Top 15 Mistakes Interviewers Make

Admittedly, the traditional recruiting process is expeditious from a time-to-fulfillment perspective and in the short run is very cost effective. It consists of the following five steps:

A. Review the job description, write an ad specifying the hard-skills of the position, and begin collecting resumes.
B. Select the top 3 to 6 resumes of candidates for face-to-face interviews who on-paper represent the hard-skills, experience, and salary requirements that best match the job.
C. Allow the hiring manager, to whom the open position reports, the freedom to single-handedly implement a free-form personal interview process that unconsciously emphasizes hard-skills, experience, and likability.
D. Check 1 or 2 personal references of the candidates or just accept the letters of recommendation that the candidates bring to the interviews. (This step is often skipped because of time constraints and because the candidate made such a good impression in the interview that he/she couldn’t have any “baggage” that would disqualify him/her.)
E. Make an offer of employment to the candidate who best “sold” him/herself in the interview.

One cannot argue with the short cycle time of the interviewing phase of this traditional recruiting process. However, the objective is not to make a decision in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest cost. The objective is to hire the best person who will “fit” the position and will be fulfilled enough with the job and with the culture of the organization to become a long-term, productive employee.

The interviewing process used by most organizations is not a process at all but rather a “beauty contest” approach to hiring. Many managers use what I loosely call “techniques” such as likability, gut-feel, and chemistry in selecting the person to hire. Here are the top 15 mistakes the typical interviewer makes as well as my recommendations for resolving the issues.

1. Most interviewers make a like or dislike decision about a candidate within the first 5 to 15 minutes of an interview and spend the balance of the time confirming their first impressions – positive or negative impression. This first impression will often taint the interviewer’s perception of the answers received. (e.g., A candidate who is perceived negatively will have his/her answers judged more critically than a person who is perceived more positively.)
RECOMMENDATION: Interviewers should make a conscious effort to reserve any judgment for at least 30 minutes to allow any nervousness on the part of the candidate to dissipate. Very often, a candidate who does not make a positive first impression can really shine as the interview progresses, while the candidate with a great first impression begins to diminish as the interview questions require more specificity.

2. If the interviewer’s first impression is positive and the interviewer uses an unstructured interview process, the interviewer usually begins asking “softball” questions for the candidate to hit a “homerun.” Similarly if the interviewer’s impression of the candidate is negative in this free-form interview process, the interviewer usually ends up asking “hardball” questions which has the tendency to confirm the interviewer’s already negative impression. Both of these situations become a self-fulfilling prophesy in that the interviewer will see what he/she expects to see, rather than looking at the facts objectively.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a structured interview process that levels the playing field for all candidates and reserve initial judgments for at least 30 minutes.

3. If the interviewer’s first impression is positive in an unstructured interview process, the interviewer usually asks fewer questions of the candidate and quickly switches into a “selling mode” in which the interviewer now tries to “sell” the applicant on the organization.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a structure interview format, which creates a more legally defensible interviewing process because it asks all the candidates the same questions. Also be sure to separate the process of gathering information about the candidate from the processes of promoting (selling) the company, making a decision, and negotiating an offer. Each of these processes is different.

4. Many interviewers have a few favorite questions and unofficial tests that they believe are keys to vetting a candidate. (Test Example: An HR Manager who walks candidates to their car to assess the cleanliness of the inside of the vehicle.) Unfortunately, “clever” questions and tests are not supported by statistical evidence that proves the conclusions that the manager believes they prove. There is no empirical evidence that concludes with any degree of certainty that the cleanliness of an applicant’s car is directly related to the quality of his/her work. That is not to say that this hypothesis cannot be proven to be true. However, the interviewer would need to statistically validate his/her conclusions, rather than creating a homegrown test.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a structured interview process that utilizes work-related interview questions, rather than a free-form and unstructured process. Also, forget any personally concocted questions (trick or clever questions), tests, or systems for making “go” or “no go” decisions. Stick to the responsibilities and goals of the open position and you will have plenty of material with which to assess a candidate.

5. Many interviewers assume that the top performers in an interview will also be the best employees.
RECOMMENDATION: Utilize an interview process that is less influenced by the personality and performance of the candidate and more heavily weighted to the quality of the answers and the actual or comparable experiences of the candidates that match the position.

6. Most interviewers don’t have the skills to “coach” candidates to give complete answers to interview questions. As such, less articulate candidates may be overlooked if the face-to-face interview is the only tool utilized.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a variety of forms and techniques in order to get complete details about a candidate and his/her accomplishments.

