Bad Interview—Everybody Loses

Personal Branding

During a recent presentation to a job search networking group, I told the audience that 5 out of 10 interviewers do a bad job; 3 do an acceptable job; and the remaining 2 do a very good job. The audience agreed with me, even though many in attendance were in leadership positions themselves and had conducted job candidate interviews for their companies. The vast majority of people who said they’d conducted such interviews admitted that they had never taken any preparatory courses in the subject of interviewing, yet they had interviewed many job seekers. They also admitted that they had conducted those interviews on gut feelings by using methods and questions similar to those they themselves had experienced when being interviewed in the past. This state of affairs is a shame, considering the extraordinarily high cost of turnover caused primarily by poor interviewing skills on the parts of interviewers.

Interviewing is an art and a science combined. The objective behind every interview question is to be able to predict to what extent the candidate’s past performance and accomplishments match the company’s future needs. And even though the hiring manager’s opinion is important, so is the input of others—such as team members and the customers they support—because a diversity of opinions generates a better outcome.

The four main things interviewers look for are:

  • Great communication skills
  • Outstanding technical competency
  • Pertinent cultural fit
  • High level of motivation

All four components are important, and if even one of them is missing—even though the candidate may be very strong in the other three—the end result will most likely not be favorable for the candidate.

Typically, companies call back the top candidates for further selection. That second interview’s objectives are (1) to gain more knowledge about the candidate’s motivation, (2) to probe in more depth the candidate’s ability to gain the trust of colleagues and customers, and (3) to become able to predict the candidate’s future behavior. In some cases, there are three or even more sets of interviews.

Companies should invest in improving interviewing skills

The investment of time and effort in a structured and thorough interview process yields rewarding results. A structured interview includes a consensus meeting of members of the interviewing team—a very important segment of the entire interview process. That meeting brings the entire interview process into focus and enables members of the interviewing team to interpret individually for the rest of the team what they heard during their interview of the candidate.

Employee turnover costs companies 10 to 30 percent of a new employee’s yearly salary—without mentioning the loss of productivity and the internal turmoil that results. Besides the cost of hiring the wrong job candidate, such a decision can be detrimental to the entire team or organization. You probably know the adage “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” And how true that is in terms of hiring.