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Posted: May 02, 2012

The final three hiring mistakes interviewers make

Reserve judgment, regardless of first impressions

Stephen Moulton

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1.)

Here are the final three of the common and costly hiring mistakes interviewers make.

5. Failure to Control Biases and First Impressions. As society has become more and more complex, the human brain has developed short cuts to deal with all we face. One of those shortcuts is called stereotyping. Stereotypes are based on our past experiences and biases.

As a result our brains are making dozens of judgments very quickly. One study determined that when we first see someone, we make our first judgment in about 150 nanoseconds. One study showed that 85 percent of interviewers typically make their hiring decision in the first five minutes of the interview.

Now think about it, how much can you really learn about a candidate in five minutes? Bias and error by interviewers is one key reason for interviewing failure. Use your structured interview to gather the information from the candidate and avoid making a decision until after the interview, no matter what the candidate looks like.

The candidate’s job is to make a good first impression. The first impression façade is often as unreal as the façade of a movie set, looks good, but little behind it.  Interviewers that allow them to be sold by first impressions do little to check the qualifications of the candidate behind the façade.

6. Failure to Use a Rating Guide. All too often interviewers finish the interview and then based on their gut feelings they make a decision, positive or negative.

Let me share an example, Susan was an interviewer for me and we had a process, that had her interviewing candidates and then we review the candidate’s responses together using a rating guide. In this case the definitions of the skills or competencies we had determined to be most important for the job. One day she came into my office and said let’s not worry about rating this guy he was a looser. 

Just to be fair we reviewed the responses against the rating guide and determined he was a good and qualified candidate. The problem was that Susan was about 22 and the candidate was a scruffy guy of about 40. The kicker was that he turned out to be an outstanding employee.

This example applies to both the importance of using a rating guide and controlling our biases.

When rating candidates you can add a simple scale of the “candidate lacks the skill” or the “candidate has the skill”. If a candidate lacks a technical skill you can teach them, the question you want to ask yourself is, “Can I train them?” If you can train them no problem, technical skills are usually learned in a short period of time. 
For behavioral competencies such as self-control, integrity, getting along with others, dependability, etc. if the candidate has described actions they have taken that don’t meet your standards. Do not hire them.  It is very hard to change someone’s behavior.

7. Failure to Use Consensus Ratings. Consider the example I shared in the last mistake. Susan and I reviewed the candidate’s responses and came to consensus on the ratings. Consensus requires that the raters review the response information together and suggest a rating and if there is a difference, present the information that would prove their case and try to convince the other rater the wisdom of the rating good or bad.

The raters need to be open-minded and once the arguments are presented weigh them fairly.

An example of this came about when in one interview the candidate for a position that would require real decisiveness in a leadership position had not provided a good example in response to the question about decisiveness.

However the candidate and one of the interviewers had been in the same branch of the military. The interviewer made the statement that in this branch of the military “decisiveness is drilled into you.”  Then the statement was made by another interviewer, “there is a difference of being decisive when throwing a hand grenade and deciding how to handle a group of angry employees, there is no evidence he has been able to do that.”

Here again bias played a role in the process however the rater agreed that the responses didn’t support a good rating.

Bottom line

It is possible without spending much more time then you are already spending on your interview process to significantly stack the deck in your favor and make a positive impact on the success of your organization and reducing your frustration with disappointing hires.

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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