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Seven hiring mistakes interviewers make...


When I first started working with Dee, she was really frustrated. As the owner of a child care center she had just gone through the pain of firing an employee she had high hopes for. She was especially frustrated because it had taken so long to find and train her.

Like many small business owners she was well aware of the costs of a bad hire. Not long before she had to let a normally good employee go because of a safety issue with a child that could have cost her license.

Her first question to me was, “How can I make sure I’m getting a great person in the first place?”

Did you know that studies have shown that the typical interviewer’s ability to reliably and consistently predict a candidate’s potential for success is about 15 percent?  Yet research shows that if done right, interviewers can actually achieve 90 percent reliability and consistency in predicting a candidates potential for success. 

Yet, who is typically better prepared for an interview, the employer or the candidate?  Believe it or not, the answer is the candidate. Why? Think about how busy you are, and when do most employers typically prepare for an interview? Answer: when they have a candidate to interview.

Finally, how can you change those odds to your favor? Here are the first four of the common and costly, hiring mistakes interviewers make.

What Research Tells Us

1. Failure to Identify Your Target Requirements. This seems to be an easy one to want to skip. Yet, how can you make a good hiring decision unless you are clear about what your target looks like? All too often I hear, “I’ll know it when I see it,” and frankly, that is nonsense.

Think about the different jobs you have in your organization. Doesn’t it make sense that there are different skill and competency requirements for each job? Doesn’t your sales force and accounting department need different skills and competencies to be successful? Of course they do, both technically and behaviorally.

For instance let’s look at behavioral competencies for each job. A sales representative may require verbal communication skills, the ability to develop relationships, assertiveness, and customer service, while an accountant would require attention to detail, analytical focus, systems thinking, and patience.

Here is the point, and it leads into the next mistake. You need a different set of interview questions for each job to be able to assess those qualities in the candidates for each job.

Now you are probably thinking: I don’t know how to identify my target requirements and I don’t have the time to do it. That is an understandable reaction that will be addressed in another article, so let’s move on to the next mistake.

2. Failure to Create an Interview Recipe. If you want consistent results when baking a great cake you need a recipe. Would you use the same recipe for cake, cookies and pies? You wouldn’t. So why not change the interview recipe when you are trying to fill different jobs?

In many different studies it has been shown that not using a structured interview recipe has a reliability of about 15 percent. Using any structured interview would improve your results, but you want the best results. So basing your structured interview questions on the results of your target requirements becomes crucial.

The question often comes up: “Won’t using structured interview questions make the
interview impersonal?” The answer lies in the type of interview questions, which takes
us to the next mistake.

3. Failure to Use the Right Interview Questions. The right kind of questions are past-event or behavioral Interview questions that ask a candidate to share an example of when they had handled a particular situation in the past. The preference is for examples that are work related, however, if you have an entry level position the example could be a personal experience.

Here is an example of a behavioral interview question. “Tell me about a time when you had a particularly difficult customer.”

Notice the question didn’t say “How would you handle a difficult customer?” That is because this question is a future based or hypothetical question and what kinds of answers do you think you get to hypothetical questions? Hypothetical answers of course, text book responses and what they think you want to hear.

4. Failure to Use an Interview Team. Team interviews are when two or more interviewers interview the same candidate at the same time.  Many interviewers worry that this type of interview could be intimidating to the candidate.

Aside from the fact that it helps improve results, think of the legal issues. In a team interview, you have a witness that can back you up rather than having a “he said-she said” issue you must defend.

Here is the key: A panel should only be two or three people, and the seating should be informal.

In part 2, you will learn three more mistakes interviewers make that lead to costly bad hires, turnove and frustration.

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Stephen Moulton

Stephen Moulton is the Chief Insight Officer of Action Insight and Hire-STARS, he is also the author of the CEO’s Advantage, 7 Keys for Hiring Extraordinary Leaders and the forthoming book Engage - Leadership and Building an Engaged Team.  He can be reached at 303-439-2001 or stephen@actioninsight.com.

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