Don’t scare away candidates! Avoid these nightmare interview scenarios


Interviews are a complicated, highly choreographed and intense information exchange between candidate and interviewer. The stakes are running high and both opposing parties are on alert status, tracking the subtle nuances in communication to help gain an edge.

It’s only natural that, during an intense hour long interview, mistakes might creep in. In fact, candidates are well-known for wilting under pressure and making errors. But you might be surprised to know that interviewers aren’t immune to interview mistakes either.

Yes, employers have a knack of unintentionally driving away good applicants due to interview mistakes. Actually, research shows that 46% of employers deliver poor candidate experiences, which is more than likely a direct result of mistakes made during the interview process.

What can employers do about this? Many may not be aware they are making mistakes, so if it’s just a matter of learning about the things that scare away candidates, they can easily transform the interview process into a smooth and even pleasant experience. Here are several ways real employers have scared off candidates – if you happen to engage in any of these practices, you might want to stop doing so in the future.

Expressing personal biases to candidate

We all have personal preferences and biases about the way things should be at work – that’s normal. But it’s also normal that candidates might not share your biases, and may even be uncomfortable with your approach or outlook. And if you express these biases to a candidate, you could easily repel them. For example, this user on Reddit described a rather awkward exchange with her interviewer:

“When asking the director of the division about work-life balance, she proceeds to silently take out her computer, pull up an article and make me sit there and read it. The article mentioned that there was no such thing as work life balance. Same woman then talked about women dynamics in the workplace and how we’re all enemies. (I’m a woman.)”

It’s not uncommon for a candidate and an interviewer to have opposing preferences about work-life balance, but blatantly expressing such personal biases during an interview can make you appear to be out of touch to candidates, or scare them off altogether.

Asking the candidate irrelevant interview questions

You may have heard of “brainteaser” interview questions, such as the ones Google used to ask during interviews, like “How many golf balls can you fit in an airplane?” Some employers are tempted to use these seemingly creative questions as an attempt to assess a candidate’s logical thought process, like in this interview by another Reddit user:

“Towards the end of the day, they started asking me a bunch of logic puzzles. It kind of threw me off guard because I have a terminal degree, I’ve written papers, I showed them my research, gave a presentation. I don’t have anything against logic puzzles, but it seemed so weird and out of place. They timed it. After some amount of time they were like ‘well, you failed this part of the interview’ and then called in the receptionist who solved the logic puzzle right away.”

Research from San Francisco State University shows that not only do irrelevant brainteaser questions not work, but they are proven to actually annoy candidates. The research found that these irrelevant brainteaser questions actively discourage candidates, which can make it harder to hire in the future, especially when annoyed candidates share their negative experiences on GlassDoor’s employer reviews or on discussion threads on Reddit.

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Asking candidates illegal interviews questions

You would think that in this day and age, with there being so much emphasis on diversity and equal opportunities in the media, that illegal interview questions would have disappeared altogether. Surprise! They haven’t. Research from CareerBuilder shows that 1 in 5 employers still ask illegal interview questions about things like pregnancy, religious affiliation, marital status, race, and politics. These illegal questions infuriate candidates and drive them away, as evidenced in this Reddit post:

“I was asked whether I was married and had kids. I called him out on it and he continued to defend the validity of his question. I reported this one to corporate.”

Absolutely avoid asking illegal questions, or else you risk not only deterring good candidates and having your organization cast as anti-diversity and politically incorrect, but also potential lawsuits by candidates who know illegal questions when they hear them.

Failing to open up about company culture

It’s hard to argue against the fact that most job seekers want to work for companies that are aligned to their personal values. Cultural fit is a key priority for candidates when choosing any employer, especially for Millennials, the largest generation of the US labor force. Specifically, they want employers who have a sense of social responsibility, and strive to be able to work collaboratively and flexibly. Modern candidates will expect to be able to have detailed discussions about company culture, and if your interviewers fail to provide enough information about that culture, your organization will most likely feel unappealing, out of touch, or possible even secretive. For example, when the candidate in the anecdote below asked about company culture, she got an unsatisfying response:

Me: What’s the culture like with your team?
Her (exasperated): Ugh…I mean, if you went to our website, it says…
“Nope. If ‘Fit’ is so important, you should be able to at least verbalize it for your team, outside of what the company website has envisioned. If you’re not sure, how else would you determine fit? It was such a waste of time.”

If you want to appeal to modern candidates and not scare them away, make promoting the company culture a central part of your pre-interview and ongoing hiring processes.

Many employers don’t realize that their interview conduct is deterring applicants – or worse, forcing some candidates to deal with and unknowingly accept substandard interview practices – ultimately causing employers to go about hiring in the same mistake-ridden way they have always done.

The problem is that if those employers don’t change their approach and continue to sleepwalk through the interview process without paying attention to modern standards and best practices, they will be faced with repeated nightmare interview scenarios, increasing numbers of no-shows, falling numbers of applicants as word spreads, and ultimately higher employee turnover.

By avoiding the above situations, any employer dealing with a disjointed or broken interview process can start to build the ideal interview experience for candidates – one which serves to excite applicants and builds a buzz about your organization in the job seeker marketplace.

Experiencing hiring headaches? Contact one of our recruiters today!
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