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Avoiding Common Mistakes

According to Newell Brown (2011) whilst interviews are the most common selection method (either as part of a selection centre, or as a stand-alone assessment) they are also the method which has the capacity to be done least well.

Some of the common interview mistakes that Newell Brown has identified include the following:

  1. Based on whether you like or dislike the look of the candidate when you first meet them, you spend the rest of the interview trying to confirm this initial assessment to yourself.
  2. You ask the candidate why they want the role and take this as sufficient evidence that they would remain motivated in the role, without exploring the issue of motivation any further.
  3. You assume that if you ask someone ‘what they would do if….’ that their answer is proof of what they would actually do in that particular situation. Instead, it can be more effective to balance these ‘what if’ questions with questions about what they have actually done in the past, in particular scenarios. (See sections above).
  4. You ask each applicant different questions
  5. You spend the interview with your mind on other things rather than focussing intently on the interview itself
  6. You assume because the candidate is clearly good at one thing that they will be good at everything else so you don’t adequately assess all the crucial competencies on the person specification
  7. You don’t take notes because you are sure you will remember the best candidate.


In addition to this list, Hill (2008) adds the following:

  1. Mistaking a quiet demeanour for a lack of motivation
  2. Mistaking a capacity to talk fluently with competence
  3. Looking for a reflection of yourself in the candidate


Thinking Points

  • If you have had experience as an interviewer: Think back to somebody who was successful at interview but ultimately performed poorly in the role. Can you identify any aspects of their performance at interview that you overlooked at the time, that might have suggested that the appointment could turn out to be problematic?
  • And you will all have had experience as an interviewee: Think back to a time when following an interview, you were left with a poor opinion of the interviewing organisation. What were the specific aspects of the interview process that contributed to this poor opinion?
  • Compare the list of the 10 common mistakes given above with your own experience as an interviewer and interviewee.
  • List up to 3 practical steps that you will now take in order to ensure that you are an effective interviewer in future.

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