The pitfalls and perceptions that lead to poor recruitment decisions

A typical interview is “a conversation between 2 liars” says Claudio Fernandez Araoz, one of the most influential Executive Search Consultants in the world according to Business Week. His statement is not as far-fetched as you might think. How many interviews are played out by the interviewer welcoming the candidate to potential paradise whilst the candidate does their best to demonstrate that they walk on water?

In my talk on Interviewing at a Cambridge Network Breakfast Networking session on 26 January, I shared with the audience how and why we need to change the way we approach interviews.

Think of the economic crash in 2008. The financial meltdown was primarily caused by a flawed recruitment strategy. Over a 20 year period, traders with a high need for reward and recognition (who were prepared to take high risks to achieve that ‘buzz’) were recruited and promoted in place of quieter, more cautious introverts. Boykin Curry, Managing Director of US investment firm Eagle Capital had first-hand experience of the problem: “People with certain personality types got control of capital and institutions and power. And people who are congenitally more cautious and introverted and statistical in their thinking became discredited and were pushed aside.”

Most hiring mistakes are made in the first 30 minutes due to the impact of first impressions. Due to our unconscious psychological biases we instinctively surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, and with whom we feel comfortable. When interviewing some of us over-value our intuition. The rest of us over-value a candidate’s technical competence, and almost all of us over-value how well people come across in the interview over on the job performance.

How do we overcome these challenges?

  • The good news is that you get better once you know what to look for. Taking the time to understand the real job requirements and how a candidate needs to be motivated to perform at a consistently high level, allows you to accurately determine whether a candidate is competent and motivated to do the job.
  • Know yourself – as Virginia Woolf said ‘If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.’ Be honest about your leadership style and the environment you are operating in such as whether the pace is demanding, there are inadequate resources or a lack of clear expectations.
  • Be aware of decision fatigue. Schedule your interviews when you are fresh, for example at the beginning of the day or right after lunch, when your glucose levels are high. Otherwise you could fall into one of two negative behaviours: being afraid of making a decision or making risky decisions.
  • Slow down the point of initial contact to prevent over selling. Telephone interviews of 30 / 40 minutes allow both parties to explore whether they want to move forward as well as overcome initial biases.
  • Create an environment where the candidate can be themselves. It is your job to make them feel comfortable by having a career conversation to ensure the role and company is right for both parties.
  • Keep your questions clean. There is no evidence that trick questions have any predictive value in understanding how good a candidate is at thinking and problem solving. It is much more valid to ask how they would solve or address a specific job related problem or situation.
  • Having a panel of interviewers who are different to you will challenge your biases and increase the diversity of talent you could hire. Use assessment ratings to make objective hiring decisions.

Katherine Wiid of Recrion coaches and supports recruiting managers to make confident hiring decisions.


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