Interviewing a werewolf

25 October 2018

This article was featured in the November 2018 issue of the magazine.

Amir Qureshi, chief executive officer at Thomas International, reveals how to ensure you recruit the right people

It’s a widely acknowledged fact that we make judgements about new people within just a few seconds of meeting them. The flip side is that, by presenting yourself in a certain way, you have the potential to influence those judgements – and in an interview situation that could result in a recruiter making an expensive mistake. Someone who seemed perfect when you first met them, said all the right things and looked like they’d fit right in, joins the business and turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing; you quickly realise you’ve hired the wrong person. If that sounds familiar, then you could have fallen victim to the interview werewolf.

To some extent, we’ve all been there: it’s only natural to try and give the answers that you think your interviewer wants to hear, perhaps by bending the truth just a little or talking up your positives while brushing over any negatives. Equally, as an interviewer, it’s very hard to ignore any unconscious bias you may have towards or against certain candidates. It is human nature to be drawn to people who we perceive to be similar to ourselves and we tend to be more attracted to those who share our views or have a common interest. In general, it takes far more effort to critically evaluate our own points of view, so we can be prone to avoiding someone who disagrees with or challenges us. As a result, there’s a risk that an interviewer will be drawn to the candidate that they most like, rather than the person who will actually be best for the job.

So, what is the best way to get around this? How can you, as a recruiter, ensure that you choose the best candidate every time? One answer might be to remove the human element from the selection process altogether, but I don’t think this is the strongest route. It is people who know what is required of a role and identify what positions the business needs to fill so they have a vital role to play. However, technology is increasingly being used by businesses to successfully identify the best candidates – reducing unconscious bias and ensuring personal preference and assumption don’t override logic.


...risk that an interviewer will be drawn to the candidate that they most like...


At Thomas, we empower businesses to make the right people-based decisions through the use of psychometric assessments. This ensures decisions are free of bias, allowing recruiters to make appointments based purely on job demands and the candidates with the behaviour traits best suited to them.

Psychometric assessments bring rigour and objectivity to recruitment processes with real success. Assessing candidates’ psychological characteristics ahead of interviews gives recruiters invaluable insights into their suitability for a role or how they will interact with others. Understanding someone’s behavioural profile before they meet them prevents interviewers from having a misinformed view of their suitability based on any preconceived biases – they have the reality on paper there in front of them.

The information provided by psychometric assessments can also provide insights into personality characteristics that predict workplace outcomes, such as attrition and leadership potential. This information can help businesses take a longer-term view of recruitment and likely career development, as well as delivering huge benefits in terms of engagement and productivity.

For anyone still sceptical about the efficacy of psychometrics, I can reassure them that there is real evidence of their success. In 2015, reports showed that psychometric assessments were being used by over 75% of The Sunday Times top 100 companies in the UK and more than 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA.

A further example is a project we recently completed with global recruitment agency Harvey Nash. Using personal profile analysis (PPA) assessments, – which provided insights into candidates’ strengths, limitations, communication style, motivators and potential value to the business – Harvey Nash’s recruiters were able to objectively assess candidates during their interviews. The result was that an audit following the progress of 330 of Harvey Nash’s candidates through its recruitment cycle showed that not one candidate was exposed to discrimination of any kind.

To sum up, employers need to be constantly mindful of bias when making important people-related decisions. As humans, we are susceptible to being influenced by our biases, which in turn can impact on the accuracy of our people-based decisions. However, with the use of impartial assessments, such as PPA, which provide insights into a person’s strengths and limitations, the presence of bias can certainly be reduced – greatly increasing the chances of you appointing the right person to the role each time.