10 Interview Mistakes That Can Turn Away Skilled Contractors

Maintaining a database of top candidates and staying connected is just one part of recruiting skilled contractors from the global mobility talent tool.  Just because you have a knack for mining the internet for candidates using tools like LinkedIn or Twitter, that doesn’t mean that you are doing all the right things to engage them and conduct an effective interview.

Professional contractors and experienced freelancers know what to look for in a recruiter or placement firm, and whether you have what it takes to find the type of quality position they deserve.  When you are extending an invitation to consider an opening, the candidate will be interviewing you just as closely, to see if you have an informed and serious approach to the process.

Being unprepared or distracted during an interview are obvious mistakes, but other missteps should be avoided in the preparation and execution of an interview.

1.    Not Having a Structure for the Interview

A good recruiter runs the interview and guides the candidate through each step.

International contractors with a strong background expect that an interview is structured and efficient since it is likely that they are candidates for more than one position.  By posing inconsistent questions that seem random, or neglecting to reveal where the interview is heading, a recruiter may lose the candidate’s interest or respect.

2.    Failing to be Upfront About the Interview Process and Timing

“We are just talking to people at this stage, and we are not sure when interviews will be held or when the position will be filled.”

Every contractor who is serious about finding a new client or project expects to be informed ahead of time about the interview process.

Areas to discuss with the candidate before the interview begins to include:

  • How many interviews and with who?
  • Length of interview and method (phone call, skype, etc)
  • Timeline for responses and hiring decisions

By offering these simple details, you can assure the candidate that you are organized and understand that they need to know what to expect during and after the interview process.

3.    Inappropriate or Offensive Statements

To attract top-level professionals, a recruiter must also be professional

Depending on the field and the country, there may be specific topics that are off-limits because of professional or cultural reasons.  While a younger tech specialist in California may be used to slang and colourful language, a marketing consultant from Asia would seldom veer away from straight business expressions.

As a recruiter, it is best to default to simple language and avoid references to race, religion or gender – you never know what someone might react to and it will only reflect poorly on you.  There is no reason to lose a good prospect just over some inappropriate language that was unnecessary.

4.    Questions Unrelated to the Job or Their Background

Don’t get personal and stay on track during the interview

A casual approach to an interview is never a good strategy, and recruiters should avoid questions about the personal life of a candidate.  Some questions might be acceptable if it affects the work role or location, such as having a family (relocation costs) or the ability to speak the local language.  But asking about relationships, hobbies or other ‘fun’ topics does nothing to help the interview, even if you are just trying to establish rapport or common interests.

Some interviewers also like to ask random questions to test the person’s ability to shift gears mentally, but for savvy contractors, this technique is just irritating and undermines their confidence in your abilities to run a professional interview.

5.    Distractions During the Interview

“Could you repeat that?…. I was looking at something else.”

Since many initial interviews take place over the phone, it is tempting to multi-task while talking on speakerphones, such as attending to emails or other computer work.  But, most people can tell when you are only partially engaged, and the interview will quickly lose energy.

“Can I put you on hold?… I have another call coming in.”

Avoid putting someone on hold for another call (they may not be there when you switch back) and don’t rush the conversation if another appointment is coming up.  It is better, to be honest, to tell them you are on a time crunch and offer to call them back at another time.

6.    Taking Over the Conversation and Talking Too Much

If you are the one talking, you are not learning anything…

Seasoned interviewers know that one good question can be worth a thousand words…or more.  Most contractors like to talk about their experiences since they don’t get much external validation like office workers.  By eliciting detailed answers and using active listening skills, a recruiter can learn more about a candidate, and also make them feel valued.

If an interviewer talks too much or dominates the conversation, then the candidate begins to doubt if there is much interest, and maybe you are just fishing or using them as a “backup plan” behind others in competition for the job.

7.    Uninformed About the Position or the Field

“Well, I’m not sure exactly what you will be doing, but that is part of the excitement of a new position right?”

Wrong…   Giving vague information about a position, or being uninformed about the field of work is one of the worst mistakes a recruiter can make.  Before you make contact, take the time to fully understand the position offered, responsibilities, work conditions, compensation and project parameters.

If you recruit regularly in a specific industry, it pays to stay current on developments and what is going on with the companies at the top.  You don’t have to be an expert in the field, but should be able to have an intelligent conversation with your candidates about the work role and requirements.

8.    Making the Interview Process Too Complex

“This will be the first of 4 interviews over the next 2 weeks, combined with several technical tests.”

A complex or lengthy interview process could turn off more experienced candidates, who don’t want to run a gauntlet of interviews or tests of their ability.  Make it simple, respectful and concise to keep them interested and maintain engagement.

A position might lend itself to some test of skill or ability, but either keep it brief or see if your client is willing to pay the candidate for a ‘trial run.’

9.    Interview Too Long

“Look at the time…how long have we been talking?”

Time is important to everyone, and just because someone is applying for a position does not mean that their time is less valuable.  Many contractors have to take time away from an active project to interview and will appreciate it if you respect their time.  Have a limited number of questions, or an expected time frame that you share before the interview starts, and then stick to it.

10. Overselling the Client/Company

“Let me tell you one more time why this is such a great position and company.”

If your client has a good reputation in the relevant field, and the position is attractive, there is no need to go on and on about how great it is.  Professional contractors know the key players in their industry and will be aware when a position is a high-quality offering.  Overselling makes a candidate suspicious that you or the client is desperate, or there is some issue with the company.


By avoiding these common mistakes, you can become a more effective recruiter and attract the top talent for your clients.  When you are interviewing a new prospect be prepared to be interviewed as well since many contractors will be checking you out to see if you have what it takes to bring them the best jobs and projects available.