How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake Interviewers Make


Do more than half of the people you hire turn out to be disappointments? After interviewing candidates for hire, do you have an agonizing feeling in your gut that candidates gave you such vague answers? Do you feel that you didn’t really get to know their strengths and weaker points?

If so, you are in good company. I’ve conducted more than 6,500 hiring interviews and have taught thousands of managers how to avoid costly mis-hires. At you can read dozens of case studies in which companies large and small improved their hiring from 26% high performers to 85% HIGH performers.  

The #1 mistake interviewers make is NOT asking good follow up questions when given vague answers. This is particularly true when pertaining to questions about mistakes, failures, or weaker points. For example …

C(andidate): My manager, Susan Smith, criticized my communications skills.

Y(ou): How exactly did she want you to communicate better? (Rephrase the question.)

C: It was my communications with my peers.

Y: In what specific ways did your manager want you to communicate better with peers? (Ask for specifics.)

C: I guess I asked them to support my initiatives but did not communicate enough to really get them on board and supportive.

Y: Give me an example? (Ask again for specifics.)

C: Ok, as a sales manager I asked my peers to support big product promotions, but at times I wouldn’t be clear about exactly what I wanted operations or marketing managers to do.

Y: How would Susan rate your peer relations overall? (Nail down how serious it is.)

C: Susan rated me Good my first year, but challenged me to rise to Very Good by the second year, and I did. It wasn’t rocket science – I just needed to be more thorough and specific in my requests initially and be more available to answer questions. On a team survey my peers rated me a 6.5 in Peer Relationships the first year but 7.5 – 8 after that year.

Good for you! You probed enough to get a clear picture of the problem AND how serious it is. It’s apparently not very serious.

As you probably know, Topgrading injects candidates with a powerful “truth serum”, one that high performers welcome, but low performers hate. Candidates are told from the start that THEY will eventually have to arrange reference calls with former managers, and others YOU choose. So if you were to talk with the candidate’s boss, Susan, you’d say the candidate admitted having some issues with peers, and would she please comment on that. Candidates know that they can’t get away with fudging the truth, so low performers and BSers drop out. Good! And they know they can’t get away with hiding their weaker points, so when interviewers probe for specifics, they fess up!

Want to learn more? At download Topgrading 301, a 40-page eGuide.

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