The Cost of Bad Interviewers: Losing Time, Money, and Talent to Poor Interview Skills

Interviewees are often concerned about having a bad interview experience, worrying if they’ll answer questions well, present themselves professionally, and make a good enough impression to be asked back or even offered the job. Job seekers spend hours preparing their resumes and discussion points around key accomplishments to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. But what about the interviewers? How much thought and preparation do they put into the interview process? And what’s the impact if they don’t?

Interviewing skills are recruiting skills — which means encouraging and enticing people to join the organization is a critical aspect of the interview that should not be undertaken lightly. An interviewer’s level of preparedness and how well they treat candidates is directly related to their success in bringing talent into the organization, and making people feel important and treated respectfully.

Being the one behind the desk in an interview might make some people feel like they hold all the cards; however, an interview is a two-way street. Any unprofessional behaviors on behalf of the interviewer — having the wrong resume or leaving a candidate alone for 20 minutes — is anything but enticing to a prospective employee. Behaviors like that go against the goal of successfully recruiting the best talent to an organization, so the content and tactical aspects of an interview need to be aligned and in place well ahead of time.

A negative interviewing experience threatens the organization’s reputation — and a negative employer brand can quickly translate into lost business. Anyone interviewed when the interviewer had the wrong resume or who was left waiting in the conference room will likely tell other people in their profession how poorly they were treated by the company. You don’t want to gain a bad reputation for something that is entirely preventable.

And while it can be difficult to quantify in dollars, a protracted interview process, often duplicating efforts as candidates lose interest, results in lost productivity and expensive time spent on ancillary tasks. The obvious culprit is the vacant position that the rest of the team has to cover while an interview process takes place. Additionally, every member of the interview team likely spends several hours meeting with people and debriefing their impressions — the longer the process, the more time spent away from other business functions. Having a robust and streamlined interview protocol decreases the amount of time spent that could otherwise be put to use capturing more talent.

One key contributor to a successful interview process is clearly stated qualities, experiences, and values against which candidates are evaluated to see how they align with the organization and the position requirements. Many people eschew this kind of structure and prefer to just “trust their gut” in an interview. But effective interviewing isn’t based off one person’s gut feelings, no matter how intuitive they are.

Interviewers also need to craft and ask deliberate questions to elicit examples of the candidate’s expertise and provide necessary information to make informed decisions. And if multiple people are part of the interview, coordination among coworkers is crucial to avoid everyone asking the same questions ad nauseum. All members of the interviewing team need to connect ahead of time to establish a focus area for each interviewer, allowing for some overlap to see consistency in the answers and the questions the candidate asks.

Since everyone’s “gut” reaction to a candidate will be different, there also has to be agreement on rating each candidate. What will determine whether a candidate meets the role requirements? What are the most important qualities or skills for the position? Create a document of the major skills or experiences and then ask all interviewers to provide ratings on an established scale with examples from the interview as support. People’s gut reactions may work in some situations, but having intuition validated with concrete examples and a quantitative rating system is a much more effective approach.

A significant risk to all organizations in the area of interviewing is legal considerations. To prevent costly lawsuits — and costly negative press — it’s important to make sure all interviewers know what questions could be considered discriminatory and how to avoid them. Small talk about a candidate’s spouse or children or a question about needing time off for religious purposes could land a company in trouble. An interviewer who’s “winging it” runs a greater risk of asking inappropriate questions — inadvertently or otherwise — and this could have serious ramifications for the company.

Interviewing should be a two-way street that requires forethought and a clear process. Without those things, an organization puts itself at risk of losing key talent, tarnishing their brand in the market, and spending unnecessary hours of lost productivity on a protracted process. Companies that plan well and treat candidates with respect and professionalism are the ones getting the best talent and maintaining a great organizational brand.


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