SelectOne Blog

Why hiring managers need to stop selling the company during job interviews


By the time you winnow 200 resumes to 50 qualified applicants to 10 phone screens to 3 final candidates, you probably feel pretty darn good about those final three (or two, or four) by the time you get to the interview stage. It’s natural to worry about recruiting top-notch candidates and making a good impression.

But by focusing too heavily on selling the company and the role, you can inadvertently end up derailing the main purpose of the interview, which is to discover the best person for the job. Here’s why selling the organization also means selling yourself short.

There is no such thing as the perfect employee.

She’s always punctual. He gets along with everybody. She’s detail oriented. He can multitask. She’s a gifted public speaker. He’s got several advanced degrees. She’s networks like a champ. He can motivate a rock.

The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews

But is she on time at the expense of double-checking her work? Is he so friendly that he hates disciplining people? Is she so caught up in details that she loses sight of the bigger picture? Does he jump from task to task when he ought to be prioritizing?

All employees have strengths and weaknesses. And what’s more, a strength in one setting can be a weakness in another, and vice versa.

What does this mean for your interview? That unicorn you’re courting needs to have a solid understanding of your organization to know whether or not they’d even be moderately successful in your business. Yes, that means knowledge of your amazing benefits package and opportunities for professional development.

But it also means knowing the challenges of the role. Has the team struggled to find a good system for assigning work? Does one of the clients require an inordinate amount of hand-holding and encouragement? Is the equipment you’re working with out of date?

There are people who love to work with workaholics. There are those who take pride in their ability to massage fragile business relationships into something profitable. There are folks who see a software limitation, think “YAY, A CHALLENGE!” and jump in with excitement. But you’ll never know who they are if you’re trying so hard to sell the business that you never get around to the reality of what the position truly entails.

You’re wasting time.

If you want to talk up the company, do it in an email. An interview is a rare chance to have an undisturbed chunk of time set aside for real time, in person communication with your candidates of choice. In that time, you’ll need to be looking at skills, habits, attitudes, interests, goals, personal qualities, culture fit, and more. At the same time, the candidate is looking for information about needs, schedules, compensation, attitudes, opportunities, systems, technology, and culture.

That’s a lot to tackle in under an hour.

Set priorities for your interview. What must you learn in order to make a good decision? What about the candidate? Then focus on those in the time you have available. The free cookies in the break room probably don’t make the cut.

You’re setting a bad precedent for future communication.

Do you want your future employee to gloss over any challenges they’re experiencing? Hide mistakes that they’ve made in the hope that nobody else notices? Only communicate positive developments when asked for updates?

If you are trying to build a culture of candor in your organization, the best time to start is in the hiring process. If you’re committed to honesty even at that stage, it shows that this is something you genuinely value, rather than just paying lip service to it.

When you quit selling, you have the opportunity to rebuild your interviewing habits from scratch.

Looking for a guide to get you started? The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews is available to download for free. Get your copy today.

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