A Good Impression Can Lead to a Bad Hiring Decision
Job interviews often fail to result in good hiring decisions. That is the finding of a recent analysis published on Bloomberg.com. Human Resources professionals and hiring managers frequently emphasize in-person interviews, so you might wonder why they actually waste time.
The most obvious answer is that people collect bad information during an interview. One study found an astonishing 80% of people lied at least once in an interview. However, the overall impression a candidate makes on an interviewer can also affect the decision maker’s judgement.
What We See Influences What We Think
Visual impressions greatly influence people. Research demonstrates:
- Non-verbal communication accounts for 93% of communication
- It takes 1/10 of 1 second to process visual information
- Our brains process up to 50% of the visual information received by receptors in our eyes
During the interview process, attributes that help candidates include:
- Physical attractiveness
- Being tall
- Having a deep voice
These facts mean that a job seeker that is attractive and charismatic has an advantage over a better-qualified candidate (i.e. someone with higher grades, test scores) viewed as less attractive or personable. Personal impressions are one area that greatly affect hiring managers’ decisions.
We Make Sense of Nonsense
Another disturbing finding from studies of interviewing is that people trust their “feelings” to the point that it crowds out facts. One study by Jason Dana, Robyn Dawes, and Nathanial Peterson found that interviewers tried to make sense of random responses offered by interviewees. Rather than reject nonsense, interviewers interpreted responses to fit their impressions of job candidates.
When interviewers rely on subjective impressions, they downplay more objective measures. Specific aptitude tests and grade point averages have more predictive power than interviews because they measure ability and skills. Research indicates people make better decisions when they limit their exposure to subjective factors such as appearance.
How to Apply It
People involved in hiring read an article such as this one and wonder how to apply it to the real world. In-person interviews are a tradition in the hiring process. People often want to meet someone with whom they will work closely.
Unlike fields such as graphic arts or writing, healthcare decision-makers cannot review a portfolio of work to help them determine a person’s talent. Corporations can ask job seekers to work through scenarios such as how they would handle a belligerent customer or market a service. Clinics and hospitals might view these types of role-playing exercises as too time-consuming.
Better strategies include focusing on the most objective measures possible. Human Resources need to make sure they have a complete picture of an applicant’s past performance. They should also give weight to factors such as the results of employment testing. However, decision-makers must ensure they use tests with a proven record of validity.
If people feel they must interview job candidates, they need to take steps so they are not unduly influenced by factors such as personality or attractiveness. Human Resources should structure the interviews and make sure that the interview portion does not weigh too heavily on the final decision. When people limit subjective feelings and stick to hard facts, they improve the hiring process.