Interviews are a great opportunity for companies to get more information from a candidate about his or her skills, experience, and capabilities, but they are also a way for the candidate to get more information about the company. Interviews sometimes fall at the last stage of a hiring process, which can have implications for how interviewers approach the situation. These candidates may have already gone through a series of stages in the hiring process (e.g., phone screen, application, online assessment, etc.) and may have been considered to be qualified based on the information collected.
As such, interviewers may approach the situation with two goals in mind: to get more information about the candidate and to sell him or her on the benefits of the company so they are more likely to accept a position if offered.
Is having a dual focus during interviews a good idea?
In a study from 2014, Marr & Cable found that interviewers who focused on evaluating and recruiting candidates were much less accurate in their ratings of the candidates than interviewers who only focused on evaluating candidates. Evaluating candidates requires a lot of attention to make accurate judgments. Research has found that devoting more cognitive resources to this task can reduce bias/stereotyping and make one less susceptible to extraneous information thereby getting a truer picture of the candidate.
The problem with having a dual purpose during the interview is that two forces are competing for one’s attention: one to attract and another to evaluate the candidate. When interviewers are spending time selling the candidate on the benefits of the company, they are directing attention away from the process of making accurate dispositional judgments. As a result, interviewers are not as effective at gathering and utilizing the information from the candidate to make a good decision about the candidate’s skills and abilities.
The researchers took this one step further in a subsequent study and found that when interviewers focused only on evaluating the candidate, they were much better at predicting their citizenship behaviors and future success on the job than those with a dual purpose.
So, what does this mean?
While the researchers noted that they were only focused on assessing one attribute (i.e., core self-evaluations) and how this may or may not generalize to other types of skills, the core message is still valuable. Interviewers can’t do it all. The most important thing to do during the interview is to make sure that you get a good read on the candidate.
Here are two tips to make sure that you aren’t depleting your resources and reducing your ability to make correct judgments on candidates:
Keep the evaluating and recruiting process as separate as possible. Focus on gathering information and taking good notes. Even though it’s common to answer questions for the candidate and provide them more information about the company, keep this at the end once you’ve completed gathering information.
Make sure that the interview is structured. Always stick to the interview protocol and don’t let the candidate guide you through the process. Also, make your ratings shortly after the interview and always use behavioral-anchored ratings scales to guide your ratings and facilitate the accuracy of your scores.
The takeaway here is that interviewers should really focus solely on evaluating candidates. By trying to do too much in an interview, you're more likely to make a poor hiring decision. That bad decision could obviously cause turnover, loss of productivity, or a number of other things.
To learn about some of the other errors interviewers make, click the button below to get our guide: 9 Interviewing Errors that Hiring Managers Must Avoid:
Marr, J. C., & Cable, D. M. (2014). Do interviewers sell themselves short? The effects of selling orientation on interviewers’ judgments. Academy of Management Journal, 57, 624-657.