Even Experienced Interviewers Make These Mistakes

Want help with your hiring? It's easy. Enter your information below, and we'll quickly reach out to discuss your hiring needs.

Man Covering His Mouth With Hand On Red BackgroundInterviewing is the golden gateway into your organization and your interviewers make up the crucial checkpoint where top talent is identified, wooed and hopefully hired into your company. Of course, mistakes are made in the hiring process and good talent is unknowingly turned away while weaker candidates are unwittingly hired under the guise of promise and excellence, only to crash out of the organization prematurely as their true colors are revealed.

It’s easy to blame these interview mistakes on inexperienced interviewers, but many of the mistakes that can lead to poor selection decisions can be made by experienced interviewers – and we have outlined some of these core interviewing mistakes that interviewers make below:

1. Attribution Errors

In a Harvard Business Review study by Francesca Gina, they analyzed a series of simulated hiring scenarios and discovered that interviewees failed to pay proper attention to the relative context that each candidate was operating in when assessing their performance. For example, sales Candidate A may have made more sales than Candidate B in 2013, but Candidate B may have been working in a much harder environment which actually means that in real terms Candidate B’s performance was better than candidate A. It is termed an ‘attribution error’.

Now, there are ways for interviewers to overcome attribution errors and this is to engage in contextual interviewing where interviewers probe and dig to understand the clear context in which the performance occurred, making it easier to compare candidates more reliably. The study also noted that recruiter’s who were stressed, distracted and too busy were more prone to these errors. So, it’s vital to allow yourselves and your interviewers enough time to conduct, process and reflect on their interviews.

2. Confirmation ‘Bias’

Interviewers are also guilty of ‘Confirmation Bias’ which is a clever way of saying pre-judgment. Yes, in a research review paper by Schmidt and Hunter they found that interviewers form a shallow view of a person prior to interview and the interviewer spends the interview trying to confirm that initial view rather than having an open view on the candidate.

3. Anchoring

‘Anchoring’ is another kind of bias that interviewers are susceptible to and it is where you place an arbitrary expectation on a candidate that positively affects your view of a candidate. The study mentioned above found that interviewees with high anchors of expectation placed on them were scored more favorably than those with a low anchor of expectation. It is kind of the opposite of the confirmation bias.

4. Affective Heuristic

Superficial factors such as attractiveness of a candidate, obesity, gender, race, etc. have also been shown to influence hiring decisions.

The good news is that many of these unconscious interview biases/mistakes can be addressed by allowing enough time to do evaluations; using structured interviews based on objective and fair job criteria; along with a structured system for scoring applicants; and finally by introducing more accountability through note taking, naming and signing of assessment forms and documentation of the reason behind each selection decision.

Read more in Interviewing

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.