Interviewing Doesn’t Work Very Well

My Recruiting Trends Survey for 2006 will be available within a week or two, but one of my main findings was that candidate quality remains your number one concern. As I speak with clients who are looking back on last year, I hear dissatisfaction and concern. In many cases, they are dissatisfied with the quality of candidates they recruited, and all of them wish to avoid the frenzied decision-making and frustrated hiring managers that have become common. Unemployment is still low for skilled people, and demographic projections indicate a long-term swing toward a market driven by candidates rather than by organizations. We are once again beating the bushes for good candidates and are facing a new generation of workers with different attitudes about employment. Most recruiters rely entirely on reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates to determine their quality. Yet, study after study shows that interviewing is a pretty unreliable process. It is rarely done consistently from person to person, is highly subjective, and is based on whatever assumptions (prejudices) the recruiter or hiring managers have.

However, screening and assessment tools and processes can save large amounts of money and time. Here are four practical things you can do right now to help reduce the number of poor-quality hires that you make.

Number 1: Establish a Definition of Quality and Use it to Select People

Most organizations do not have any definition of a “quality employee,” nor do they even have a performance management system that is anything better than a popularity contest. While I could write a long column on the pros and cons of performance management philosophies, suffice it to say that before any performance can be assessed, the organization has to have a clear idea of what good or exceptional performance looks like. It needs to have longitudinal studies of its best performers so that a pattern of actions, competencies, and skills can be established that are linked to success. Then these characteristics can be used to select new people. This is the time to unravel the characteristics of the good performers, and develop profiles by function of top performers’ skills and competencies. There are a host of companies that offer selection tools and services, many of which can be integrated with your applicant/talent management system. I suggest you take a look at Charles Handler’s excellent site, Rocket-Hire. His site contains tons of information on screening and assessment and provides a guide to the many tools available. Charles is also an excellent consultant in this field. But, while these tools are essential for determining candidate quality, there’s still the need for the creative and unorthodox, from time to time, to keep the creative juices flowing and to unseat the status quo that can be damaging to new ideas and growth. What you should be striving for is not perfection, but improvement and the setting of some minimum selection criteria.

Number 2: Educate Hiring Managers

Very few hiring managers know much about selection or about what it takes to assess a candidate. Even though you may have put all the managers through some sort of interview training, I’m sure they have forgotten most of it and have used less. Most of us are not disciplined, nor can we expect the typical manager to become expert with these techniques. One area where recruiters can add value is to pre-screen and evaluate candidates against criteria that are objective and job-related. Managers can help you determine what those criteria are, and they should be well aware of the consequences of using the criteria. Using them might mean that their best candidate technically is a poor candidate when it comes to attitude or fit and should not be hired. You can hold briefing sessions, spend time one-on-one with managers, hire a consultant to work with them, or simply gather and use case studies and examples from your own organization to help managers understand how important it is to select people with the right skills and the right organizational fit and attitude.

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Number 3: Investigate and Experiment With New Tools for Screening and Selection

It is startlingly obvious that very few firms, before investing a large amount of time in interviews, are taking advantage of the many online tools that are emerging to help screen candidates. By using the Internet and your corporate website, you can ask candidates to engage in a dialogue and mutual assessment process. While you are looking at their skills and fit, they can be looking at your organization and can make decisions about whether or not they like what they see. Many people I have spoken with have seen one side of an organization while interviewing, and another less attractive one after they are hired. Let candidates email other employees for information about the company and work/life. Recently, blogs have become popular with candidates because they bring authenticity and reality about the organization. And, by simply adding job previews and marketing-oriented job descriptions, you can improve the kinds of candidates who apply.

Number 4: Teach Yourself

Take time to gain a new skill, read a book or two on selection or assessment, take a seminar on the topic, or at least have some good conversations with vendors or other recruiters about what they are doing. Spend a few hours looking at other organizations’ recruiting websites and noting what you like and don’t like. Try applying for a job and see what you think about the quality of the process. Recruiters who set aside a period of time every day or week for improving themselves always end up in better jobs and attract better candidates. Organizations that are using the selection tools that are now available, combined with websites that are written to attract and target the right candidate, are finding that candidate quality has improved. Interviewing is not enough, takes too much time, and yields poor results when measured against objective criteria. It just won’t do it anymore.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


5 Comments on “Interviewing Doesn’t Work Very Well

  1. Interviewing doesn’t work because the companies have a certain bias towards candidates. That bias interferes with the interviewing process that is suppose to be objective. A candidate who works for the competitor will have the bias odds in their favour although they may be competing with a Candidate B who is outside the industry. There is too much of a preoccupation to circulate the same people in the industry rather than introduce new corporate blood in the company. The software industry is a classic example of what happens when the same people get hired. The reality is that the industry has become a mature market requiring new skills and new corporate blood to compete in the marketplace. The geeks may be running the companies but really do not understand the importance of marketing and selling mature brands in a mature market that is flooded with similar products that may be perceived as cheaper. They really should be talking to the folks at Procter and Gamble.

    Unfortunately for most companies changing hiring practices in order to reflect new business reality is not always possible or desired. The disappointments continue and the same people get preferential treatment while other qualified individuals are disqualified because of a higher standard of qualifications set for these individuals.

    Josie Erent

  2. I think everyone would agree that interviews are subject to all the factors Josie outlined.

    There is also considerable research to support interviewer bias; a candidate’s ability to either fake-good or conceal deficiencies; lack of interview structure; overlooking important job skills; and, not working from a legitimate competency list.

    And…I almost forgot..there is also considerable evidence showing that untrained interviewers overflow with confidence about their ability to predict job skills.

    It’s available to anyone who wants to look it up.

  3. Dr. Williams,

    Thank you for your support. The percentage of people who lie about their credentials are a small percentage. My discussion was geared towards obviously qualified candidates with legitimate backgrounds.

    I must add that a lot of companies get referrals internally from employees and senior executives….This too poses as bias and in some cases provides preferential treatment. It may explain why some executives have been able to get away with exaggerating credentials that are not given full scrutiny compared with candidates with no affiliations internally.


    Josie Erent
    Talented Minds

  4. Hi Josie…

    Responding to your comments about senior-level recruiting, Bob Hogan (U. Tulsa)published an article a few years ago showing that senior executives more often fail because they have ‘dark-side’ personality defects (i.e., not because of skills).

    Here’s the clincher: executive dark-side factors are usually hidden under a facade of charisma, intelligence and charming personality. Yet, when these folks obtain a position of power, defects quickly surface. You might even recall someone who successfully argued that sexual contact with a young female subordinate in the executive coat closet was a ‘private’ matter? (This particular defect is called ‘narcissism’).



  5. Thank you Wendell for that industry tidbit of information.

    I want add another Dark side point – Corporate Greed and Corporate Bullies

    Unfortunately it is often referred to as competive salaries for all senior executives including the mediocre ones, a topic which has been getting alot of negative press on CNBC news including a recent Retail corporation shareholder revolt which has been ignored by board members and senior executive teams.

    I won’t mention any names but I will tell you……some of the stuff on CNBC has been down right more entertaining than a frivolous TV soap opera.

    However there have been executives who are new to companies and have been fired as perceived threats to their bosses. Not due to narcissism but simply more due to insecure egos and their perception of their colleague as posing a professional threat to boss. More talented than boss.

    Josie Erent
    Talented Minds

    Josie Erent
    Talented Minds

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