Hiring Practices Are Frighteningly Inconsistent in Most Companies

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Feb 17, 2022

If you were to eavesdrop on a dozen job interviews in your company, do you think you’d hear the same interview questions being asked? Would the interviews proceed in the same order? Would managers evaluate candidates consistently?

If the previous paragraph made you scoff, wince, or laugh, you’re not alone.  

In the study, “The Worker Shortage Is Partially Self-Inflicted,” research showed that 62% of HR executives believe that their company’s hiring managers are inconsistent in how they interview candidates. And 68% think that their hiring managers are inconsistent in how they evaluate candidates.

Inconsistency Is Ineffective

Far too many organizations allow hiring managers to ask whatever they want, whether those questions give away the right answers, elicit canned answers, or contain bias. Oh sure, most companies give their hiring managers some guidance on which interview questions to ask, but those gentle suggestions rarely stop them from asking their favorite questions, no matter how ineffective.

The problem goes even deeper, as most hiring managers don’t know what’s wrong with the interview questions they ask. 

The report “Six Words That Ruin Behavioral Interview Questions” asked over 800 hiring managers whether they could identify problems with a series of interview questions.  

Here’s an example: Hiring managers were asked to assess the question, “Tell me about a time when you had to balance competing priorities and did so successfully.” 

The vast majority of them thought that was a perfectly good question. Fewer than 20% correctly identified that the words “and did so successfully” gave away the right answer and ruined the question. Even fewer respondents correctly identified that the word “balance” also gave away the right answer.

You shouldn’t ask candidates when they successfully balanced competing priorities; instead, you should ask them when they faced competing priorities and then assess whether they balanced them successfully. 

In an ideal world, hiring managers would be fluent in the science of effective (and ineffective) interview questions. But even if that’s an impossible fantasy, having a consistently-utilized set of well-designed interview questions shouldn’t be.

The Case for Consistency

One way to start making a case for greater hiring consistency throughout your organization is to assess the quality of new hires department by department and manager by manager. If your company is like most, quality-of-hire assessments and turnover will vary wildly from one area to the next. Some hiring managers will have a fantastic track record, while others will be revealed as lacking.  

The point isn’t to shame the poor performers but rather to tee up the question, “How much better would our recruiting and hiring practices be if all hiring managers performed as well as our top performers?”

You could also tackle this issue from the opposite direction. Much like some hiring managers hire a much greater percentage of high performers, some hiring managers hire a much greater percentage of low performers. Again, you’ll almost certainly see these numbers vary wildly from one manager to another.  

I’ve even known a few HR leaders who gathered executive support for consistent hiring practices based solely on the idea that a priori inconsistency is bad. It’s probable that your executive team wouldn’t tolerate wildly inconsistent operational or financial practices across the company’s departments, so why would they tolerate inconsistency in hiring practices?

We all know that inconsistent hiring practices are a major problem in most companies. And we all know that there would be significant benefits if we eliminated at least some of those inconsistencies. We do know that, right?

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