Current statistics suggest that on average, hiring the wrong person for the job costs an organization at least 2-1/2 times the employee’s salary. This doesn’t include less measurable costs, such as low team morale and loss of customers.

As managers, many of us never receive formal training on how to interview successfully. How hard can it be – sit down and get to know the person, right? Wrong – it is much more complex than that!

Let’s take Emily, a hiring manager at a financial services firm. She is down one person on her team, and work is piling up. She is also swamped herself with budget review and quarter-end tasks. If only she could find someone quickly to pick up the slack…

Good news – a co-worker knows someone, who knows someone, who submitted a resume. She looks like a good candidate who can start right away.

It’s Tuesday morning, and while Emily is preparing for an important meeting, she is reminded that this candidate’s interview starts in five minutes.  

After glancing at the resume, Emily begins the interview. The candidate presents herself well and seems to have all the “right answers.” Emily quickly realizes she is “perfect” for the job and extends an offer. What a relief!

Two weeks later, Emily (and the whole staff) realize this person isn’t right for the job.

The manager, in this scenario, just made the two most common mistakes. Can you identify them?

#1 Not devoting enough time:

  • Prepare in advance by documenting the qualities a person needs to be successful in the position – then prioritize. What are the most important, “must-have” qualities you are seeking in a candidate (Wouldn’t you do this if you were purchasing a new phone?)


  • Create open-ended questions to draw from that are customized to the essential qualities you are seeking. (For example with “Ability to Prioritize”: “Tell me about a time when you handled multiple priorities – what were they and how did you manage it?”)
  • Set aside concentrated time for reviewing the resume and application to find red–flags, discrepancies, and vague areas to probe during the interview. 
  • Don’t short–change the importance of face-to-face interview time (via Skype/Zoom or in-person) – what task is more important than finding the right person? When you know what you’re looking for and use thought-provoking questions followed by focused listening, you’ll spend anywhere between 45 min. and multiple one-hour plus meetings.  You are better off with no one in the job than the wrong person.

#2 Succumbing to the Halo Effect:

Don’t be so desperate for a “warm body” that you see what you want to see or hear what you want to hear. (And unconsciously put a halo over the candidate’s head.) 

  • Probe a candidate’s answers to hear specific examples, not generalities that sound good. Give yourself permission to be a bit skeptical and don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. This is not the time to be a “glass half full” person. 
  • Seek out the candidate’s limitations and weaknesses to gain a more balanced picture of the person. If you think they are “perfect,” you haven’t obtained enough information about this person to make an objective decision. No one is perfect.

While there are more than two serious interviewer mistakes, these two are common because we are often not even aware we are doing it, and their impact can be devastating.

Practical Discipline: When in doubt, don’t hire – keep looking.

Jim Collins

I’m continually amazed at the number of business people I meet who complain about spending “so much time” selecting a new employee, yet are often willing to spend twice that time researching a new copy machine.

Barbara Gallagher