Sep 8, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

10. Failing to create a job description

How can you hire the best person for the job if you haven’t defined what “the best” is?

In addition to listing tasks and responsibilities, job descriptions should spell out the mental and physical capacities, attitudes, personality traits, and skills that are key to success. (While a librarian and a waiter both need to have good customer service skills, only one of them needs an outgoing personality.)

9. Asking illegal questions

Write out your interview questions, review each one, and ask yourself: “What does this have to do with the person’s ability to do the job?”

If it’s not job-related, don’t ask it. (If you need someone who will be on time every day, don’t ask: “Do you have a reliable day care provider?” Ask: “Other than personal illness, how many days were you late for work in the last six months?”)

8. Relying on first impressions

A study by the University of Chicago found 90 percent of interviewers make a hiring decision within the first 14 seconds of meeting the applicant. (No wonder so many bad hiring decisions are made.)

7. Forgetting who needs to make an impression

Applicants today are picky about where they’ll work. Interviewers need to sell applicants on the job and the company. Applicants report major turnoffs are being kept waiting and interviewers who are not prepared.

6. Hiring based only on the interview

A hiring decision based on the interview alone is successful only 18 percent of the time.

The best predictors of success on the job are:

  • Testing (53 percent);
  • A temporary job assignment (44 percent); and,
  • The reference check (26 percent).

Experience is reliable only 14 percent of the time and age is the least reliable predictor of success (-1 percent).

5. Biases

A bias is the instant bond you feel when you find out someone is from your hometown ─ even though its population is over 500,000 and you’ve never met before.

Biases cause us to hire who we like best instead of the person who is best for the job.

4. Not asking the right questions

You can count on every unprepared interviewer to say: “Tell me about yourself,” and then ask: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And every job applicant has canned answers to these questions.

The best questions to start with are: “Tell me about your first paying job. What three things did you learn from it?” Use the same questions to take the applicant through their entire work history. The answers, from their earliest experience to the most recent, paint a vivid picture of the person’s work ethic, commitment, and drive.

3. Talking too much

Most interviewers forget that they can’t learn anything new while talking. A rule of thumb: The applicant should do the talking at least 80 percent of the time.

2. Interviewing from the application or résumé

When you conduct interviews with either of these documents in hand, you tend to simply confirm the information the applicant has already provided (instead of learning what you need to know).

1. Emphasizing experience and education

Harvard Business School determined that the combination of information, intelligence, and skill account for only seven percent of business success. Attitude alone accounts for the other 93 percent.

Far too few interviewers ask attitude questions like: “I know you would work harder or longer hours if asked, but, just in the course of your normal work day, what have you done for an employer that is more than what was expected of you?”

GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR: Humetrics is launching a new hiring tool specifically designed to help you identify and hire great, frontline, hourly employees. If you are interested in being part of the beta test trial version, drop us a note at with “Beta Test” in the subject line.

This originally appeared in Humetrics September 2015 Hiring Hints newsletter.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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