The interview lasted an hour. She trotted in with a professional air about her, dressed in a sharp pantsuit, resume in hand. You exchanged pleasantries, asked about her resume, and then worked through a basic script that you had used, without fail, for the last five years. Your candidate passed with flying colors and walked out with a most confident posture.

Five months later, you informed this same employee of her terminated employment. She left your office with shrugged shoulders, a bitter demeanor, and a few unprofessional words for you, the CEO.

You never saw it coming.

Unfortunately, this is the case for many unsuspecting CEOs. Due to poor interviewing skills and stubborn hiring practices, many look like fools in the long run.

But what is it that CEOs are doing wrong? What is that the boss, in particular, just can’t seem to get a grip on? Is an attitude, a practice, or a script to blame?

Let’s take a look at the most common CEO interviewing mistakes:

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“I just know it when I see it.” Let me stop you right there. A person’s character and intelligence are not visible attributes. Furthermore, they cannot be determined in a twenty-minute conversation. If you think you can detect such attributes in a short amount of time, I’m here to tell you that you have an inflated ego. Humble yourself: getting to know a candidate takes time, effort, and careful questioning. There are no exceptions, regardless of how well you think you can judge a person’s character.

“Just stick to the basics.” As Adam Bryant notes in his New York Times article “How to Hire the Right Person,” candidates practice day and night for job interviews. In order to get an original answer, or one that truly makes the candidate think, try going off-script. Bryant suggests questions like “What is your natural strength?” and “What is the biggest misperception people have about you?” to get their wheels turning. Remember, anybody can ace the basic interview. The goal is to differentiate between common candidates.

“Soft skills come later.” Have you ever heard the phrase “hire for skill, fire for attitude?” This phrase could also be worded, “hire for hard skills, fire for soft skills.” Too many CEOs consider experience, aptitude, and competence while forgetting interpersonal communication, teamwork skills, and character. Then they are amazed that so many employees are being fired for their lack of character! If CEOs would consider soft skills in the initial interview, they could cut down on termination rates later. In addition, this would lead to greater harmony in the office, greater workplace satisfaction, and better collaboration efforts.

As a CEO, I’ve fallen victim to each of these mistakes at one point or another. However, the key to building a powerful, peaceful workforce is to recognize the most common interviewing pitfalls and reverse them before it’s too late. Take it from me: the people are your greatest asset. If you only do one thing right, let it be this.


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