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February 26, 2001
Most Interviewers Focus on Style, Not Substance
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the economy continues to slowdown, hiring the best possible candidate is more critical than ever.

However, interviewers continue to hire candidates based on presentation skills, assertiveness and appearance, producing less than stellar results. These are some of the findings of a poll conducted by POWER Hiring Inc., a training and consulting organization based in Tustin, Calif.

"The survey suggests that hiring managers are too focused on presentation skills instead of a candidate's actual past performance and abilities," said Lou Adler, founder and CEO of POWER Hiring. "Unfortunately, a great presentation doesn't necessarily translate into a high performance employee."

For example, the survey suggests that interviewers rely heavily on their intuition and first impressions when interviewing candidates. Interviewers were most likely to eliminate candidates during the first 20 minutes of the interview (89 percent) based on a nervous appearance or inarticulate, superficial answers. In fact, 45 percent of interviewers describe their decisions as "heavily influenced by intelligence, quality of communication skills and degree of assertiveness." While these traits may be desirable, many interviewers translate these positive traits to mean excellent performance.

"The fundamental problem with using intuition as the cornerstone for interviewing is that you sometimes hire people who are only partially competent. To overcome this problem, we recommend that interviewers wait a minimum of 30 minutes before making a yes/no decision on a candidate because the best interviewers are not necessarily the best candidates. By waiting 30 minutes to make a decision, interviewers are more likely to objectively evaluate a candidate's ability to perform the position successfully," said Adler.

"Spend the 30 minutes asking about the candidate's most significant accomplishments and ask lots of follow-up questions. This gives nervous candidates a chance to relax and challenges great interviewers to reveal their true abilities to do the job."
The survey also uncovered that only 15 percent of interviewers are "performance-based" interviewers. These interviewers spend the majority of the interview focusing on past performance, real contributions and bottom-line results.

By using a track record of delivering results in a similar position and successfully dealing with similar complex issues, "performance-based" interviews tend to be significantly more accurate. When combined with questions about job-specific problem solving, hiring accuracy can be increased to the 80- to 90-percent range.

"These interviewers are usually managers on the fast track. They know that top quality employees can catapult their careers," said Adler.

More than 350 interviewers (hiring managers and recruiters) responded to the poll via e-mail. Because each question appeared separately, the number of interviewer responses ranges from 351 to 357. The poll is for informational and benchmarking purposes only. Results may not be statistically valid.

For more information, visit POWER Hiring's Web site.

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