The Top 5 Pitfalls of Screening and Interviewing

Employers want to find the best candidates for the roles they’re hiring for in the least amount of time without increasing the risk and costs associated with bad hires. Screening and interviewing are both tools in the hiring toolbox that allow employers to identify suitable candidates. These mechanisms aren’t without their own limitations. That is, they can have unintended consequences and actually cost employers more time and money and/or increase their risk as an organization with bad hires. Let’s take a look at the following five pitfalls where employers can go wrong when it comes to screening and interviewing.

Screening Pitfall #1: Not Understanding Your Screening Tools

According to a 2023 global survey of over 2,000 HR and talent professionals, the most common types of screening are:

  • Criminal record checks
  • Social Security number verification
  • Employment verifications
  • Drug and/or alcohol testing
  • Sex Offender Registry checks
  • Education verification

Employers may lean into these seemingly standardized screening tools without understanding their full implications. While a Social Security number verification is pretty standard, other types of testing may remove desirable candidates or even discriminate against them. For example, some policies for criminal background checks will disproportionally affect minority candidates. Employers that understand that may opt to use screening tools that conduct background checks while also taking individual circumstances into account, like the severity of a charge or how much time has passed since the offense. Hiring teams need to understand the extent to which their processes, tools, and systems are screening out candidates, along with why and how these mechanisms are taking place.

Screening Pitfall #2: Underestimating the Importance of Delicate Social Media Screening

Social media screening was also mentioned in the survey above but is much less prevalent than other forms of screening. While some employers worry about the legal implications of screening a person based on their social profiles and account activity, there is legal framework to guide employers on what to avoid such as local privacy laws and antidiscrimination laws. Any candidate displaying unlawful behavior or posting hateful content, for example, would be screened out according to such laws. Additionally, Cody Farzad, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Frasco Profiles, explains that the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulations are applied to social media screenings to focus on business behaviors only. Indeed, in the realm of social media, employers could otherwise easily be persuaded by personal bias or information that may have been inaccurate, outdated, or otherwise misrepresented.

Although social media screening isn’t as popular as other forms of screening, reports show that up to 65% of social media content was flagged as intolerant (racism, sexism, hate speech, bigotry, or discrimination). With such staggering statistics, organizations need to consider their risk and reputation when hiring, especially for senior roles, in which a level of moral authority is expected and required. There are preemployment firms that specialize in providing a standardized and legal approach to social media screening for employers that are interested.

The TLDR here is if an organization chooses to leverage social media screening in its hiring practices, it’s better to employ an organization to do it methodically and in accordance with the many pieces of legislation available to guide such practices.

Pitfall #3: Screening for the Wrong Skills

Organizations need to understand what the right combination of soft skills is for each role they’re hiring for and screen candidates accordingly. Soft skills include nonquantifiable traits like active listening, or using positive language, for example, but they’re not all equally important for every role.

Typically, employers look for a broad set of desirable soft skills, which can create inconsistent hiring results. For example, employers may assume that someone who’s in a customer-facing role like customer service could easily do another customer-facing role like sales, but this 700-applicant study says differently. It proved that those who were good at sales primarily could do customer service well, but those who were good at customer service primarily weren’t successful salespeople.

There are baseline soft skills that are broadly applicable, but there are also workplace soft skills that are more appropriate for one position versus another. If employers hire applicants based on the wrong linguistic or communication profiles alone, they may not be successful in their new roles, and the cost of just one bad hire can range from $17,000 to $240,000.

Pitfall #4: Introducing Personal Bias into the Interview Process

Hiring teams will have a hard time not introducing bias into their hiring process as individuals interact with and interview candidates, and that includes positive bias. Naturally, humans develop their own preferences and tolerances for accents, grammatical mistakes, and more, even if they don’t want to. As this author explains:

“It is easy to form preconceived views about a candidate’s suitability for a role based on their body language, tone of voice or even after reading their CV before the interview – try to avoid falling into this trap.”

The element of bias can be even more pronounced if there is a large volume of applicants who likely would not be interviewed by a single person. Adding more evaluators into the process further complicates things, as each person will have their own opinions.

It’s almost impossible to standardize the judgment of humans completely. As a result, many hiring teams have turned to various automation and artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help them make hiring decisions, as these tend to be “blind” to certain biases and have a standardized approach to evaluating candidates that can be audited.

Hiring teams need to maintain an awareness of how much personal judgment impacts hiring decisions. Making data-driven decisions based on standardized evaluation processes will help teams reduce bias and get better hiring results over time.

Pitfall #5: Lacking Coherent and Consistent Results

When employers embrace screening tools and interview techniques to help them be more efficient and make the best hiring decisions, they have to do so methodically. To do otherwise defeats the purpose.

Screening methods must be fair, well understood, and applied evenly to each candidate. Even if they’re not the same at each level of seniority, they should be applied consistently for the same position at least. Hiring teams have to mitigate personal biases wherever possible and aim to measure each candidate with equal rigor. They should be able to easily analyze their hiring results, be able to explain these to outside stakeholders if needed, and make sound hiring decisions.

Technology can help to provide avenues toward standardization and subsequent data collection. There are many tools available for hiring teams to leverage to their advantage, including those focused on screening candidates and helping employers do less interviewing.

Employers, Cover Your Bases

There are many different ways hiring teams can get screening and interviewing wrong. Not only can these mistakes cause risk for the organization, but they can also increase time to hire or the costs associated with hiring rather than doing the opposite. By understanding some of these common pitfalls, employers can think through their screening and interviewing processes to avoid them. Hiring firms and technology providers that can standardize processes, and guide employers from a legal perspective, are great allies to have. At the end of the day, though, the organization that’s hiring is responsible for its own hiring outcomes. Employers beware of these pitfalls and proceed with caution!

Stephane Rivard is the Cofounder and CEO of HiringBranch and a lifelong entrepreneur. He believes the future of talent acquisition is “interviewless,” and he’s been featured on a number of prominent HR outlets explaining why AI is the most accurate way to evaluate soft skills. His top soft skills include problem-solving, rapport, curiosity, and divergent thinking. When he’s not traveling for work, you’ll find him hanging out with his family, playing chess, running, skiing, mountain biking, sailing, or just walking his dog named Finnigan. You can follow him on LinkedIn here:

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