients and/or customers that would frown upon such an appearance, take that into consideration. Making discriminatory decisions is not legal in the selection process, but openly discussing policy and what is and is not allowed in this realm is a great way to start the conversation and find out if you are a mutual fit long-term.
  8. Laughter – While some laughter and comradery is great for the interview process, too much laughter could be a personality fit issue down the line (or it could be those pesky nerves at play again!) Finding a way to bring this issue into the questions is a great benefit to you both moving forward.

Transparency and honesty about the interview process, the expectations for the candidate who will fill the role, and open discussion about your company’s culture and policies are always the best course of action when selecting your top talent. Happy Hunting!