6 Major Pitfalls When Assessing Candidates Solely Based on Interviews

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

After conducting an interview with a candidate, does it feel like you’re never getting the full picture? Or do you find yourself struggling to get quality insights into their personality and work ethics?

We still tend to use interviews to mix and match our job requirements with the person we have in front of us. Yet, there are major drawbacks when it comes to assessing candidate fit solely based on interviews though. 

In this blog, we’ll run through 6 pitfalls when assessing candidates just based on interviews.

6 Major pitfalls when assessing candidates solely based on interviews

Interviews are often perceived as the ultimate gateway to finding the perfect candidate, however, in reality, it’s littered with many pitfalls:

  • Interviewer bias
  • Interviews are often inconsistent
  • Interview answers are easily manipulable
  • Extremely time-consuming & costly
  • Interviews can be incredibly stressful for candidates
  • Interviews may not showcase an applicant’s true capabilities

Interviewer bias

85% to 97% of recruitment professionals rely to some degree on their gut to make hiring decisions and our gut feeling is primarily driven by our unconscious rather than conscious thought processes. The interview process is where our unconscious biases tend to cloud our judgement of a candidate the most.

Biases lead to a candidate evaluation that is entirely subjective, possibly leading to:

  • Rejecting the best candidates,
  • Wasting time on candidates that are not suitable for the role,
  • Making mishires which can cost you 141.66% of this person’s annual salary,
  • Diminishing your hiring efficiency and quality,
  • Slowing down the growth of your company.

 

Without a doubt, interviewer bias can present itself in many different ways, each dependent on the person who is conducting the interview, the interviewee, as well as the overall situation in which the interview is taking place.  This brings us to the next pitfall.

Interviews are often inconsistent

Without a solid structure for the interviews (and to be fair – also even if there is a structure in place), it is common to be inconsistent with your interviewing approach when it comes to different candidates. For example, instead of asking everyone the same 5 to 10 questions, you adjust your questions to the candidate, meaning that you might only have 1 similar question for everyone. This leads to an incomplete picture of candidates, forcing you to let your biases fill in the blank spot. 

Different times of the day, different days, or even the fact that perhaps you had an argument with someone just before entering the interview. Different interviewers also have different styles of interviewing, thus often also leading to a different evaluation of the same candidate (even if the same scorecards are being used). 

External factors affect the interview and your perception of the candidate. 

For example, when interviewing a candidate, you will unconsciously be focused on assessing the similarities (or lack of similarities) you share with them. The more similarities you share, the more likely it will be that you have a positive view of this candidate, regardless of their suitability for the specific role (similiarity/affinity bias).

Interview answers are easily manipulable

I dare you to take a second and do a simple google search for “how to answer insert what you want to assess interview questions” and I guarantee you will see hundreds of articles pop up on the best ways of answering these questions:

Chances are that most of us have done our research into potential interview questions, and pre-planned and curated our answers to the questions. Some might even argue that interviews nowadays have become more focused on how well the candidate is able to mold themselves according to the job description rather than who they actually are.

For example, if your company describes its culture in detail on your career site, there’s a big chance that candidates can at least guess what types of behaviours you’re looking for. The perfect example is describing that you, for example, strive for a collaborative culture. 

At most, you will capture how someone wants you to perceive them. 

Let me clarify one thing here: I am not saying that your candidates will lie to you. The dark side of the story is that people choose to intentionally fake their competence for the sake of their own benefit, this can be either intentional faking or unintentional self-presentation

Extremely time-consuming & costly

If your primary method of assessing a candidate fit for the job is through interviews, the reality is as follows:

  • On average, a single job opening receives around 250 applications
  • The typical employer will shortlist and interview 6-10 candidates for a job
  • Job interviews tend to last between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
  • There are on average 2-3 interviews with one candidate per open job position (if not more – you’d be surprised how many companies have hiring processes that consist of 5 or even more interviews).
  • Usually, 5 candidates are invited to the final round of interviews.

 

Imagine if, with all this effort and time put into interviewing, you still haven’t found a candidate that is the best fit for the job. Not only have you wasted precious time you could have spent focusing on other tasks or more suitable candidates, but you’ve also wasted the time of those you interviewed. 

The consequences you’re left with? 

  • You miss out on top talent (the top prospective candidates are off the market in 10 days).
  • Potential candidates might feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organisation and withdraw themselves from the job application process.
  • Candidates might feel that the company lacks innovation and motivation as well.
  • Damaged employer brand image and the candidate experience.
  • You will start to hire anyone that applies, without taking into consideration their suitability for the role – just to fill the role.

Also - time is money, literally

An average HR manager monthly salary in the Netherlands of €4,475. Applying the employer’s taxes, let’s take 30% of the gross salary for this example, which means a monthly cost of €5,800 for the employer. Taking 130 working hours per month on average, this means one-hour costs €44.5.

Now, if the HR manager spends on average 40 hours sourcing, reviewing and screening resumes, writing the job description and preparing for the role prior to interviews – it adds up to being €1780 of your costs. Of course, there are also first interviews and second interviews, which let’s assume will take up 15 hours of the HR manager’s time, equal to €667 per candidate. And this is just an estimation…

Interviews can be incredibly stressful for candidates

Interviews are often seen as “high stakes” environments that cause many to experience nerves and anxiety before or during their interviews. Sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, and the inability to focus are common symptoms of interview stress and anxiety. For those who have limited or no interviewing experience, an interview may be a nerve-racking experience, thus leading to a false impression of how they would actually behave in a workplace and specific role.

93% of candidates admit to experiencing job interview anxiety at some point in their career and 41% of candidates worry about not being able to answer a difficult question!

An interview may not showcase an applicant’s true capabilities

You can ask a candidate as many questions as you’d want during an interview, but you will never be able to capture someone’s natural attitude or true capabilities through their answers to these questions. 


Even though someone wants to show the true version of themselves, it’s (nearly) impossible to really show your natural behaviour during an interview.

What to do instead

The main reason why we tend to attach so much value to interviews, is because we know that our screening processes aren’t good enough. However, an interview won’t cover it all:

  1. You can’t assess everything through an interview. Personality hard to assess, as people tend to show a socially desirable version of themselves during an interview. And on top of that, (cognitive) skills are nearly impossible to accurately estimate. Let’s be honest, how confident can you be about someone’s problem solving skills or critical thinking ability after an interview? 
  2. It will never be objective. It’s simply impossible to conduct a fully unbiased interview, and to interpret all information in a truly unbiased way, when putting human beings together in a room without any guidance of technology. Our frame of reference is a powerful phenomenom we should be thankful for, as it allows us to live our daily lives, but in hiring, this same powerful phenomenom also keep us from judging people unconsciously. 

Assessing candidates through pre-employment assessments

Pre-employment assessments allow you to gather valuable insights about candidates in a standardized and objective manner. And base your final hiring decision on data instead of your gut feeling. Over the past years, there has been a significant increase in terms of the usage of pre-employment assessments in hiring. The focus of these assessments can range from personality to cognitive abilities and behaviour.

All with one goal: Getting to know your candidates to ultimately make better hires.

Now, this is how conducting a pre-employment assessment prior to the 1st interview impacts the performance of your interview:

How Equalture can help

Our neuroscientific games, measuring a person’s cognitive abilities and behaviour, form the foundation of Equalture. They help you define your hiring needs. They help you assess the true potential of your candidates. And they help you select the best candidate. 

 

On top of that – based on the game scores, we offer interview guides, including specific questions that can be asked to deep diver into certain assessment scores. As well as a scorecard that is included the ensure an objective evaluation of the answers provided during the interview.

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