Whether you’re interviewing a prospective employee or you’re the one interviewing for a new position, remember that the interview is a two-way process. You’re both being evaluated for professionalism, expertise, and likability. For a productive interview, avoid these disasters during the process:

  1. Disrespect

Honor your appointment commitment. Don’t pass the interview off to a subordinate at the last minute; reschedule with the candidate if you need to. Don’t be tardy. If you’re the interviewer and think you’re holding the power position, don’t keep your interviewee waiting while you tend to “more important” issues. It signals that you don’t value your candidate’s time, which translates to arrogance. Don’t answer a phone call during the interview. Set your phones to busy and mute so you can concentrate on each other. Allowing interruptions demonstrates your disrespect for the other’s time.

  1. Clutter

Avoid clutter between you, forcing the interviewee to crane his neck to see you while conversing. I remember an interview where the interviewer expected me to peer between her computer monitor and her assorted desk clutter to get a glimpse of her. Rude! Either clear your desk for unobstructed views of each other, or better yet, come around the desk so there’s no desk barrier at all. This is not the time or place for power plays or posturing.

  1. One-Way Interrogation

This should be a mutual discussion and discovery process to learn more about each other, the organization, and whether there is a good fit. I’ve experienced interviews where the interviewer fired a barrage of questions at me yet expressed surprise and irritation when I brought up questions for him. Likewise, should the interviewer ask if you have any questions, be prepared with thoughtful questions that will clarify whether you want to work with this company. Don’t sit there like a mouth-less dummy. This is your opportunity to learn about the company culture, its values, who you would be reporting to, the company communication style, and how your performance would be evaluated. If your questions are not well received during the interview, that should be a tip-off to how well any questions would be received if you were an employee. The wrong job will cost more than no job.

  1. Lack of Preparation

The interviewer should not be reviewing your resume for the first time as you’re sitting there in front of her. Relevant experiences should already be highlighted for further elaboration, and fuzzy elements of your resume should be marked for clarification. As the interviewee, you need to have researched the company, its history, its values, products, and where the company says it’s headed in the future. If it’s a publicly traded company, research the corporate information for investors to learn about the management team, where the company is betting its future and its financial stability. Also be prepared with questions about the specifics of the job: your primary duties, the reporting structure, criteria for judging your success, perceived obstacles to success, and why the position is vacant.

  1. Lack of Social Etiquette

Don’t forget the niceties. This isn’t a cash transaction at the bank; it’s ideally a conversation between two people who are trying to learn whether they can work with each other. This is the beginning of a relationship, so start that relationship on a positive note, with respect, courtesy, and hospitality. The basic questions to be answered in an interview are similar for both sides: For the interviewer, it’s, Do you have the skills we need in this company? And for the interviewee, it’s, Can I apply my skills in this company so that it benefits both of us? The interviewer wants to know, Would your personality and style fit with the rest of our staff? And the candidate wants to know, Does the personality of this company fit my personality? A successful interview is one that answers these questions, regardless of whether a job is offered or accepted.