Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Here Are 4 Reasons

by Sarah Reyes

Why are job interviews so fake? Hiring managers bear the brunt of the blame for bad hiring decisions, and nobody can blame employers for thinking this way. Recruiters and hiring managers focus too much on interview results instead of more objective measures, such as skills tests and cognitive aptitude assessments.

Some job candidates breeze through the interview process like pros only to crumble in the actual work setting. Hence, the unreliability pointed out by human resource experts. But why are job interviews unreliable? Let us find out.

Why Employers Interview Job Candidates?

It is understandable why employers would want to interview job candidates before deciding to hire or not. It is all about trust. Business owners put money and effort into their organization, regardless of how small. They want trustworthy people whom they can rely on to keep the company running at optimum efficiency. Otherwise, business owners can kiss goodbye to their dreams of financial stability.

A job interview allows employers to learn more about the candidate and determine whether he is the right person for the post. Business owners ask questions about the applicant’s background, including education, work experience, and other information employers might deem necessary to query. 

Employers also interview job applicants to gain a perspective on their personalities and attitude. Some business owners also focus on the candidate’s communication skills, trying to assess whether or not the applicant can convey a message clearly and evocatively. The candidate’s answers to questions also give the interviewer an idea about his cognitive abilities.

If employers can assess a job candidate during the interview, why are job interviews so fake? We will explore the answers in the following section.

Why Are Job Interviews So Fake?

Interviews are subjective. An interviewer relies on his cognitive abilities to evaluate the validity and reliability of a job candidate’s responses. He depends on his perceptions, knowledge, and other attributes to determine whether an applicant is best for the job or not. Unfortunately, the interviewer might not have the necessary competencies for an effective interviewer. 

Why are job interviews so fake? Research shows four factors can impact the reliability of subjective assessments: the interview instrument, the interviewer’s experience, the interviewee’s experience with interviews, and the interview content.

1.Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Unreliable Interview Instrument

A provocative article in The New York Times says it all. Job interviews are useless. These pre-employment activities are unreliable in predicting future job performance because the candidate might obtain a perfect interview score but fail miserably in annual employee performance evaluations. 

This discrepancy is more blatant when recruiters and hiring managers use unstructured interviews. An unstructured interview does not follow any predetermined format, allowing the interviewer to field questions spontaneously. Many recruiters use an unstructured interview to make the process more comfortable for the interviewee, break the communication gap, and allow flexibility.

Although it has advantages, an unstructured interview can be time-consuming. The process can extend beyond the time limit because of the rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee present. There is also the risk of diverting from the interview, focusing on matters completely unrelated to the job. In some instances, the interviewer might unknowingly divulge a company secret because of the ‘connection’ with the interviewee. 

And this is where the problem lies. The perceived ‘connection’ with a job candidate might compel the interviewer to form an opinion that this applicant is the one. What happens is that the interviewer might no longer show interest in interviewing the other job candidates. What if the best talent is the one who followed the candidate ‘favored’ by the interviewer? The company loses its chance to hire the best person because the interviewer relied on his ‘instincts’ and ‘personal connection’ to a particular candidate, shutting the doors to everyone else.

Studies show that unstructured interviews are unreliable in demonstrating that a job candidate is the best person for the post. These interviews also have low validity because candidate selection occurs at random. The interviewer focuses only on the job applicant who manages to keep him interested or has an invisible connection with him. Any job applicant who projects a negative vibe to the interviewer has no chance of moving forward in the hiring process. 

The principal issue with unstructured interviews is that they are susceptible to cognitive or unconscious biases. Unstructured interviews work idiosyncratically, and the interviewer has the discretion on the questions to ask and how to evaluate job candidate responses. It does not measure the candidate’s abilities and competencies but serves to validate the interviewer’s implicit theories. Hence, a candidate’s chances of landing the job narrow significantly the more diverse his responses are from the interviewer’s preconceived job requirements. It answers the question, why are job interviews so fake?

On the other hand, structured interviews minimize the impact of cognitive biases. The interviewer fields predefined questions and evaluates responses based on pre-determined value metrics. Although it remains subjective, experts argue that structured interviews are more objective than unstructured interviews. 

why are job interviews so fake

The interviewer cannot deviate from the predefined questions, and he cannot guess the score to give for a particular response. It is also more straightforward to compare candidate responses, empowering hiring managers to decide who among the applicants is most likely best suited for the job post.

