Why Interviews Fail – Managing for Retention

The best possible recruiting plans are useless if good candidates are being lost because of problems during the interviewing process. Outlined here are eleven ways interviews fail–and steps you can take to improve the selection process.

Lack of rapport – It is the responsibility of the interviewer to help the job candidate feel comfortable. After all, the candidate is, in effect, a guest and should be treated that way. Set the stage for the interview and help candidates feel so comfortable that they will tell everything about themselves!

The interviewer does all the talking – The 80-20 rule of interviewing should apply: the interviewer doing 20% of the talking, with the candidate talking the remaining 80%. Unless you permit the candidate to share information, you cannot learn needed information that will assist in the selection decision.

The interviewer rehashes the application – The application should be read thoroughly and possible questions noted before the interview. That way the application can be used as a springboard for gaining more in-depth information from the interviewee. A rehash of the application such as “I see here that you went to Central High School?” is a waste of time and adds no additional information, except possible frustration on the part of the candidate and the interviewer.

The interview questions are not prepared – It’s important to think through the information needed from the interview and have an outline of questions jotted down. If you’re so busy during the conversation trying to think of your next question, you can’t really hear those all-important answers! Many organizations have adopted a structured interview process, using the same basic interview questions for all job candidates. The structured interview also permits a fair and consistent measure during this subjective screening process.

The interview is too short – A minimum of twenty minutes should be allotted for each job candidate, particularly for behavioral interviewing where past job examples are elicited in order to predict future performance. The optimum time for an interview is an hour, especially for management interviews where many more job criteria are being measured.

The interviewer reaches a premature decision – When an immediate decision is made upon meeting the job candidate, such as a judgment on appearance, you could be missing out on hiring a great employee. Take the time to talk to all candidates and give them the opportunity to sell themselves!

The interviewer experiences the halo effect – The halo effect happens when you hit it off immediately with a job candidate because, for example, you went to the same school. It’s so easy to assume that if they went to your school, or are from your hometown, or have the same favorite team, that they will be wonderful employees. Guard against the halo effect in making good selection decisions.

The interviewer asks leading questions – It’s easy to ask leading questions when you are desperate for any warm body to hire. Your very questions can have the effect of giving strong hints as to the answers you hope to hear. For example, questions such as “Did you leave that job because of lack of opportunity for advancement?” should be avoided.

The interviewer relies exclusively on intuition – While you shouldn’t ignore intuition, you should also guard against letting it rule your decisions without first finding out what the candidate said that made you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.

The interviewer asks trick questions – Interview questions should be limited to straight facts.

Trick questions such as “What is your favorite color?” should always be left out. Unless you are a psychologist, it’s hard to know what these answers truly mean.

The interviewer uses stress techniques – Have you heard of interviewers leaving a candidate to sit for a long period of time on an uncomfortable chair just to see how they handle the stress? All stress techniques should be eliminated, especially if you are trying to treat candidates more like customers. Besides, the interview itself is stressful enough for most candidates!

Avoid these interview pitfalls in order to select the best candidate for your organization.

Cathy Fyock, CSP, SPHR, is an employment strategist, helping organizations recruit and retain employees in a volatile labor market. She can be reached at cathy@cathyfyock.com, or toll-free at 1 (800) 277-0384.

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