Are Your Interviewers Equipped to Succeed…or Are They Making These 10 Common Mistakes?

By Posted in - Interviewing on December 10th, 2014 0 Comments

In over 25 years of working with organizations to improve their talent management, I am amazed at the lack of improvement in one of the most basic and ubiquitous talent management processes, the employment interview. Although there are multiple process deficiencies that can be found in practices today, a core problem is a failure to properly prepare interviewers. In spite of extensive research demonstrating the importance of interviewer training, many organizations still do not provide adequate support for their interviewers. The result is countless line managers repeat the same bad interviewing habits every day. These mistakes result in sub-optimal hiring decisions and a poor employment brand. The ten most common interviewer mistakes include:

1. A Failure to Define Requirements

Most amateur interviewers don’t take the time to carefully define the requirements for successfully performing a job. They don’t consider the full set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that underlie successful performance and instead, focus on a small number of vaguely defined personal traits. They might look for candidates that are “savvy”, “go getters”, “quick on their feet”, or “tough-minded”. These traits, if operationally defined in terms of actual behaviors, could potentially serve as a partial set of requirements. However, without defining the work behaviors that reflect these qualities, it is difficult for an interviewer to properly explore or evaluate them in an interview.

2. A Failure to Structure an Interview Plan

Amateur interviewers don’t take the time to plan their interview strategy. An interview strategy should include what questions they will ask, how much time they will devote to different requirements, and what they are looking for in an ideal response to each question. The strategy should also include information the interviewer wants to share with the candidate and proper time for the candidate to ask questions. Amateur interviewers often feel that they need only spend a short time with a candidate in a casual conversation to determine a candidate’s qualifications. They rely on their “gut feel” rather than a systematic interview strategy.

3. A Failure to Take Notes

Amateur interviewers rarely take notes. They don’t feel that they are necessary. They often make up their mind early in the interview and don’t see the value in recording responses or they rely on memory to rate the candidate sometime after the interview. Unfortunately, there is a good probability that they will not be able to fully reconstruct the candidate’s responses from memory. It is better to record just the critical elements of a candidate’s response so that you have a shorthand record of the circumstances, primary actions and results described. Notes provide a trigger for full recall so that information can be shared with other interviewers and responses properly evaluated. They also show that the interviewer is taking an active interest in what the candidate is saying.

4. Monopolizing the Interview

Amateur interviewers often monopolize the air time in the interview and don’t give candidates adequate time to describe their skills or fully respond or ask questions. It is certainly hard to evaluate the qualities of the candidate if you do not afford them time to talk.

5. Permitting One Characteristic to Influence their Judgment of Other Requirements

It is easy to become so impressed by one area of an individual’s accomplishments that accomplishments in other areas may be “assumed.” The ability to communicate well verbally is a common “halo dimension.” Many people judge a person as having generalized positive qualities on the basis of good verbal facility. But skill as a speaker does not necessarily guarantee managerial ability, research skill, decision-making ability or other talents. Being overly impressed with a good talker and/or viewing the person with modest verbal facilities as lacking confidence or leadership skill are common mistakes.

6. Jumping to Conclusions Too Quickly

Managers tend to make quick decisions on applicants, based on a review of the individual’s application form or letter of application, on a first impression (the looks of the person) or on the strength of a handshake. And even if a manager doesn’t base a decision on these characteristics, it is not uncommon for him or her to jump quickly to a decision based on early information provided in the interview.

7. Allowing Pressure to Fill Positions Affect Their Judgment

Research indicates that managers lower their standards when they fell pressure to fill an open position. They are too anxious to hire someone even if they do not fully meet the requirements of the position. They tend to rationalize poor information and to rely too heavily on training to compensate for weak skills.

8. Comparing Candidates to Each Other Rather than the Standards for Job Success

Managers often make decisions relative to a group of applicants rather than to job needs. They then find themselves taking the “best of a bad lot” rather than continuing their search to find a truly qualified candidate.

9. Playing Amateur Psychologist

Many managers try to act as amateur psychologists in interpreting data about applicants, and their interpretations frequently are wrong. The manager who asks an applicant to give three words that describe himself or similar projective questions is acting as an amateur psychologist. The better approach is to collect actual examples of job-relevant past or future behavior.

10. Looking for Negatives

There are some interviewers who approach an interview as an opportunity to select out candidates rather than select in candidates. They look for that one response or indication that there is a deficiency or weakness in the candidate and then dismisses the candidate based on that one area without considering the full profile of the candidate and their relative strengths. Every candidate is going to have relative strengths and weaknesses. A weakness may not be a major concern if it is in a trainable area and is offset by strengths in other key areas. Rejecting candidates based on a single data point can result in overlooking candidates that could be highly successful in the role and could unnecessarily prolong the time it takes to fill the position.

Proper interviewer training can easily correct these mistakes and convert your interviewers into true interviewer professionals. OMNIview provides a variety of options to equip your interviewers to succeed. Contact us to learn more.


Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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