The interview process is broken & a better way to interview
No, we’re not talking about how impossible it is to form an accurate judgment of a person’s skills and character in under an hour. We know that, you know that, the entire internet has pontificated on that. It’s no secret.
And no, we’re not talking about how easy it is to ‘game the system’ – or how we ourselves have multiple articles specifically geared at training people to succeed in interviews, regardless of their professional merit. That goes without saying.
What we’re talking about today is how the whole unstructured interview process can be overhauled and replaced with a leaner, smarter, minimally biased program. We’re talking about the future of interviewing and how the incorporation of a few easy changes into your company’s workflow can make a world of difference in terms of the quality and staying-power of your new hires.
Do unstructured interviews actually work?
Seems like an obvious question – yet few companies pause to consider it. The entire interview process is treated as a given. Yet research has something else to say: according to numerous studies, unstructured interviews are not only (often) useless in weighing the merits of a person’s professional adequacy, but interviews can be detrimental to the hiring process.
Take a 2013 study that asked student participants to guess another student’s future GPA based on three factors – an in-person interview, the student’s course schedule, and his or her past GPA. In a control group, these same participants were asked to predict the student’s future GPA based solely on their past GPA; no other information was provided.
How did they fare? Students who only had the GPA to evaluate – no interview or course schedule – predicted future GPA with significantly greater accuracy. That means the unstructured interview hampered their ability to judge objectively. In hiring terms, they would have been better off simply reviewing the resume and LinkedIn page without any recourse to interviews.
Interviews today are random and non-predictive
Let’s go back to 1979, when a change in legislation made it necessary for the University of Texas Medical School to suddenly admit 50 more students. In an effort to save time and resources, they accepted 50 students initially rejected in the interview stage. To everyone’s amazement, upon graduation these students showed no significant difference in terms of attrition, academic performance, clinical performance, or honors earned.
Why are we so bad at interviewing?
The importance of quickly and accurately judging a person’s character has long been established as necessary for survival. Our genes have been selected through millions of years of evolution to perform this one task – and they fulfill it quite well.
At the same time, we’ve evolved some biases that – while helpful in many circumstances – hinder our ability to objectively assess a person’s skills in an interview setting. For example, we’re really good at tailoring our questions to elicit specific responses. We’re also experts of interpretation – we’re amazingly capable of hearing that which we want to hear in any given interaction. If we really like a person, but they offer a mediocre answer, we interpret it as better than it really was.
All of this leads to hiring managers (and recruiters!) underestimating the value of resume skills – the measurable record of a person’s past performance – and overestimating the value of their perceived character.
Not to mention the fact that a whole industry has cropped up based on ‘gaming the system,’ which allows under-qualified candidates to present like seasoned professionals. So what can be done?
How you can use technology to your advantage
We’re going to throw an idea out there that no one likes until they start benefiting from it: asynchronous video interviews.
Instead of engaging in active conversation, asynchronous interviews allow candidates to respond to pre-recorded questions. No human – recruiter or hiring manager – is on the other end of the interview. Just the candidate and a webcam.
These interviews are beneficial in a few distinct ways:
- They prevent natural bias from creeping into the conversation
- They remove chit-chat and jokes from the process
- They focus judgment purely on responses. You will no longer be focused on your ‘next question’ or coming up with follow up comments on the spot
Be consistent to a fault, but don’t be predictable. They’re not the same.
Whether or not you opt for the asynchronous video option, consistency should be at the core of your interview strategy. Do away with the unstructured interview process – even if it may be personally satisfying to candidly chat with potential employees – and instead develop a structured, consistent, interesting interview agenda that can be replicated and modified as your company grows and changes.
Goldman Sachs, which recently adopted asynchronous video interviews, tailors their questions to evaluate the participants on 10 necessary competencies. By developing a rotating series of questions relating to each competency, they are further able to ‘score’ the candidates more objectively.
Consistency is not to be confused with predictability. Just because you ask the same set of questions to each interviewee, doesn’t mean they have to be stock questions. Ask questions that reflect and represent your workplace, your culture, and your desired candidate. You’re not just evaluating a candidate – you’re selling your team and your company, too.
Never settle for the status quo
Even if you’re finding success with your current system, that’s no reason to sit back and accept the status quo. What could be improved? How can you lower attrition? Why aren’t you hiring more women? Question yourself, your company, and your process.
And if necessary, seek outside help. We specialize in helping companies of all sizes hire and retain the best Finance, Accounting, Life Science, and Technology professionals from San Diego and Los Angeles to Dallas and Austin. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.