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Sweeping Employee Training and Management

You Can Avoid the Most Common Interviewing Mistakes

Current statistics suggest that on average, hiring the wrong person for the job costs an organization at least 2-1/2 times the employee's salary. This doesn't include less measurable costs such as low morale and loss of customers.

by Amy Henderson with Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Henderson Training LogoAs managers, many of us never receive formal training on how to interview successfully. How hard can it be - sit down and get to know the person, right? Wrong – it is much more complex than that!

Let's take Bob, a company manager who does the hiring at a sweeping contracting firm. He is down one person on his staff and work is piling up. He is also swamped with proposals and quarter-end tasks. It's clear to him that he needs to find someone quickly to pick up the slack…

Good news – a co-worker knows someone, who knows someone, who submitted a resume. S/he looks like a good candidate who can start right away.

It's Tuesday morning and as Bob is preparing for an important meeting with a client, the receptionist reminds him that this candidate has arrived for their scheduled interview.

Bob has ten minutes to spare before leaving for the meeting. After glancing at the resume, he asks the candidate to come into his office. The candidate presents himself well and seems to have all the "right answers." Bob feels that he is "perfect" for the job and extends an offer. What a relief!

Two weeks later, Bob and the whole staff realize this person isn't right for the job. The manager in this scenario just made the two most common mistakes. Can you relate?

#1: Not Devoting Enough Time:

  • Prepare in advance by writing down what qualities a person needs in order to be successful in the position – then prioritize. What are the most important, "must-have" qualities you are looking for? (Wouldn't you do this if you were purchasing a new computer or phone system?)
  • Create open-ended questions customized to the key qualities you are looking for. (For example: "Tell me about a time when you handled multiple priorities – what were they and how did you manage it?")
  • Set aside concentrated time to review resumes and applications to find red-flags, discrepancies, and vague areas to probe in the interview.
  • Before the interview, take time to check references. You'll find these will often orient the questions you choose to ask.
  • Don't short-change the importance of face-to-face interview time – what management task is more important than finding the right person? You are better off with no one in the job than the wrong person in the job.

#2 Succumbing to the 'Halo Effect:'

  • Don't be so desperate for a "warm body" that you see what you want to see or hear what you want to hear. (And put a halo over the candidate's head.)
  • Probe a candidate's answers to hear specific examples, not generalities, that sound good. Give yourself permission to be a bit skeptical and not give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Seek out the candidate's limitations and weaknesses to gain a more balanced picture of the person. If you think they are "perfect," you haven't obtained enough information about this person to make an objective decision. No one is perfect.

Lastly, as "Good to Great" author Jim Collins says, "When in doubt, don't hire - keep looking." The cost of a poor hiring decision is just too high.

Amy Henderson, head of Henderson Training, may be reached via email sent to

Have questions or comments about this article? Please let us know.

This article was added to in 7.07.

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