The 10 Most Ineffective Job Interviewers

May 28, 2014

You found a promising candidate and the next step is the job interview. That’s when you start getting the sweats. You know that the interviewer roster has a few people whose interview "styles" filter out rather than identify the best candidates.

To make things easier for you when it comes to identifying problematic interview situations and helping interviewers improve, here is a list of the top 10 most ineffective interviewer personas:

10. The Cliche


Description: Asks traditional questions like "What's your greatest weakness?" or "What's your greatest achievement?"

Why It's Ineffective:  People's opinions of themselves are inherently biased and therefore of little practical use. In any case, most candidates prepare pat answers to these predictable questions, so all that's revealed is the candidate's ability to memorize.

9. The Bad Cop


Description: Attempts to "see what the candidate is made of" by telling horror stories about how stressed everyone is in this workplace.

Why It's Ineffective: Workplace stress is the result of how individuals react to the workplace rather than something intrinsic to the workplace itself. Horror stories might scare away a top candidate who'd actually feel quite comfortable in that environment.

8. The Paranoid


Description: Is secretly afraid that the candidate is being hired as a replacement for the interviewer.

Why It's Ineffective: The paranoid will emerge from the interview with a reason to not hire the candidate, especially if the candidate is in fact perfect for the job. Therefore the interview is pointless, regardless of whether the paranoia is justified or not.

7. The Clueless One


Description: Lacks the technical knowledge to understand what the job entails but still insists on being on the interview list.

Why It's Ineffective: The only possible result of such an interview is the interviewer's opinion on whether a candidate is "likable." However, many talented people (especially engineers) don't do "likeable" very well, so you risk losing top candidates simply because they can't schmooze.

6. The Puzzler


Description: Tries to test the candidate's "problem solving" ability by asking brain-twisters like "Why are manhole covers round?"

Why It's Ineffective: Such questions reflect the interviewer's need to seem clever rather than the desire to learn something useful about the candidate. In addition, the kind of reasoning involved is probably not germane to how problems are solved at work.

5. The Biz-Blabber


Description: Asks questions like "Can you reach out to empowered knowledge workers to leverage state-of-the-art gamification?"

Why It's Ineffective: Only a desperate candidate (or a fellow biz-blabber) will want to work in a place where people speak fluent gobbledegook.

4. The Psychologist


Description: Thinks that the purpose of an interview is to assess the candidate's basic personality.

Why It's Ineffective: The interpretation of a real psychological test is a specialized skill, requiring a masters or doctorate in psychology. The type of "pop psychology" tests that a layman can interpret are just quackery.

3. The Perfectionist


Description: Is convinced that everyone who's hired must be a "star performer" who possesses "good leadership skills."

Why It's Ineffective: Most workplaces can only tolerate a few "stars" because they often excel at the expense of others.  Furthermore, many jobs require followership rather than leadership. An orchestra with 120 conductors is just a bunch of people waving sticks.

2. The Procrastinator


Description: Wants to "think things over" before making the candidate a job offer.

Why It's Ineffective: While snap decisions are probably a bad idea, top candidates often have multiple options. If a company waits too long to make an offer, the decision may well be moot.

1. The Multitasker


Description: Is so wrapped up in other activities that there's no mental energy left to conduct a meaningful interview.

Why It's Ineffective: Hiring the right people is essential to a company's growth and success. Interviewing is so important that it deserves 100% of every interviewer's attention.

Are there any interviewer types that you have encountered but are not listed here?

Author bio: Geoffrey James is an award-winning columnist for and the author of Business Without The Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need To Know.

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