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Two interview tricks to help avoid hiring mistakes

We’ve covered various best practices for interviewing, including the type of questions to ask (and what not to ask!). Here are two more pieces of advice to consider that can drastically improve your chances of making a great hire.

1. Dig deeper

Standard interviews are a series of questions and answers. They’re mildly effective, but everyone who has interviewed enough knows that when the interview turns into a conversation, the candidate has a much better chance of being asked back.

I am a big believer in “functional” interview questions in the first stage (see my June 2018 column for more details on these questions). Functional questions will help  you  determine if a candidate can do the job you are hiring for. They are focused on what the individual has done in the past. Unfortunately, many people stop there.

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But strong interviewers understand that the single most powerful interview question is “the follow up question.” This is the question you ask to dive deeper into their experience and understanding. For example:

Interviewer: Have you ever led a sales team?

Interviewee: Yes.

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Interviewer: Who was on the team? Which roles reported to you? What were outside sales reps responsible for at [that company]? (This is important because it can vary greatly from company to company.) How did you track their activities?

By probing into key answers, you’ll be able to leave the interview with a much better feel for whether they see the process the same way you do and if they have the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed.

2. Avoid tunnel vision

One of the best tricks I use to reduce hiring mistakes is to avoid relying on snap judgments of candidates and always consider “contrary evidence.”

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Often, interviewers make up their minds about a person within a minute of the interview. They think, “Oh, I really like this person; they’re a great fit.” This can create tunnel vision, and the interviewer spends the rest of the interview stacking up evidence to prove they’re right—that the candidate is a great fit for the team, for the position. The interviewer may gloss over key things the candidate says, even potential red flags, simply because everything else feels so good.

If you find yourself interviewing this way— when you start to sense that you’ve made a decision already (“Oh, I love them; they’re perfect,”)—use contrary evidence to challenge yourself to disprove your theory or to verify your intuition. Make a conscious effort to dig deeper into what their weaknesses might be—What type of manager do they work best under? What is their work style?

For example, perhaps a candidate quit several previous jobs due to having micro-managing bosses. And you know you have a reputation for being a micromanager (though you’re working on it). Suddenly, that hit-the-ground-running candidate grinds to a halt because they leave soon after being hired.

This is equally true for when you’ve decided, “Nope, they’re not a fit; they’re too green for the job.” Instead of proving to yourself that you’re right, flip the script in your mind. Start thinking: “What fresh perspective could this person bring to this position; perhaps there is something I am missing here? Sure, they’re fresh, but that means I can train them in my way.”

Searching for contrary evidence against what you’re feeling can give you a 360-degree view of the candidate and their potential with your company. The alternative, starting  with an answer and simply validating yourself, is a waste of time.

Using contrary evidence during the interviewing process is a very powerful trick that could mean the difference between a hiring mistake and a hiring win. It takes time to practice, but it’s worth it.

Rikka Brandon, a recruiter in the LBM industry since 2001, is a building products recruiter with Building Gurus. Reach her at

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