Recruitment Simplified - Part V

This is Part V in a new series launched through Morrison's People Solutions Monthly, a regular email providing valuable insight into human resources and other related topics. Click here if you'd like to sign up to receive Morrison's People Solutions Monthly email.

Interviewing Pitfalls

In this, the fifth article in our “Recruiting Simplified” series, we will consider two frequent mistakes in the interview process. In a previous article, “Determining Qualifications,” we explored behavioral interviewing and the value of that process in uncovering meaningful information about a candidate. Here, we will be looking at common pitfalls when performing behavioral interviewing. 

Settling for Shallow

As an interviewer, it is easy to settle into a pattern in which we unwittingly accept shallow answers. For instance, consider a situation in which a CFO is asking a Controller candidate to describe a time when they made improvements in the month-end close process. The candidate lists a few activities, including creating checklists, specific procedures, establishing deadlines, as well as relying less on spreadsheets and better utilization of the ERP system. At first pass, these answers seem to be exactly what one wants in a behavioral interview, which is real world examples. However, these answers may not reflect the entire picture. Digging deeper with perceptive questions regarding the candidate’s actual role may reveal the candidate did not actually initiate the activities, but that it was part of a larger project such as an ERP upgrade, and the candidate was simply assigned the activities they are taking credit for. 

These situations in interviewing are not uncommon and do not necessarily reflect any dishonesty on the part of a candidate, but they can reflect a situation in which the interviewer has not thought to drill down and ask the candidate to elaborate regarding their particular role and what they initiated versus what was assigned to them. The art of interviewing is not simply asking the right questions, it is also knowing what follow-up questions to ask. An interviewer needs to be able to think on their feet and drill down into the context of a candidate’s previous behaviors.    

Too General

Elon Musk has been getting attention lately for something other than cars and rockets. There has been some buzz about what he has described as his favorite interview question. He claims that when he is interviewing someone for a technical or engineering position, he always asks the candidate about the most difficult problems they have worked on and how they solved them. This may seem like a fairly general question, however if interviewers ask the right follow-up questions and drill down into the details, this question can get to the heart of behavioral interviewing: getting real world examples of a candidate’s successes and failures. 

Musk’s question incorporates something called Asymmetric Information Management (AIM) into the interviewing process. AIM is an interview technique developed to detect an interviewee’s honesty. It is based on the principle that people have a difficult time providing consistent details regarding past experiences if they are lying or embellishing the truth. It is easy for a candidate to say they have grown a sales territory by 50 percent, but when asked to describe layers of details regarding that growth, such as who, when, where, and how, they will have a difficult time relating the particulars in a consistent manner if they did not actually experience it. When interviewing, avoid the pitfall of allowing a candidate to be too general in their responses. Details are important.

The bottom line in avoiding these pitfalls is to require candidates to provide details. That can be hard to do given the fact that this approach will always take more time. However, when one considers the time involved in correcting a bad hire, the investment is well worth it.

About the Author

Shawn Miller is a principal at Morrison working primarily in our People Solutions practice. To get in touch with Shawn, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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