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How to Identify and Avoid 3 Common Hiring Errors

December 17, 2015

fixing-errors.jpgAs a decision maker in a hiring process, it is very easy to make errors or include our own personal bias when it comes to rating a candidate’s performance. Making errors in the hiring process can have negative consequences, including potential lawsuits, damage to company reputation, and even a decrease in employee morale. Below we will discuss 3 common hiring errors and a few recommended ways in which these errors can be avoided.

Rating Error 1: Halo/Horn

We’ve all been guilty of finding something we either like or don’t like about someone and then letting that reflect into other opinions about that person. For example, you might think that that guy who chews his food really loud in the cube next to you is particularly annoying, and thus, many other things about this person become annoying to you. This is an example of the horn error that many too often make. In the hiring process, horn biases come into place when we learn one flaw about a candidate and then generalize that flaw to all other areas. If you learn that the candidate may need some work on being a team player, you may also think that they need to improve their work ethic, problem-solving ability, etc., without any hard facts to prove so. Halo error works the same way, just opposite. If you are interviewing a candidate and find out that they are strong in one area, you automatically assume that they are strong in all other areas.

Rating Error 2: Just Like Me

It can be very easy to like others who are similar to one’s self. For example, if you are at a party and someone happens to mention that they are an avid yogi, if you yourself are an avid yogi, you are more likely to strike up a conversation with that person than someone else. It’s just as easy to like a particular candidate better than another simply because they are similar to you or have similar ambitions, interests, and motivations. The "Just Like Me" error comes into play when we use this particular liking to sway the overall rating of the candidate.

Rating Error 3: Missing Information

Very few people would consider making a major purchase, such as buying a new vehicle, without finding out as much information about the particular vehicle as possible. This same principle should apply to a hiring process; no decisions should be made until a complete representation of a candidate’s qualifications, experience, and motivations can be collected. Too often, companies are quick to hire candidates without capturing all necessary information due to pressure from hiring managers, staff shortages, initiatives, etc. When decisions are made short of collecting all relevant information, candidates may be more likely to turnover, performance expectations may not be met, and time and money can be lost.

How to Avoid Making Rating Errors

Use Objective and Structured Measures

When you use validated and predictive measures, such as any of Select International’s assessments in a hiring process, you significantly decrease the chance of making subjective judgments. Objective measures provide information about how a candidate will likely perform on the job and do not take into account subjective ratings from a rater. Rather, objective measures are frequently scored based upon a customized, scoring algorithm. A candidate’s results are commonly displayed in “pass/fail” format and can provide decision makers with more detailed information on performance tendencies and particular behaviors. Objective measures are typically seen as more legally defensible, given they do not take into account subjective information and have validation evidence to support the assessment and scoring methodology.

When interviewing, a structured process should be followed. Structured interviews utilize a list of predetermined questions relevant to the job at hand that are developed to learn more about a candidate’s job-related experiences. This helps to prevent interviewers from “going off the cuff” and asking questions that are not job-related. Structured rating scales are provided to interviewers and raters so that all question ratings are based off the same standard. These rating scales are commonly referred to as behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARs) and provide raters with sample behaviors to help determine where on the scale the candidate scored (e.g., below average, average, or above average).

Rater Error Training

One common strategy that companies can use to prevent rating errors is to make raters aware of these common errors. This can be done in trainings, 1-on-1s, or shared in a video, as examples. The overall purpose is to teach raters about their subjective biases and how/why they may be likely to use them in the hiring process. The importance of providing accurate ratings and explaining benefits of being accurate in ones ratings (e.g., increasing overall employee and company performance) should be shared as well. The end goal is to increase the accuracy of ratings and reduce the likelihood of using one’s biases when including ratings.

Use Multiple Raters and Methods

When making ratings for specific steps in the hiring process and when making an overall rating of a candidate, decisions should be based upon multiple steps in the process and raters. When and if possible, use more than 1 rater. This practice allows raters to compare their ratings and ideally, find consistency in ratings. For example, have a group and line leader interview a candidate for a machine technician position. Multiple steps and raters are just as important when making an overall decision about a candidate. It may be the case that a candidate interviewed fantastically with one rater, but performed much below average on a work sample simulation exercise coordinated by another rater. By coming together at the end of a candidate’s hiring process and discussing the strengths, weaknesses, and concerns the candidate presented, all information is likely to be on the table and you can avoid making a decision without valuable missing information.


Sometimes knowing about the problem isn’t enough to prevent it. This is especially true in hiring. If you know about the halo error, you still may not spot it when it happens in an interview. Luckily, if you use an objective and structured interview process and the other steps outlined above, you’re more likely to avoid those errors. An added bonus of using a structured process is that it will also improve the legal defensibility of your hiring process.

Interviewer Tips

Lindsey Burke Lindsey Burke is a Senior Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She is largely responsible for client support and managing clients in industries including manufacturing, sales, and healthcare. Lindsey completed her M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Xavier University and earned a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology from Kent State University.