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Help! I think we hired the wrong candidate – Part 1

We know that in today's market it can be challenging to land the best candidate.

The process can be time consuming and laborious. You put a lot of time into sourcing someone and really get to know them to see if they are suited for the job.

You interview them, look at their history and weigh up their application against the criteria important in the role; and at the end you make a decision about who to offer the job to.

What if the best person for the job was actually not the person offered? What if the best person actually slipped through the process and has gone elsewhere? It could be that there was not enough analysis done or that attention was drawn to another candidate in the recruitment process.

There are some instances when we refer to this as a ‘type 2 error’, or a false negative. Technically this refers to those instances when we get a false read on something and it sways our decision.

In this brief article we are exploring this concept and how it can affect us when we are hiring. By being aware of this type of error, and having some checks and balances in place, we think you can build your confidence that you are choosing the best candidate through your recruitment process more often.

(And to offer a spoiler alert, we are recommending taking some extra time to analyse what is most important in the role and also add some science & objectivity to the recruitment process.)

Theory of Type 2 Error

It’s possible you haven’t heard of a type 2 error before, and this wouldn’t surprise, because the term is borrowed from research and statistical psychology. The term essentially applies to those times when we make an incorrect decision based on an incorrect interpretation of data or facts.

When we are weighing things up and we make an accurate read of the data and then make a correct decision, happy days, we got it right. What about when we weigh things up and get it wrong? Not so happy days; and there is a noticeable way we can get it wrong and a less noticeable way we can get it wrong. When recruiting, we can make a mistake by rejecting the best or perfect candidate, based on a misread of data or by emphasising something in the recruitment process that is not actually important.

This is what we call the type 2 error, when we reject the better candidate; but we may not find out the cost or implications of our mistake - as they go off to work elsewhere, possibly with your competition.

So how can this happen in recruitment? Some possible errors in the hiring process can lead us to thinking a really great candidate is not so good. This can happen as a result of many things, a few examples below:

  • We may not have spent enough time analysing what is really needed in the job. Have we delved deeper into the role and past the two-page PD? Talked to colleagues, peers, understood the nuances of the role and the environment it operates in.

  • Maybe we didn’t gather enough information in the recruitment process. Sometimes a recruiter or hiring manager can do way too much talking in the interview and not enough listening, so just didn’t have enough data on the applicants.

  • Some candidates don’t interview well. Some people who haven’t had a lot of interview experience, or they might be quite introverted, so have less impact at interview.

  • Biases influenced the decision. Sometimes the interviewer or interview panel may have some unconscious bias operating.

  • The interview process might be too loose and not as objective as it could be, allowing some bias into the process. I had a contact who would run an interview that was unstructured and based on ‘gut-feel’, leading to a loose interview that was ineffective and lacked clarity.

A few examples of this type of scenario have been mentioned to us recently through clients of ours. We have shared their experience in the case studies below to help explain how this might come about.

Case study 1: The Seasoned Executive

Mark* has been a top performer all his working life and has really enjoyed picking up challenges and overcoming them. At the University of Queensland, Mark studied economics and did so well that he topped his class. After graduating in 1992, following a placement with a firm, he was picked up by a graduate and management development program with a large corporate organisation. An offer too good to pass up, Mark went straight into his new role and spent the next few years developing his professional skills and moving up the ranks.

In a short time, in fact he found himself in front-line leadership positions and with great exposure. After a few decades Mark had progressed in his career quite nicely into an executive role and after being tapped on the shoulder a few times he had moved across to a number of different corporations. Whilst he had been interviewed, the meetings never really put him through his paces like an interview with a search consultant and an internal recruitment team would do. In casual conversation, Mark felt that until recently he had never really undergone ‘a real interview’.

A few months ago, Mark applied to a position that suited him quite perfectly, where he could undoubtedly make a big difference. However, this role was highly sought after and there were some other strong applicants. This was the first time Mark had ever been through a highly competitive and rigorous process. The hiring manger asked him in for an interview, it dawned on him he had never, not once in his life, been through this sort of process. Despite all of his technical, executive, business and leadership skills, he felt he wasn’t good at interviews. His interview performance through the panel and final interview was not great and he was eclipsed by another candidate, and wasn’t offered the role, even though understanding his psychological makeup and experience, he may have well been the best person for the role.

Case Study 2: Data science professional

Tanya* is a mid-career professional in the field of data science. She has held a handful of positions after graduating from her business analytics degree in 2010 and on this career journey she has made a steady progression ‘up the ladder’ and she is ready for the next challenge. This has led her to apply for a project leadership role with a data analytics firm that specialises in middleware.

It’s not that Tanya wasn’t enjoying her current role, quite the opposite in fact. Since working remotely as a result of covid, Tanya had been working from home and had been enjoying the independence; she is a bit introverted and prefers this arrangement. Tanya is, however, strategic about her progression and is ready to move into the next stage of her career.

Her independence has never been a disadvantage in her career, as many in her profession have a similar working style & set of preferences. Much of the work they undertake, tends to be done alone or in the manner of a relatively independent specialist. Tanya suspects this aspect of her make-up may disadvantage her in her application, as there are two stages of interviews in the recruitment process. She is great at what she does with well-developed analytical skills, but she can be anxious in some social settings, and she is aware she is doesn’t make great first impressions. She shared with us her concern that the hiring manager or the HR person may base more of the decision on interpersonal skills and less on making good project judgments based on technical and professional insights.

* Names have been changed for confidentiality.

From these examples you can see how certain candidates might come across in the interview process as not really the best choice, but in actual fact they might be a perfect candidate for the role. This is how ‘type 2 error’ occurs. The main purpose of this article is about helping you be aware of this tricky mistake, since the first step to avoiding it is to know that ‘type-2 error’ exists. Other ways you can avoid this kind of error is to be as thorough in your analysis of your candidates as you can be.

  1. First, we suggest you take a little extra time to do a job analysis on the role; give yourself as much information about the role as you can and understand exactly who you need to fill the role.

  2. Second, use good objective methods in your interview & selection process that helps minimise the impact of perceptive bias and error in decision-making. Brushing up behavioural interviewing and interview practice as well as structured reference checking will be a practical help.

  3. Add some objective data & science – an example of good objective process is using psychometric assessment in the selection process and to give you a deeper understanding of your candidate that one or two interactions may not. Knowing your candidates’ personality, possible red flags and their core drivers is immensely helpful in picking the right employee.

We have a job analysis template that our clients have used to good effect to assist with the job analysis step, and if you are a manager and would like to check out the template, feel free to email us for quick discussion.

In addition, one of our core competencies is Psychometric Assessment Services for both Recruitment and Development, so if you would like to discuss psychometric assessment or need support having assessment integrated into your recruitment process, call us on 0411 113 617 or email

More information on our Assessment Solutions can be found on our website:


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