Finding and hiring the right person for a given job is an interesting challenge. There are volumes written about how to effectively identify the best candidate, ask the right interview questions, and design the right offer. There's just as much written about how to filter out anyone with the wrong skills, personality, or character so that you don't make a big mistake.

I'm not going to rehash all of that. Instead, I want to focus on a single mistake that just might be scaring away some of your best candidates. At a time when many businesses are desperately trying to find enough people to work, that's a luxury no one can afford. 

Especially since all signs point to a near future where it will only get worse, as millions of people are considering whether they want to keep their jobs if it means returning to the office after 18 months of working remotely. Many of them seem likely to seek other jobs. 

And yet many hiring managers make a fatal mistake when interviewing prospective candidates. They think of themselves as gatekeepers. That can turn an interview into a weird dynamic where the interviewer expects a candidate to sell him- or herself. There's an expectation that their job is to pass judgment--only letting through those who they think are worthy.

Or, said another way, they think too much of themselves and too little of the person across the table.

Certainly, there's an imbalance in the relationship between a job candidate and an interviewer. When you are in the position to hire someone, you have the ability to affect their financial future and that of their family. You're also trying to sift through dozens of candidates to find the one that will be the best fit for the role, for your team, and for your business. That means you should be discerning--the wrong decision can be expensive and damaging to your business. 

However, that's not the same as saying they aren't worthy of the same level of respect.  

The reason it's a fatal mistake is that the person across the table is passing judgment as well. They're trying to decide if this is a job they can see themselves doing every day for the foreseeable future. They're trying to imagine if they'd like to work at a company full of potential co-workers who are--in their mind--just like the interviewer. They are trying to figure out if working for you will challenge and fulfill them or simply be "a job." 

How you conduct an interview goes a lot further than you might think at answering those questions, even if a job candidate never asks. 

The thing is, people can tell when you don't value them. They can tell when the interviewer has something they'd rather be doing. They can tell when it seems like a waste of time.

I asked people what was the worst thing that ever happened to them during an interview and whether it made them turn down an offer. The responses I got were surprisingly predictable.

One person showed up to an interview 15 minutes early. The receptionist at the office told her that the person she would be interviewing with wasn't back from lunch yet. About 10 minutes after the interview should have started, a group of employees walked through the reception area--one of whom she recognized as the person she was supposed to interview with. 

Another 15 minutes later, she asked the receptionist if she should reschedule, only to learn that this manager liked to make candidates wait to see how they handle difficult situations. She turned around and left, deciding that she had no interest in working for someone who had that little respect for her. 

Another, a nurse, showed up for an interview at the hospital her mom had worked at, and which she had dreamed of working at from an early age. She sat across from a manager who couldn't be bothered to even turn around from the computer where she sat doing paperwork. After a few minutes, she made up her mind that this wasn't a place she wanted to work.

In a short period of time, I received a dozen or so responses, all sharing stories of poor interview experiences that made them look elsewhere. The reality is, I don't think their experience is all that unique. I get it, hiring a team takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Conducting interviews is a time-consuming process that can feel like a burden when you already have a lot to do. 

By the way, anyone who accepts an offer from you after you treat them like that is probably not a great candidate. That's not an excuse to treat them like that but a warning. Your goal should be to hire the best candidates and treat them as though you view them that way, especially when the best candidates won't settle for anything less.

How? Only interview people you are excited to meet and eager to hire. Then, treat them like you appreciate their time, as well as the expertise and experience they might bring to your company. It turns out the solution is really quite simple. Treat them with respect.