HR Basics, Recruiting and Staffing

20 More of the Most Common (and Critical) Interview Problems

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Second of two parts

By Dr. John Sullivan

Yesterday I listed The Top 30 Most Common (and Critical) Interview Problems. Here are 20 more. In total, this makes up the Top 50 interview problems:

D) Psychological issues and problems

If you study the research on interviews, you will find that there are many psychology related issues.

31. Looking for reasons to reject. Often interviewers spend almost all of the time trying to find a reason to reject the candidate, and as a result, they miss the candidate’s positive aspects. In some cases, negative responses are given twice the weight, so a candidate can be “mentally” rejected after a single error.

32. Halo Effect issues. Often the evaluator is overly impressed by one or more personal characteristics (i.e. great looks). And they mistakenly assume that everything about the candidate is positive because of that single exemplary factor.

33. Recentcy comparison (the contrast effect). If an interviewer has several bad interviews in a row, the next person that performs much better may be inaccurately rated as outstanding, simply because they are so much better than the recent poor performers. The reverse effect is also possible.

34. Personalities come across differently. Shy, nervous and slow people can be assessed poorly even though the job does not require speaking up or boldness.

35. Fooled by enthusiasm. Some interviewers are so smitten with candidate enthusiasm and passion that they fail to accurately assess other important job requirements.

36. “Fit” assessment. Many managers use interviews to measure an individual’s “fit” with the team, job or the corporate culture. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that untrained managers can accurately assess “fit” in 60 minutes. In addition, if innovation is being sought, individuals that do not “fit” may instead be the correct hire. Often candidates who are “just like me” (the interviewer) are automatically given higher ratings even though the job does not require someone “just like you”.

37. One-way conversation. Unfortunately, many interviewers spend more time talking then listening during interviews. Most interviewers don’t leave equal time for the candidate to ask questions and to present information that they want to present, which can frustrate them and then limited information is used to make the decision.

38. “Too perfect” performance. Occasionally interviewees with a lot of experience interviewing (often from HR) get extremely high ratings but they are rejected because they are “too perfect” and the evaluator assumes that something is wrong (cheating).

E) Legal issues

39. No accuracy check. The “validity” or the predictive ability of interviews are not checked by later on comparing whether those that received “high” interview scores turn out to be top “on-the-job performers” and vice versa. Interviews are a test according to the EEOC but most firms do not formally validate interviews or individual questions. The reliability of interviews is also not assessed.

40. Illegal questions. It’s not unusual for illegal questions to “pop out.” It’s also possible for candidates to inadvertently volunteer illegal information.

41. No written record. Because most interviews are conducted without being taped or even with a written record, there is little evidence (should legal or EEOC issues arise) as to what actually occurred or didn’t occur during interviews. When notes are taken, the “unfettered” handwritten notes taken by interviewers can be “embarrassing” should they see the light of day in a court proceeding.

42. Language, cultural and disability issues. Interviewees that normally speak a different language may be slower and may provide less precise answers merely because of language or cultural issues. Disabilities that affect speaking may impact scores, even though accommodation may be required and speaking is not a major job requirement.

43. Icebreaker issues. The interviewer may offer an icebreaker story or joke that may be inappropriate or illegal. It may negatively impact the responses from the interviewee.

F) Candidate experience related issues

Most candidates either hate of fear them. Further angering or frustrating candidates may cause you to lose top candidates, hurt your employer brand or even harm product sales.

44. Candidates are forced to lie to their boss. Because most interviews are held during work hours, currently employed candidates coming to an interview are essentially forced to “lie” to their current boss as to why they are away from their current job. This can cause them to prematurely drop out of the hiring process.

45. Uncertainty and being kept in the dark. Abuse of candidates occurs when managers keep them in the dark about the interview process and what is expected during it. They are not told what will occur during the interview and what skills will be assessed. In addition, they are not told who will be there during the interview, what is the role of each interviewer and “who” will make the final decision.

Failing to educate the candidate may cause them to under-prepare in key areas. Candidates also get frustrated when they are “left in the dark” and not given feedback about where they stand after an individual interview or after the process is complete.

46. Candidates are given no input. The interview process and “whom” they will interview with is determined by the organization. However, top candidates should be asked for their input, “who” they need to talk to and what information they need in order to make their decision. Because without this information, they may drop out or reject your offer.

47. The number of interviews for each job. “Death by interview,” which is where an excessive number of interviews over many days wears out a candidate. There is also death by repetition, when candidates during multiple interviewers get frustrated when they are asked the same questions over and over because interviews by different managers are not coordinated.

48. Scheduling difficulties prolong the process. When multiple candidates are brought in for interviews, the time that it takes to schedule all of these interviews almost always stretches out the hiring process to the point where most top candidates will be lost because of the long time delay.

49. Managers act inappropriately during interviews. Sometimes interviewers act inappropriately by taking phone calls during interviews, canceling and rescheduling interviews, appearing disorganized or even asking illegal or silly questions. Such behavior is disrespectful but it may also scare away the top candidates. Candidates often say they rejected an offer because of the way that they were treated during the interview process.

50. Ghost interviews may frustrate. In order to meet legal requirements, external interviews are often held even though an internal candidate is already preselected. This wastes candidate time and adds to frustration.

Final thoughts

In my experience, most interviewers have a cavalier attitude towards interviewing. That is partly because they will never know if a major mistake was made and a top candidate was “never hired.”

However, if you 1) study and fully understand the potential problems and 2) have some empathy for what the candidates are going through and how much they will suffer when rejected, I find that the quality of interviews will automatically increase.

Make sure you see the first part of this two-part series, The Top 30 Most Common (and Critical) Interview Problems

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of Talent Management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations / organizations in 30 countries on all 6 continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR and the Financial Times. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring”, Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics” and SHRM called him “One of the industries most respected strategists”. He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked #8 among the top 25 online influencers in Talent Management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.