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Avoid 90% of Interviewing Mistakes With This Simple Acronym

December 13, 2016

interview-mistakes.jpgInterviews are a fantastic way to gain insight about an applicant, but it can be tough to remember all the different best practices. Obviously you want to end up with useful information that will be helpful in your hiring decision, but how can you maximize that likelihood? When you’re deep in conversation with the applicant, what are the most important things to remember to keep the interview on track?

That’s where F.I.S.H. comes in. Keep this acronym in mind while conducting interviews, and you’ll eliminate a significant amount of the biases that can infect your effectiveness. Here’s what to avoid:

F: Framing effects

In framing, the way that a question is asked will directly influence the applicant’s response. You want to avoid framing that will result in an incomplete, false, or vague response. For example, say you want to learn more about a candidate’s ability to multitask. Make sure to avoid framing the question in a way that assumes the right answer. For example, “You’d be able to handle multiple assignments at once, right?” or even “How good are you at multitasking?” are not the best ways to ask that question.

Instead, make sure all questions are as neutral as possible and clearly define all the concepts being asked. A stronger version of this question would be, “Can you tell me about a time in the past month when you’ve had to work on two or more unrelated projects at once?” This gets the applicant focused on their most useful pieces of information, which means better data for your decision.

I: Inconsistency

No one likes to sound like a robot, but research has shown time and time again that interviews are most useful when they are standardized (Campion, Pursell, & Brown, 1988). When different applicants receive different questions, or when you “coach” an applicant through a tough discussion point, you’re no longer able to directly compare or fairly assess their interview performance.

In order to avoid inconsistency as much as possible, create a structured set of interview questions ahead of time for all candidates. Stick to these questions and don’t deviate or provide extra information. If you’re worried that the interview will feel awkward, simply explain ahead of time that you’ll be reading from a set list of questions and you won’t be able to deviate from them. The candidate will understand and they’ll be able to focus on their own responses without getting sidetracked with small talk or questions.

Inconsistency goes beyond just the questions, too — don’t let your own mood or busy schedule influence the interview’s flow. The more similar the experience is for all candidates, the more you can be sure that the results are a true reflection of their performance instead of external or unrelated factors.

Related: The Top 10 Mistakes Hiring Managers Make During Interviews

S: Stereotyping

Stereotyping has always been a hot issue when it comes to interviews, and research shows no signs of it slowing down. While we’re traditionally most familiar with gender and ethnic stereotypes, some more recent examples revolve around age — assuming that older workers won’t be able to use technology or that Millennials will be lazy and quick to quit.

Avoid this common interview bias by sticking to your standardized questions and taking thorough notes about the candidate’s responses. This way, you can refer back to those notes after the interview and objectively weigh in on their responses.

H: Halo/Horn

This is potentially the most dangerous of all biases, because falling victim to halo/horn errors can render your entire interview useless. Halo/horn refers to having a positive (halo) or negative (horn) perspective of a candidate as a whole and letting that broad generalization influence all ratings and interactions.

The trickiest part about halo/horn is that there’s no telling what will be your trigger. Maybe they show up to the interview late and timeliness is very important to you. Or maybe you know that their assessment scores were through the roof and you’re really excited about them as a candidate. It doesn’t even have to be work-related; research shows that people tend to assume attractive people are intelligent and more capable than less attractive people (Dion, Berscheid, & Walster, 1972).

Avoid biases like these the same way you would avoid stereotyping. Let the candidate’s responses to the interview questions guide your decision and be willing to admit to yourself if there are any factors that might be influencing your interpretation.

So next time you’re conducting an interview, don’t be distracted and worried about your biases. Just go F.I.S.H.

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Campion, M. A., Pursell, E. D., & Brown, B. K. (1988). Structured interviewing: Raising the psychometric properties of the employment interview. Personnel Psychology, 41(1), 25-42.

Dion, K; Berscheid, E; Walster, E (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24 (3), 285–90.

Romans, C. (2015). Job interview? Beat the Millennial stereotype. CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/27/pf/millennial-stereotype-job-interview/.

Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.