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People Management | From no eye contact to sugary tea: what are hiring managers’ biggest interview ‘icks’?

Interview Blog

Isabel Jackson Press Releases

This article originally featured on People Management and is available here.

​Experts say it is important to ensure hiring managers are not being impacted by unconscious bias and are clearly communicating with candidates ahead of interviews.

Candidates being late (35.8 per cent) and not researching the company beforehand (30.7 per cent) are hiring managers’ biggest interview ‘icks’ – when they are instantly put off by something someone does – a survey by Ringover has found.

The survey of 1,200 hiring managers also found that candidates avoiding eye contact (33.7 per cent) and not being polite to other staff (30.8 per cent) put off respondents when interviewing in person. 

When interviewing over video, speaking to someone else while on the call (30.1 per cent) and having their camera switched off (30 per cent) were high on the list of hiring managers’ ‘icks’.

Candidates joining video interviews from locations such as coffee shops (24.8 per cent) or parks (24 per cent) also bothered interviewers. 

Their biggest ‘icks’ when interviewing over the phone included candidates interrupting before the interviewer has finished a sentence (33.8 per cent) and using speakerphone (33.1 per cent).

Simon Roderick, managing director at Fram Search, told People Management: “These things are all out for 2024 and respect for others is in. Tens of years of protocols were ripped up by the pandemic and we’re all of a sudden finding new rules of business etiquette apply, but really it’s just common sense.”

He added: “Many candidates are still getting to grips with online interviews and so employers could send out some helpful guidelines to ensure that the time is best used by all parties.”

Samantha Mullins, director at Latitude HR, told People Management: “My advice for interviewers is to focus on what is important for the role; try not to let unconscious bias or preconceptions get in the way of identifying great talent.

“There are different pressures when interviewing virtually and some of these, such as technical difficulties or interruptions, can be out of a candidate’s control.

“Putting your candidate at ease and making some allowances for these things can help to create a better environment and get the best from people.”

Nearly a quarter (23.9 per cent) of interviewers were bothered by candidates having technical difficulties during a video call.

Interviewers talking to candidates in-person (29.6 per cent) and over video (25.5 per cent) were put off by them not dressing appropriately. 

Respondents were also given the ‘ick’ by bad breath (25 per cent) and candidates smelling unpleasant (23.8 per cent), while a fifth (20.7 per cent) found asking for a hot drink with two or more sugars an off-putting interview behaviour. 

Rebecca Siciliano, managing director at Tiger Recruitment, told People Management: “Good communication is key to avoiding misunderstandings in the interview process. For example, a candidate may not turn up to an interview dressed as smartly as the employer expects, but they may be coming straight from their current workplace without wanting to raise suspicion.

“While the onus of this is on the candidate, hiring managers can help by actively communicating with candidates throughout the hiring process, making them comfortable enough to mention potential issues like this in advance.”

Mandy Watson, director of Ambitions Personnel, agreed, telling People Management that, particularly before a video interview, it’s important that the hirer “clearly sets out what is expected from the candidate, providing clear joining instructions and using a tone which indicates whether it will be a formal meeting or something more relaxed”.

As many as 95 per cent of recruiters said they prefer to interview in person, while 82.2 per cent said they conducted interviews over video call and 81.8 per cent interviewed candidates over the phone. 

Mullins added that there are benefits to video interviews: “We now do so much virtually, so a remote element as part of the interview process is helpful to understand how candidates interact under these conditions. 

“It provides an opportunity to meet more candidates at the early stages of the process without the costs and time associated with attending in person – this can reduce dropout rates.”

However, she added: “Having an element of the process in-person can provide a more rounded view of the candidate and an opportunity to promote the office environment and expectations regarding ways of working.”

Siciliano said: “Face-to-face, it’s easier to read body language and pick up on cues to gauge the candidate’s interest in the role, which can be harder online.

“In a video interview, environmental factors could negatively impact the candidate’s experience – like a car alarm – but this might not be obvious and could taint the interviewer’s impression.”