The Checklist: An Aid or a Crutch?


The use of a standard checklist during an interview is a handy tool often used by managers that are tasked with evaluating potential new hires. However, here are just five of the ways that a checklist can defeat the very purpose of the interviewing process:

1. You may discourage real talent. One of the biggest mistakes a manager can make is the arrogance of thinking you’re the only one making a decision during the process. The best and most talented recruits always have other options. It’s easy to come across as dry and disinterested when using a checklist, without really listening or personalizing your questions to the candidate’s resume. To an astute candidate, this may indicate a less than desirable management environment compared to other opportunities.

2. Offensive questions may be asked. If you are using a checklist, it must be regularly updated to ensure compliance. There are frequent changes in the area of hiring and discriminatory inquiries, and any questions you ask must reflect these changes. For example, the documents used to verify eligibility to work in the U.S. for the Form I-9 were recently updated. Consequently, asking if a candidate has a certain form of identification may now be considered discriminatory and have compliance implications.

3. You may miss a unique skill or capability of the applicant. When seeking diversity and uniqueness, limiting your questions to those on a checklist may cause you to miss something fresh and valuable that a candidate offers. If the interviewee doesn’t volunteer some special aspect of their experience or qualifications, you may miss it by relying on your standard questions and checkpoints rather than personalizing your interview.

4. You can make it too easy. When interviewing candidates, your goal is to get to know the real individual. If the same questions are asked in a standard format of all recruits, sharp candidates could discover questions ahead of time, and help them to prepare an answer they think you want – instead of providing the real insights you are seeking.

5. You can miss important details. Simply relying on a checklist instead of your own judgment and instincts during an interview makes it easy to focus on standard questions and not follow-up on the details of an answer. Relating back to issue three, this creates the possibility of missing a valuable skill or experience that a candidate might possess due to the rigidity of a checklist.

Checklists can be helpful, but your judgment is the real critical factor in any effective interview.