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The Seven Most Common Interviewing Errors

By Gerald Walsh ©

We know hiring mistakes are expensive. Some say the real costs can range from two to four times the person’s salary. When you add up the cost of under-performance, severance costs to let the person go, recruiting costs to find a replacement, and the overall impact on employee morale, you can see how these costs can quickly escalate.

If that isn’t enough, your hiring decisions are highly-visible. Your bosses measure you, at least in part, by the quality of the people who work for you. Arguably the success of the people you hire determines how successful you are as a manager.

How can you increase the probability of making good hires?

You can start by learning about the seven most common errors managers make when interviewing and selecting candidates:

Error #1: Not defining the job clearly

Many employers start the interview process without properly defining the job duties and requirements needed to succeed in the job. This increases the risk of hiring the wrong person. A thorough job description will identify duties and responsibilities, reporting relationships, academic or professional qualifications, technical skills and personal qualities, such as interpersonal skills. A well-written document will help you develop structured interview questions that assess an applicant’s suitability for the job.

Error #2: Stereotyping

When interviewing, you might stereotype based on appearance, background, or personal circumstances. For example, I have overheard employers make these observations about candidates:

  • He played football in university; he must be aggressive.
  • He’s wearing casual clothing; he’s probably too laid-back for our company.
  • She has three children; there’s no way she can work overtime.

When you make assumptions like these, you run the risk of missing out on well-qualified candidates as well as possibly being accused of discrimination. Be careful to assess each candidate only on their qualifications and experience relative to the job requirements.

Error #3: Forming first impressions

Several factors cause interviewers to form first impressions including the greeting, the handshake, or the candidate’s dress. What then happens is that you tend to ask questions that support your first impression. For example, if you feel a candidate is disorganized because they’re five minutes late, you tend to elicit information from them that proves this to be true. Good interviewers will seek out both positive and negative information from the candidate and wait until the interview is over before drawing conclusions.

Error #4: Not preparing interview questions in advance

Effective interviewers always prepare interview questions ahead of time that seek out relevant job-related data about the candidate. Reviewing the position requirements and creating questions from that list is the best way to prepare. And, because you are asking the same questions of all candidates, you are able to compare candidates with each other easily.

Likewise, you should record all the candidates’ answers so you don’t forget any important facts about their qualifications. Some interviewers believe that if you take notes during the interview, you’ll leave the impression that you’re not listening to the candidate’s answers. That’s wrong. Candidates will in fact be impressed with your professionalism.

Error #5: Accepting resume information at face value

Some candidates misrepresent or embellish important details on their resumes. Whether it is claiming they hold degrees they don’t have or falsifying employment dates to conceal gaps in their work history, certain applicants will never give you the complete history. Through structured interview questions, detailed reference checking, and confirming stated educational achievements, you can verify all resume information including education, dates of employment, positions held, and accomplishments.

Error #6: Poor interviewing skills

Let’s face it: many managers are thrust into the hiring process with very little training or the experience necessary to make such an important decision. Inexperienced interviewers can commit any one of several possible errors. For example, you may inadvertently tip off a candidate by asking a leading questions. I once heard an employer ask, “In this job, we need someone who is very organized. You’re pretty organized, aren’t you?” Guess what the answer was.

Or, you might overlook non-verbal behaviours demonstrated by the candidate during the interview. Poor eye contact, restlessness, and long pauses can tell you as much about a candidate as what they actually say.

Error #7: Rushing to hire

Many managers make hiring decisions based on the interview alone. While the interview is the most important step in the selection process, it fails to take into account valuable information that could be gathered from other sources. Reference checks, personality assessments and role-playing all provide complementary evidence that will validate (or refute) the judgment you have from the face-to-face interview. Use all these tools and take your time to hire properly. Your reputation as a manager depends on it.

I would like to receive your comments and questions about this topic. Please email me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com and I will respond to you.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn