Why interviews are a lousy way to judge candidates

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Jenny, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    We've had many discussions here about the hiring process, with great contributions from those who do the interviewing/hiring and those who have been through the process. Here's an interesting article that suggests that most organizations are doing it wrong.

    Why interviews are a lousy way to judge candidates

    I must say though that while the writer has pinpointed a problem, I'm not big on his solution of trying to make the process more measurable.

    Thoughts?
  2. Bostonfan

    Bostonfan Well-Known Member

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    My company have utilized structured interviews for years. It forces the candidates to draw on past experience from their professional and/or personal life rather than answer hypotheticals based on what they think the interviewer wants to hear. It's harder for people (IMO) to make-up a lie on the spot if the question requires them to tell you a specific example from their past experience. It's easier to catch them in a lie too.

    We don't do IQ tests. For some industries, it might make sense to do one. We require a writing sample since providing written narratives is a big part of the job. It's astonishing to me how poorly some people spell or the amount of grammatical errors that I read from a simple writing sample.

    The biggest joke in our hiring process is the behaviorial test that asks dumb questions like, "Do you think it's OK to steal office supplies?" Of course everyone aces that section. It's pointless.
  3. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

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    Interviews are fine. It's the Swimsuit and Evening Wear portions that can be tricky!:D
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  4. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    Cynical me sees this article as the writer finding an excuse to promote his research. Cynical me also says that MBA students interviewing each other to predict who will do well on the midterm is not even close to being a reliable replication of the conditions/expectations of a job interview. Ironic when the writer is complaining about the lack of reliability of hiring tests in the real world.

    IMHO the real world problem is not the lack of reliability of hiring measures, but the politicking and the "like hires like" mentality in hiring that leads people to overlook the useful information that *does* come out of hiring tests and candidate assessments.
  5. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    I actually like his solution. I've always thought interviews were biased towards extroverted, sociable types. As an introvert, I've always felt at a distinct disadvantage in the interview process. I think making the process more measurable will help a lot in negating that bias.
  6. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Agree - I think he's right about the problem, but he started to lose me with his solution. As a researcher, of course he's going to advocate a process that has few variables and is measurable.

    What he doesn't really address, other than saying that intelligence tests are applicable to most jobs (and even that I question), is that different jobs don't just require different skill sets (which he does acknowledge), but different interview styles (which he does not).

    Many jobs do require a lot of interaction, whether with coworkers, suppliers, customers or others, and therefore, how a person presents themselves in an interview can be hugely important. Maybe it doesn't equate to how they will perform long term (his hypothesis, which I agree with to an extent), but it does tell you a lot about how they'll do on a sales call, dealing with a new customer, or working with a diverse range of colleagues.
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  7. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    We do this - we call it STAR. Situation, Task, Action, Result. We present the situation and ask for an example related to that situation that presents the task performed, the action taken and the result.

    The one major work around that candidates use is to give examples performed by their co-workers instead of themselves. We have used STAR for a long time, so people know the drill - so it is possible to lie when you know how the interview will be structured and are a little creative with it.
  8. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Well-Known Member

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    When I worked at Kohl's, we gave that test to potential new hires. What floored me was how many people failed it. :yikes:
  9. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

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    My favorite question in a job interview that I faced was "If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?"
  10. Bostonfan

    Bostonfan Well-Known Member

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    I once had a Supervisor ask a candidate, "If you were a Disney character, which one would you be and why?" I don't think there was any value to it, but the answers were always entertaining.:lol:
  11. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I'd be a kangaroo so I'd have a place to stash office supplies.
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  12. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    :rofl:
  13. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    This is both on and off topic - but one thing I have consistently seen in interviews / hiring over the years is that people want to hire people like themselves. I understand this is not done consciously but it is pervasive IME.

    It could be "jock" (like me), "easy-going" (like me), "white" (like me), "preppy" (like me), etc.

    To me, that is the advantage of a STAR like system. It won't elminate the internal bias but I think it helps somewhat reduce it. Of course, I still have seen people override STAR for the candidate they like - or weigh certain questions more heavily that favor their "like me" candidate.

    My brother's company does personality testing too - he says it works freakishly good to identify good fits. For example, if you are applying for an analyst job, you have to have the analyst personality traits as defined by this test. He has overridden it twice - both times he regretted it.
  14. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Can I skip the IQ test if I give them my Mensa card?

    I *really* don't think an IQ test is necessarily a good measure of who you should hire. And where are you going to draw the IQ-line, and for which jobs - and what backup do you have re: drawing those lines? What if specific groups do more poorly on IQ tests than others do - and not for reasons of intelligence? Total landmine, this one.
  15. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    My last company did that too. Now I used whenever I go on an interview whether the interviewer asks the question that way or not. So if they say "what would you if you were in X situation", I reply with "when I worked at Y, we had a similar situation and this is what I did and how it turned out and what I would the same or differently if presented with that situation again."

    I think answering this way makes you seem like a more solid candidate because it reminds them you have experience doing what they want you to do.

    I don't think IQ tests tell anything about what a person is like to work with or if they have the skills to do the job and I don't think I've ever taken any test as part of the interview process that I thought was worth a damn.

    I also have found that if I ignore my gut feelings about a candidate and hire them anyway, I'm always sorry because whatever I was worried about turns out to be 10x the problem I thought it would be.
  16. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Me either, and I'd frankly find it a bit invasive.

    I've worked with some people who are clearly very intelligent who weren't good performers, and I've worked with people who couldn't find my city on a map or give me the square root of 9, but were fabulous workers - at all levels.

    Another one that isn't necessarily a good measure is education. Some people simply can't afford to go to the best schools, and shouldn't be judged as lesser because they went to a lesser school, or for that matter didn't go to college at all. For several years I worked with a brilliant CEO of a multi-billion dollar company who taught me a ton about business and management. We needed a bio for something, and I found out that he had just a high school diploma. He had literally worked his way from the bottom to the top of this company.
  17. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

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    I think that sort of question is to see how the interviewee can think quickly on his feet.
    My answer for animal was a Swan. They paddle like crazy underneath the surface to get where they need to go, but all anyone can see is them gliding smoothly on top.
  18. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    I would tweak that a bit to say people want to hire those they feel comfortable being around and who complement the workers/working style already there. People spend a lot of time at work, and they want those hours to be relatively enjoyable. If you're working with someone who is productive, but unfriendly, that doesn't necessarily make for an enjoyable work environment for others.

    Each place of work has its unique culture, so it's not just a matter of being able to do task A, B, and C--one also has to be a good fit for the overall work environment. And that's where things like personality and gut instinct come in.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  19. Lacey

    Lacey Well-Known Member

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    This is right on the money. My youngest daughter has a small corporate job. Her company has taken her for the last 3 years back to the university she was graduated from to do informational sessions. This year, they took her to those and then again a few months later to do actual interviews, she did twelve during one day. She said that it was usually the director or vice presidential level worker who had done these interviews. But she thought it was a good idea for her to do them because she could tell over the length of each individual session which candidates, most of whom were usually of the approximately same level of intelligence and background, would fit right in with the culture of her company, and who would not. I am sure she wasn't the only interview these kids had, but I can see where her opinion would be of value. They hire a group of about 25 kids each year, and they go through a training program for two years but even stay friends and connect beyond that initial period. In fact, she received her first promotion beyond the training program when being recommended for an interview by someone in the "class" above her. She would not have heard about the job otherwise, and she beat out all the guys who applied.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
  20. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    If they used the Meyers-Briggs personality test, I would get the job because it says my "ideal jobs" are secretarial/administrative!
  21. Michalle

    Michalle New Member

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    Do you have any tastefully worded to respect their anonymity examples? I'm curious... like, what kind of gut feelings/worries?
  22. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    It's even more critical in today's dot-com era. My mom's old boss now works at Facebook and she had lunch with her there recently. Over there, nobody has any privacy. There are no walls, no dividers, obviously no cubicles, but that's the point. They want everyone to work together. If you want to talk to your coworker, he's only a foot away from you. Heck, you want to talk to Mr. Zuckerburg, he's on the floor along with the rest of the programmers. :lol:

    My mom mentioned it would drive her crazy, but she's the kind of person who only needs to be given a job and goes off in a quiet corner to do it. :lol: Since that style of working is obviously not for everybody, an interview for fit absolutely makes sense.

    My bf works for a very small startup tech company which involves everyone in interviews, and it's absolutely for fit. They have turned down brilliant programmers before because the fit wasn't right.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
  23. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    Hiring people is such a tough thing because if you get it wrong it can really cause massive problems in the workplace.

    We had a couple of people in the last couple of years in our department who on first impressions presented extremely well. But as time went on we discovered one was a selfish and nasacistic brat who we ended up nicknaming Veruca Salt because her catchphrase was "it's not fair". And the other would be a nice as pie to your face and say horrible things about you behind you back. Both only last around 12 months with us. Needless to say it was "all our fault" that they left. Unfortunately I don't think an interview would pick up those kinds of things.

