Of all areas of the hiring process, the interview stage is the point where small business owners are most likely to make mistakes that can lead to bad hiring decisions. That's because it's human nature to be swayed by subjective or irrational thought processes that can color your assessment of candidates during interviews. Fortunately, it's possible to overcome these traps and achieve greater objectivity. Here are some common pitfalls and strategies to help small business owners overcome them:
The Pitfall: 'Interviewer's Bias'
In the world of scientific research, the expectations of the scientist can influence the outcome of an experiment. Similarly, in the context of an interview, the hiring manager may develop a bias based on her expectations about an applicant. For example, a manager might believe that a candidate who comes highly recommended by a colleague is in a sense "pre-qualified" and better suited to the position than an "unknown." Or the bias can be more subtle, such as an interviewer who unconsciously favors an applicant whose first name is the same as the interviewer's generous, hard-working uncle.
The Solution: Hold Multiple Interviews
The best way to overcome "interviewer's bias" is to have several qualified individuals meet and question each candidate. The first interviewer, for example, might be a human resources manager, while the supervisor the applicant would report to would conduct the second interview. The business owner or division head might conduct a third interview. Alternatively, a committee composed of a senior executive, a manager and potential coworkers could interview each candidate.
The Pitfall: Comparing Apples and Oranges
Interviewers often believe they are fairly consistent when evaluating candidates when in reality they are assessing variable criteria. For example, a hiring manager may have gleaned extensive details about one applicant's past accomplishments but rushed that part of the interview with another candidate because of time constraints.
The Solution: Standardize the Format
Before scheduling the first round of in-person interviews with candidates who passed the initial phone interview, create and prioritize a standard list of appropriate questions. Generally, interview questions can be grouped into three broad categories: job-related (to review the candidate's accomplishments, skills, experience), aptitude (to further explore specific expertise, special or unique abilities) and interpersonal skills (to determine the candidate's ability to work in a variety of ways – independently, as part of a team or in a leadership capacity).
In addition to these categories of questions, interviewers may want to include a few queries designed to uncover a candidate's professional behavior ("What kind of environment brings out your best performance?"), decision-making capacity ("How would you handle a problem for which there appears to be no clear solution?") or career aspirations ("Where do you see yourself in five years?").
The Pitfall: Faulty Recall
No one's memory is perfect, and after interviewing dozens of candidates, it's inevitable that a manager might have trouble remembering details, or may confuse one applicant's qualifications with another.
The Solution: Keep Meticulous Records
Take careful notes during each interview to facilitate subsequent comparison of candidates and reveal gaps in information. Note-taking also helps offset a natural tendency to place too much importance on an individual candidate's performance during the interview. People who interview well are not necessarily right for the job nor is a reserved, unassuming candidate necessarily a bad match.