Klinefelter: By the Numbers

Top Mistakes Job Interviewers Make

First impressions of a job applicant aren't necessarily accurate. (Photo by Dino Talic, CC BY 2.0)

I'm an avid fan of human resources consultant Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics, and have used his blog as the basis for one of my articles in the past. After reading this one on how to conduct job interviews, I called Mel and he graciously gave me permission to use the material. As costly as a bad hire can be, I thought it was excellent advice to pass along. It's not just the cost of finding someone else, but the poor performance caused by having the wrong person on the job, and the tendency to procrastinate getting rid of them. Here's Mel's list of top mistakes by job interviewers:

1. Failing to Create a Job Description.

How can you hire the best person for the job if you haven't defined what "the best" is? In addition to listing tasks and responsibilities, job descriptions should spell out the mental and physical capacities, attitudes, personality traits, and skills that are key to success.

2. Asking Illegal Questions.

Write out your interview questions, review each one, and ask yourself: What does this have to do with the person's ability to do the job?" If it's not job-related, don't ask it. If you need someone who will be on time every day, don't ask, "Do you have a reliable daycare provider?" Ask, "Other than personal illness, how many days were you late for work in the last six months?"

3. Relying on First Impressions.

A study by the University of Chicago found 90% of interviewers make a hiring decision within the first 14 seconds of meeting the applicant. It's no wonder so many bad hiring decisions are made.

4. Forgetting Who Needs to Make an Impression.

Applicants today are picky about where they'll work. Interviewers need to sell applicants on the job and the company. (Applicants report major turnoffs were being kept waiting and interviewers who are not prepared.)

5. Hiring Based Only on the Interview.

A hiring decision based on the interview alone is successful only 18% of the time. The best predictors of success on the job are testing (53%), a temporary job assignment (44%), and the reference check (26%). Job testing doesn't and shouldn't always be written. It may be a practical test of putting a candidate through a skill test of whether they can actually do the tasks the job requires. Experience is reliable only 14% of the time and age is the least reliable predictor of success (-1%).

6. Biases.

A bias is the instant bond you feel when you find out someone is from your hometown even though its population is over 50,000 and you've never met before. Biases cause us to hire who we like best instead of the person who is best for the job.

7. Not Asking the Right Questions.

You can count on every unprepared interviewer to say: "Tell me about yourself," and then ask: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" And every job applicant has canned answers to those questions. The best questions to start with are: "Tell me about your first paying job. What three things did you learn from it?" Use the same questions to take the applicant through their entire work history. The answers, from their earliest experience to the most recent, paint a vivid picture of the person' work ethic, commitment, and drive.

8. Talking Too Much.

Most interviewers forget that they can't learn anything new while talking. Rule of thumb: The applicant should do the talking at least 80% of the time.

9. Interviewing from the Application or Resume.

When you conduct interviews with either of these documents in hand, you tend to simply confirm the information the applicant has already provided instead of learning what you need to know.

10. Emphasizing Experience and Education.

Harvard Business School determined that the combination of information, intelligence, and skill account for only 7% of business success. Attitude alone accounts for the other 93%. Far too few interviewers ask attitude questions like: "I know you would work harder or longer hours if asked, but, just in the course of your normal workday, what have you done for an employer that is more than what was expected of you?"

Try these suggestions out. You may find you don't do a lot of them. Remember author Jim Collin's quote in his best-seller "Good to Great": "The great companies get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus."

To follow Mel's blog, go to http://humetrics.com/…

EDITOR'S NOTE: Danny Klinefelter is an agricultural finance professor and economist with Texas AgriLIFE Extension and Texas A&M University. He also is the founder of the mid-career Texas A&M management course for executive farmers called TEPAP. Grains Pro subscribers can access all of his columns online using the News Search feature under News.