Structured interviews field questions consistently and uniformly across job candidates. The questions can elicit responses that allow recruiters and hiring managers to evaluate a job applicant’s hard and soft skills, culture add, and values alignment. Interviewers ask the same questions from each job candidate, recording their responses in a rubric for later evaluation. Employers can assess each response to make a better-informed hiring decision.

2.Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Interviewer’s Competence and Proneness to Cognitive Biases

An interviewer’s competency level can also make interviews unreliable. For example, an engineer might not have the correct knowledge to ask questions related to customer service and non-engineering skills. Likewise, a customer service manager is ill-suited to interview job candidates for a technical position.

The interviewer’s experience interviewing job candidates can also account for unreliability. First-time interviewers might find it challenging to phrase the appropriate questions in an unstructured interview. They might also not probe deeper into a candidate’s response, robbing them of the opportunity to evaluate the job applicant’s cognition.

Novice interviewers also make the mistake of not preparing thoroughly for the interview. Job candidates come prepared, ready to answer any question the interviewer might dish. Unfortunately, some interviewers do not do the same, sending the wrong message that the company is disorganized or the interviewer is not interested.

Sadly, any form of negative experience can tarnish the brand’s reputation. According to the Human Capital Institute, three out of five job applicants have a bad hiring experience with companies. Unfortunately, it does not stop there.

More than seven out of ten (72%) job seekers with a negative hiring experience share their views online and on social media platforms. CareerArc says 92% of companies use social media to search for the best talent, while 86% of people search for jobs on social media platforms. 

why are job interviews so fake

Unfortunately, job seekers do not only use social media to look for jobs. They also read real-life experiences and other content. The Human Capital Institute says 11 out of 20 job seekers avoid companies with negative reviews on social media and other online platforms. 

Why are job interviews so fake? Although an interviewer’s interviewing skills improve over time, they are not immune to making other interviewer mistakes. Interviewers must still address cognitive biases, especially when conducting an unstructured interview.

Why are job interviews so fake? The biases

Stereotyping Bias

Why are job interviews so fake? One of the most common types of unconscious bias by interviewers is stereotyping. It is pervasive that most people do not even realize they are already stereotyping. Stereotypes reflect people’s biased thoughts stemming from an incorrect assumption about a particular group category.

Gender stereotyping is commonplace. For example, Bentley University says 70% of people believe that men are more successful in business than women. Unfortunately, 63% of women have similar beliefs. Surprisingly, less than 25% of business leaders think men have better abilities and skills, contributing to more substantial business success. On the other hand, seven out of ten people say women have better skills and abilities.

Racial stereotypes also abound in the workplace. The color of one’s skin has been at the center of the debate table for many decades. Unfortunately, racial stereotyping stems from the human tendency to perceive homogeneity as superior to a heterogeneous phenotypic characteristic. Hence, fair-skinned people look down on people of varying skin color.

There are many signs of racial stereotyping in the workplace, and it often starts in the interview process. For example, a job candidate might get an offer to work at the assembly line instead of the office even though he has a Master’s degree and impeccable work experience simply because he is colored. Conversely, a fair-skinned job applicant without the education and experience might land a job in an office setting.

One might think this observation is inaccurate. However, Harvard Business School research says ‘resume-whitening’ increases the chances of a colored job seeker’s chances of getting an interview.

The study observed that one in four black job candidates were most likely to receive a callback if they ‘whitened’ their resumes. On the other hand, only one in ten Blacks will receive a call for an interview if they leave ethnic details intact in their resumes. A similar observation is present among Asians, where 21% of whitened resumes got callbacks, while only 11.5% did if the resumes indicated the applicant’s ethnicity.

First Impression Bias

Studies show that a person only needs one-tenth of a second to create an impression of someone else based on their face. This observation extends well into interviews, where a job candidate’s appearance is often enough for the interviewer to form an unconscious impression.

Unfortunately, the interviewer’s first impression of the candidate can dictate the interview process. The interviewer might decide to field irrelevant or too few questions to the job candidate, undermining the interview process. The interviewer might appear uninterested in the interview, which would make the interviewee feel awkward and confused. Ultimately, the company might lose its chance of getting the best talent. It is another answer to the question, why are job interviews so fake.

Confirmation Bias

Peter Cathcart Wason conducted several studies in the 1960s, describing the tendency of people to seek information to confirm existing beliefs. For example, a gun rights advocate might want to look for different pieces of information to validate and strengthen his beliefs. The person uses this information to uphold his perceptions despite growing evidence of gun-related violence

One can also see confirmation bias in unstructured interviews, typically occurring within the first five minutes. One must remember that first impression bias occurs within the first few seconds. 