7. Many interviewers only look at a candidate’s experience and education. Then, they assume that if these two criteria match the needs of the position, the person is a good match for the job.
RECOMMENDATION: Utilizing only a hard-skills match for a position is a mistake. There are many Harvard MBAs who have the education and experience to be senior executives, but lack the interpersonal and leadership skills to effectively run an organization. I recommend a simple formula: Education + Experience + Soft Skills + Values + Personality + Performance + Intelligence + References = A Good Employee. The formula breaks down as follows:
a. Education + Experience (exact or comparable experience) = Admission of the candidate to the Soft Skills Interview phase of the Program.
b. A successful Soft Skills Phone Interview = Admission to the Onsite Interview where Values, Personality, Performance, and Intelligence are assessed.
c. A successful Onsite Interview = Strong consideration pending Reference Checks.

8. Most managers are not good at interviewing because they interview infrequently. A 1998 survey in HR Magazine noted that 39% of candidates stated their #1 frustration with interviewers was that the interviewers were “not prepared and not focused during the interview.”
RECOMMENDATION: Use a structured process with specific forms and interview questions that will take the spotlight off the interviewer and place the spotlight where it should be, on the candidate.

9. Most interviewers cannot articulate the culture and values of their organizations. As such, they are not well prepared to conduct a thorough investigation of the values of a candidate to determine if the values of the candidate are aligned with the values and culture of the company.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a process that forces a candidate to expose his/her values and engages the candidate in a meaningful discussion of those values relative to the values and culture of the organization.

10. Most interviewers do not intimately know the job. By intimate, I mean the actual processes and performance standards that are necessary for success in a given position. Most interviewers have a basic understanding of a simplified list of job duties for an open position, but lack the detail knowledge of the position. With only a general understanding of a position, interviewers can easily gravitate to candidates with similar experiences and bypass candidates with great potential who only have comparable experiences.
RECOMMENDATION: Interviewers need to create a thorough job description similar to the process-oriented job descriptions. A process-oriented job description (see sample at identifies the major responsibilities and process steps along with related performance standards. A process-oriented job description also identifies the top 10 soft-skills required for the position, the organizational impact of each responsibility, the experiences needed, and the physical and mental demands of the position.

11. Most interviewers try to memorize the questions that they want to ask a candidate, whether they use an unstructured or structured interview format, and then hope that they will remember a candidate’s answers when it comes time to make a decision in a week or two.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a printed list of interview questions that you can physically hand to the candidate. The result will be a process that takes the burden off the interviewer trying to remember the questions and it will allow the interviewer to concentrate on the candidate’s answers. Additionally, the interviewer can use his/her copy of the questions as an assessment tool by checking off the question in a coded fashion to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable responses, which will help in the post-interview assessment of the candidate. The interviewer should also make notes to remember significant accomplishments of the candidate that can be reviewed later.

12. Most interviewers tend to “hire in their own image,” rather than the image that fits the position.
RECOMMENDATION: Interviewers need to understand their own behavioral strengths and weaknesses and the behavioral profile required for the open position before interviewing any candidates.

13. Most face-to-face interviews are conducted with just two people in the room – the candidate and the interviewer.
RECOMMENDATION: Always conduct interviews in conjunction with at least one other interviewer, which will allow you to confirm your reactions to a candidate’s answers and body language. NEVER interview alone!

14. Most interviewers waste valuable time on face-to-face interviews with candidates who are well qualified for the position but who are not willing to take the position because of the unusual demands of the job, the salary, the benefits, the location of the job, the non-compete agreement that must be signed, or other reasons that may be deal-breakers.
RECOMMENDATION: Use an initial 30-minute phone interview to talk to the best candidates about the position and any of these potential deal-breakers. This is the first step to negotiating an offer (testing the offer) and a major time saver for the hiring manager.

15. Most managers assess the motivation and energy of a candidate by the person’s display of extroverted qualities such as assertiveness and confidence, while assuming that a more introverted or quiet applicant has less initiative and energy.
RECOMMENDATION: Let the accomplishments of the candidate speak for the person’s motivation, energy, and work ethic and stop falling into the trap of being swayed by the social skills and exterior mannerisms of an applicant who may simply be a good actor.

The Secrets To Hiring Success Program offered by Lukesh Consulting Group (LCG) is specifically designed to remove these 15 mistakes from the hiring process. To learn more about the Program, visit the LCG website at and click on the link titled, Secrets To Hiring Success Program.

Nicole Thomas

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