Interviewer Rating Errors
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A business owner from North Carolina called me the other day to request some tips, techniques, and training on how to improve his selection interviewing skills. A sound request, from a humble owner. We all have done hundreds of selection interviews, and it is always good practice to receive refresher training to help improve the quality of the process, eliminate potential bias, and demonstrate continued professional development.
As a prelude to our discussion, I reminded the business owner that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) views the employment interview as a selection test, holding it in high regard concerning validity, reliability, and bias. With that thought in mind, I spent a great deal of time identifying, describing, and clarifying the following rating errors that all interviewers make, consciously or otherwise.
Primacy: Rather than evaluating the candidate’s entire interview performance, some interviewers make an immediate judgment, favorable or unfavorable, based on a first impression of the candidate or the candidate’s answers to the first couple of interview questions.
Similar to Me: Some interviewers tend to give higher ratings to those candidates that share common qualities with them (e.g., previous employers, educational background, or interests).
Contrast Effect: Instead of evaluating a candidate against a common standard, some interviewers simply judge a candidate against previously-interviewed candidates. For example, an average candidate will appear far better if s/he follows a bad candidate; similarly, that same average candidate will appear far worse if s/he follows an outstanding candidate.
Idealized Candidate: Many interviewers believe they must only hire the perfect candidate, and therefore must reject any imperfect candidate because they have “very high standards.”
Negative Information: Research shows that once a candidate offers a bad response, many interviewers erroneously assign disproportionate weight to that answer and therefore falsely believe the candidate is unqualified.
Halo: Many interviewers have a favorite topic that overshadows other rating categories. For example, if an interviewer has a preference for customer service, that interviewer is likely to give a higher overall rating to a candidate who answered the customer service questions very well even though s/he did not answer other interview questions (e.g., chemicals, safety, supervision) to the same standard.
Leniency: For various reasons, some interviewers routinely give higher ratings to candidates who may not otherwise deserve them.
Severity: For various reasons, some interviewers routinely give lower ratings to candidates who may not otherwise deserve them.
Central Tendency: Some interviewers consistently give ratings in the middle of the scale as a way to minimize potential explanation or conflict.
Recency: Rather than evaluating the candidate’s entire interview performance, some interviewers make a definitive judgment, favorable or unfavorable, based on the last impression of the candidate or the candidate’s answers to the final interview questions.
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