The interviewer might skim over the candidate’s resume and other application credentials. Focusing on core competencies or some other attribute, the interviewer seeks to validate the information from the interviewer during the interview. There is also a tendency to overlook weak answers or dismiss questionable responses because the interviewer already has an opinion about the candidate. All the interviewer needs to do is validate things he wants to confirm.

Halo Effect Bias

People believe that attractiveness equals success. Studies show that employers are willing to offer up to 10.5% higher salaries to people with beautiful features compared to ordinary-looking employees. Research also indicates that most people consider attractiveness as crucial indicators of sociability, dominance, intelligence, social skills, mental health, and sexual warmth.

The halo effect focuses on the human tendency to interpret someone’s distinguishing features as all-encompassing. Hence, most people believe that a person’s abilities are directly proportional to attractiveness.

Unfortunately, the halo effect has no place in interviews because it blinds the interviewer from assessing other job candidate aspects. The focus is more on the job applicant’s uniquely pleasant features.

Anchoring Bias

Some people confuse anchoring bias for confirmation bias. This form of unconscious bias stems from the first piece of information a person receives from another, serving as the ‘anchor’ for the interaction. It becomes the dominant theme during the interview and, unfortunately, compromises decision-making.

For example, an employee might tell a recruiter about an acquaintance with impressive work and education credentials who he thinks is an excellent fit for the company. The interviewer learns that the job candidate does not live up to the hype during the interview. Unfortunately, the interviewer still decides to hire the applicant because of the ‘anchored’ information.

why are job interviews so fake

3.Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Unreliable Interview Content

Another reason why are job interviews so fake is the unreliability of the interview questions, especially unstructured types. People using unstructured interviews have the discretion to field almost any other question they like. Even if they ask similar questions, the phrasing might be inconsistent across candidates, resulting in highly diverse responses. 

Studies show that structured interviews can minimize interview content unreliability and low validity scores by using two types of questions. The first is situational questions that discover a job candidate’s goal-oriented responses and job-specific answers. The latter is crucial in determining the job applicant’s cognitive abilities relative to the job requirements. Goal orientation enables interviewers to gauge the applicant’s planning skills.

On the other hand, personality-based questions offer structured interviewers a glimpse of the candidate’s attributes as a person. The interviewer might ask the job applicant about his motivation, what makes him unique, what he does in his spare time, and other queries that offer some form of measure about the candidate’s personality.

Evaluating the interview is a different matter. Unstructured interviews are more challenging to assess because there are no predetermined values to candidate responses. Everything hinges on the interviewer’s subjective evaluation, which, unfortunately, might be clouded with unconscious bias.

Meanwhile, a structured interview offers interviewers a more objective evaluation of candidates’ responses. Experts recommend using a horizontal and vertical approach to interview evaluation. In vertical evaluation, the interviewer scores a response immediately after the candidate gives it. On the other hand, a horizontal evaluation requires the interviewer to finish interviewing all candidates before comparing and scoring responses across all applicants.

Studies show that a vertical evaluation approach minimizes recency and stereotyping biases, while a horizontal technique is suitable for addressing gender stereotyping.

Using Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales (BARS) can also inject objectivity into the interview process. Although the tool anchors on predefined behaviors, it allows interviewers to compare a candidate’s response and behavior to those on the BARS. 

You might also like: What Is Customer Success, and Why Should You Care?

4. Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Interviewee’s Experience with Interviews

Why Are Job Interviews So Fake? Interviewers know that job candidates never go to an interview without brushing up on their answers to common interview questions. It makes them prepared for any queries the interviewer might dish. Unfortunately, it undermines the whole interview process because it gives the candidates sufficient time to prepare for the best possible answers. 

Even if candidates do not review common interview questions, their past experiences already offer them an insight into the potential questions from interviewers.  This observation makes interviews unreliable because the responses do not reflect a candidate’s authentic attributes or qualities. 

Unsurprisingly, research shows that job interviews are twice less effective at predicting job performance than objective cognitive aptitude tests.

Final Thoughts on Why Are Job Interviews So Fake

Job interviews are highly unreliable because of the risk of unconsciously injecting bias into the process. The principal issue is that most interviewers are unaware of cognitive prejudice, clouding their judgment and robbing the organization of the chance to hire the best talent. Although structured interviews offer some form of neutralization against certain forms of unconscious bias, they remain inferior to cognitive aptitude tests and other objective pre-employment measures to predict employment suitability and work performance.

Photo credit Pexels

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