Interviewing 101: Here’s How You Can Avoid This All-Too-Common Mistake

Most interviewers look at the interview as a one-step process and this misperception is largely the reason why a Michigan State University study found: “The interview, when used alone, is, on average, only about 8 percent more effective than flipping a coin.”

In order to make better hiring decisions, the interview needs to be processed in two, distinct steps. The first is to gather information. The second is to evaluate the information.

Most of the time, however, interviewers combine these two processes into one. As they gather information and observe the candidate, they evaluate and make decisions based on first impressions, partial information, what they hear, and what they feel. In essence, many hiring decisions are made on the basis of gut instinct, suppositions, inferences, and biases. (No wonder flipping a coin is nearly as effective!)

Improving your hiring success rate

By breaking down the interview process into two separate, but related, steps, you will make better decisions and improve your hiring success rate.

  • The first step is to gather information only. Do not weigh, evaluate, or judge what you hear, see, and feel. Just observe and document.
  • Once this is done, the second step is to evaluate all of the information as a whole so you can make an unbiased, fact-based decision.

For instance, an applicant dresses far too casually for the work environment. Before hellos and handshakes are even exchanged, based on that alone, the interviewer will decide the person is not a good fit and wrap up the interview as quickly as possible.

The same kind of snap decisions and evaluations are made when a candidate is late or the interviewer doesn’t like a particular answer. These kinds of evaluations work in the applicant’s favor too – but are no better predictors of success on the job – when the applicant and interviewer discover they went to the same school or have a mutual friend or interest.

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“The task at hand is to collect information only”

Whatever the circumstance, once that evaluation has been made, it’s human nature to then filter in only information that will confirm it.

But, what if an airline lost the casually dressed person’s bag? What if the person who was late left home in time to arrive 30 minutes early, but a tractor-trailer rig flipped on the freeway and caused a one-hour delay? What if the applicant who went to the same school lied on the application and didn’t really graduate?

This is why it’s so important for the interviewer to conduct the interview with the mindset that the task at hand is to collect information only. Then, rather than jumping to conclusions, the interviewer will ask more questions about any areas of concern and will then have more facts to base the later evaluation upon.

This was originally published in the April 2011 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at