There is an interesting discussion going on one of the LinkedIn Groups on job interview questions.  The person who started the discussion raised the following question:

“…is been haunting me for a while now…why do hiring managers ask about the weakness? And what kind of weakness is acceptable?”

The question is an interesting one and the discussion might be worth taking a look at here.  However this discussion got me thinking about interviews in general.  When I have been in a position to hire project managers I’ve put a lot of weight on that job interview.  In other words I have relied on that interview to determine if the candidate would be a good fit for the position.

What concerns me in hindsight is whether too much focus has been put on the interview as a determining factor on whether the candidate would actually be a successful resource in the organization or not.  The challenge is that in a 1 or even 2 hour interview it is highly unlikely that the hiring manager can get a true picture of the candidate.  There is often a hit or miss factor that needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating the candidate.

What happens if the candidate is not feeling well that day due to a cold or perhaps they encountered an issue on the way to the interview that caused them to interview poorly?  The other side of the coin is also worth considering, what if we are faced with someone who is great at interviewing but perhaps not able to do the job once they are in the position?

There way ways to mitigate against such risks.  If someone looks “good” on paper but the interview goes very badly for instance, it may be worth it to bring them back for a second interview to see if they do better.  It may be appropriate that a follow up interview is conducted with other team members, not just the hiring manager.

Ultimately however the hiring process needs to be looked at holistically.  Interviews are only an element but not the only one. For example organizations should follow up with references, talk with former employers, and in some cases conduct background checks to mitigate against false positives with candidates who are great at interviewing but not so great when it comes to delivery.

As a conclusion though to address the question of whether there is too much focus on interviews.  While part of me feels that it might be unfair to focus too much on the interview, we have to recognize that hiring is not an exact science and as such if the hiring manager does not have a “good feeling” about the candidate sometimes that’s all it takes to say no.  After all, the person making the decision to hire has their neck on the line to make the right decision.