How to avoid hiring the wrong people by improving your interview technique

Recruitment can be a risky business. While someone may look great on paper and even ace the interview, they can sometimes flop when it actually comes to doing the job itself. This is when you know you’ve made a bad hire and bad hires can be costly.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development the cost of a mis-hire can range from £12,000 for a junior position to as much as £27,000 or more for senior positions. Yet employers can significantly reduce – even eliminate – these costs by being better interviewers.

So how can hiring managers limit this risk, keep their recruitment costs to a minimum and better their chances of hiring the right person? The answer lies in having a more effective interview technique.

Having practised law for over 20 years for some of the regions largest and most respected law firms, we have seen at first hand the different ways that some practices approach the interview process. And we have seen the contrasting impact this has on their long-term staff retention levels too.

Here’s a few tips based on our experience to help you hire the right people.


1 Do your homework and be prepared:

As the interviewer you expect candidates to have thoroughly researched your company, so why shouldn’t they expect the same of you? Do your homework on each candidate, think about their most recent role and how it compares to the role you are looking to fill.


2 Be clear about your selection criteria:

The purpose of the interview isn’t simply about trying to find a candidate who appeals to everyone on the interview panel, it’s about making better recruiting decisions and identifying the attributes most commonly associated with high-performing, high-potential employees.

Consider the following key factors:

  • Do they have clearly defined career plan?
  • Have they got a proven track record of hitting and exceeding targets?
  • Are they able to demonstrate an ability to manage and prioritorise projects?
  • Do they take acknowledge past failures and can they demonstrate the lessons they have since learned from these failures?
  • Do they share credit for successes or seek the limelight?
  • Do they share the same or similar attributes as the top performers in your firm?


3 Limit the number of interviewers:

Having a candidate undertake a series of interviews or be interviewed by a panel made up several representatives from the firm has a treble negative effect. Firstly, it can be very intimidating for the candidate and makes it difficult for them to truly shine or create any rapport with you.

Secondly, it is incredibly time consuming – for you, your colleagues and the interviewee who will invariably have taken time off work to meet with you. And finally, the more drawn out the process, the less favourably the applicant will look on you as an employer of choice, which could be damaging to your employer brand.

Aim to keep the number of interviewers to a minimum and be selective of who you ask to join you – are they likely to be able to get the most out of the candidate, or will they simply sit relatively silently in the corner, causing the interviewee be on edge and nervous?


4 Prepare your questions:

Once you have an idea of the person you are about to meet, plan your questions in such a way that they not only challenge the candidate but also gives them the opportunity to really ‘sell’ themselves to you.

For example:

  • What has attracted you to this role and why are you looking to move now?
  • What are your key achievements within your current role that suggest you may thrive in this position?
  • Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
  • If you could change one decision or action earlier in your career, what would it be and why?
  • Tell me about the one project or accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of.
  • If we are sat here in 12 months time looking back at your first full year in this role, what do you think we would say we achieved together?


5 Review and rank:

Once you have completed the interview process, it’s time to review your notes and rank each candidate into one of three categories: yes, no or maybe. And don’t underestimate the role gut instinct plays in the final decision making process.

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how using thin slicing and gut feeling you can make just as good a decision, if not better than consciously seeking all relevant information. He described it as “summing up the best option based on everything you know.”


6 Make an offer – quickly:

Waiting until you have seen several candidate’s before making a decision on a key hire can work against you – if they are as good as you think they are and are an ideal fit, you can bet your competition is thinking the same. So act fast and make the offer before someone else does.