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5 Common Interview Traps

Updated: Jun 4

Very often the candidate who is most skilled in interview techniques is the person hired, even though they may not be the best-fit candidate for the position. Conversely, the applicant who performs poorly in the job interview is likely to be eliminated from the process regardless of experience, fit, or even references.

Here are five common traps that inexperienced interviewers can fall into:

Applicant Order

Interviewers’ ratings of an applicant are influenced by the order in which candidates are interviewed. For example, when an average applicant is interviewed immediately following one or more below-average applicants, the average applicant usually tends to be evaluated well above-average. A similar process works in reverse: if an average applicant follows an outstanding applicant, the former is rated below-average. So, you had better hope you are following a dud. There is also some evidence that going first or last in the Short List line up can be beneficial to candidates. So, if you are the middle candidate in a long Short List, the game may be over before you even start.

Snap Decisions

Interviewers tend to make a decision about an applicant in the first few minutes of the interview before all relevant information has been gathered. They then spend the rest of the interview seeking information that confirms their initial impression. I remember meeting a former global Head of Fixed Income at BlackRock who, before entering a room, would summon the spirit of Jimmy Stewart and, high energy and beaming smile would bowl into the interview room, setting the room alight. It clearly got him all the way to the top.

Emphasis on Negative Information

Interviewers tend to weight negative information supplied by the applicant more heavily than positive information. On occasion, the interviewer may change their mind, but the change tends to be from positive to negative rather than vice versa. In fact, in most cases, interviews tend to be a search for negative information.

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Personal Biases

Interviewers tend to have overt or subconscious preconceptions and prejudices about people’s physical appearance. I once had a client reject out of hand a highly skilled Emerging Markets PM simply because he wore the 3 day stubble look. Conversely, some interviewers are overly impressed with surface signs of composure, manner of speech, and physical appearance (see The Warren Harding Error): it is well-documented that conventionaly ‘good looking’ people do better at interview. There is also some evidence that candidates deemed the most “likable” by a selection panel, more often than not, get the job. Other biases may reflect negatively against some minority groups or in favour of those candidates who have backgrounds similar to the interviewer – which is an obvious diversity and inclusion pitfall.

Hiring Quotas

When interviewers who have been told they must hire several candidates, or a large number, they tend to rate applicants higher than interviewers who interviewing for only one hire. Thus, pressure to hire influences the interviewer’s judgment of the applicant and means the threshold for multiple hires is often lower than for single hires.

At Godliman, we understand the dangers of over-reliance on one aspect of the hiring process: in this case, the candidate interview. Our proprietary Search process roots out bias in candidate identification and selection by subjecting all candidates to a systematic and structured three-step Best-Fit Search™ and Assessment process. Best-Fit Search uniquely evaluates candidate ‘Fit’ with the hiring company as well as the skills and experience necessary for the role. As a result, the longevity and success in role of our hires is significantly above the industry norm.


Author: Rupert Reed Last edited 5th January 2021


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