Interviewing Mistakes

Interview Prep

Of all the steps in the hiring process, the interview stage is the point where small business owners are most likely to make mistakes – such as succumbing to interviewer bias or failing to conduct a standardized interview – that can lead to bad hiring decisions. That's because it's human nature to be swayed by subjective or irrational thought processes that can colour your assessment of candidates. Fortunately, it's possible to overcome interviewing mistakes and achieve greater objectivity. Here are some common pitfalls and strategies to help small business owners avoid them:

Interviewer Bias

In the world of scientific research, the expectations of the scientist can influence the outcome of an experiment. Similarly, in the context of an interview, the hiring manager may develop an interviewer bias based on her expectations about an applicant. For example, a manager might believe that a candidate who comes highly recommended by a colleague is in a sense "pre-qualified" and better suited to the position than an "unknown." Or the interviewer bias can be more subtle, such as an employer who unconsciously favours an applicant whose first name is the same as the interviewer's generous, hard-working uncle.

The Solution: Hold Multiple Interviews

The best way to overcome interviewer bias is to have several qualified individuals meet and question each candidate. The first interviewer, for example, might be a human resources manager, while the supervisor the applicant would report to would conduct the second interview. The business owner or division head might conduct a third interview. Alternatively, a committee composed of a senior executive, a manager and potential co-workers could interview each candidate.

Not Ensuring a Standardized Interview

Interviewers often believe they are fairly consistent while evaluating candidates when in reality they are assessing variable criteria. For example, a hiring manager may have gleaned extensive details about one applicant's past accomplishments but rushed that part of the interview with another candidate because of time constraints.

The Solution: Ask the Same Questions Each Time

Before scheduling the first round of in-person interviews with candidates who passed the initial phone interview, create and prioritize a standard list of appropriate questions. Generally, standardized interview questions can be grouped into three broad categories: Job-related (to review the candidate's accomplishments, skills, experience), aptitude (to further explore specific expertise, special or unique abilities) and interpersonal skills (to determine the candidate's ability to work in a variety of ways – independently, as part of a team or in a leadership capacity).

In addition to these categories of questions, interviewers may want to include a few queries designed to uncover a candidate's professional behaviour ("What kind of environment brings out your best performance?"), decision-making capacity ("How would you handle a problem for which there appears to be no clear solution?") or career aspirations ("Where do you see yourself in five years?").

Forgetting the Details

No one's memory is perfect, and that can lead to interviewing mistakes. After interviewing dozens of candidates, it's inevitable that a manager might have trouble remembering details, or may confuse one applicant's qualifications with another.

The Solution: Keep Meticulous Records

Take careful notes during each interview to facilitate subsequent comparison of candidates and reveal gaps in information. Note taking also helps offset a natural tendency to place too much importance on an individual candidate's performance during the interview. People who interview well are not necessarily right for the job, nor is a reserved, unassuming candidate necessarily a bad match.