    The latest couple of people we have are great - very professional, no bullshit - they just do their jobs. And they have no personality disorders.
  24. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely, but this can be problematic when "complement the style already there" is operationalized as "gets along with me, and too bad if they're an *ss to everyone else". Or when it's operationalized as "lives in same neighbourhood as me", "goes to same church as me", "belongs to same club as me", "likes the same sports teams I do", etc.etc.. And when things like these are used to eliminate candidates who are perfectly likeable and have appropriate qualifications but don't meet these criteria for "fit".
  25. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

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    My sister is a headhunter of sorts and she asks questions like that when she gets bored with canned responses. She said it often cuts the tension and the candidates relax a little and show more of their true personalities.
  26. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    I tend to avoid hiring people like myself. :shuffle: I find that their flaws jump out so much more obviously. I'd rather hire someone who can enthusiastically approach all of the things I'd rather not be doing. :lol:

    As someone who tests 100% introvert but can pass as a mild extrovert, I try to give people a balance of exercises:
    1) Phone interview
    2) Writing sample
    3) In-person interview
    4) Timed analysis/written exercise
    5) Homework assignment due a week later

    By the time I get to #5, I'm usually confident I'm going to hire someone. In the cases where I have declined someone after #5, I've had serious doubts about whether the writing sample submitted was actually done by the same person. And/or that the person really wanted the job.
  27. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    I would seriously question whether I wanted to work for a company that asked such ridiculous questions. Interviews are a two-way street (at least they are with good economies and people who are employed).

    I'd be curious to see how different cultures/groups react to such questions, too. I suspect these questions run a high risk of bias and/or cultural relativism.
  28. UMBS Go Blue

    UMBS Go Blue KWEEN 2016! YES WE KWAN!

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    Next time try asking if they need shuttles to get to work. Maybe that way you can weed out some whiny, negative candidates with attitude problems.
  29. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    Do you mean shuttle buses? I'm afraid I can't figure out how the answer to that question could weed out potential personality problems.:confused:
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  30. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    At my last place of full time employment, the key factors were 1) Are you a graduate of this high school? (male or female) and 2) Are you willing to flirt with, giggle at, toss your hair, and seductively pat the principal on the arm while speaking to him? (female).

    One of those things would get you hired. Two of them would make you a department head and director of curriculum as a second year teacher new to the faculty.
  31. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    I agree with this. I have been treated so rudely by some people in HR and recruiters for certain companies that I will never use their products again and will warn people not to work for them. They seemed to think that, because the job market was soft, that they could treat their candidates any way they wanted. They don't seem to realize that job candidates are a form of customer and their bad experiences can back-fire on the company.
  32. Ajax

    Ajax New Member

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    I wish there was a way for interviewed candidates to leave feedback about the HR person they deal with and the interview process. I recently had an interview with an HR person of a big online retail company. She cancelled our first scheduled phone interview just 10 minutes before the interview, saying she'd been called into a meeting. That sucked as I had actually taken half a day off of my job for the interview. We rescheduled and this time, she FORGOT to call me - her Outlook calendar wasn't working (!!) and she forgot to enter the appointment manually in her agenda. The third time, she called me half an hour later than scheduled. Do they just think that all jobsearchers are unemployed people who sit around on their butts all day, waiting for calls? I would have loved to contact her supervisor and leave feedback.
  33. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    I don't think you'd be out of line to do so. There's a good chance they'd ignore it coming from a rejected candidate, and that the HR person would say you were lying, but best case scenario you might actually get through. If you were to send a letter, professionally worded and sticking to the facts, and perhaps expressing some surprise as you had been an admirer of the company and intended to continue to be a customer, then it might even get you a second chance - as long as you keep it very professional and factual.
  34. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with this.

    Years ago I turned up for an interview which I was then kept waiting half an hour without being told anything, then before the interview they made me do this Excel spreadsheet which didn't really test anything (to see if I could make it look like the one they gave me) and then did the interview. When it got to the interview they asked me what I thought about the test. I replied that I had done plenty of tests at agencies on Excel and it might be preferable to do a test like that instead of the one they were asking their candidates to do. However by that stage I was so p*ssed off with their tardiness, I didn't want to work for them anyway so it wasn't really traumatic to not get a job there.
  35. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    Believe it or not, due to an awful series of mishaps, I had an experience similar to Ajax's, except I was the interviewer. :shuffle: And I did get a (deserved) earful from HR about how bad it looked to the candidate. I agreed and apologized to HR and the candidate as best I could.

    A lot of companies do a formal census or survey of all candidates who decline their offers and will take action if something is amiss.
  36. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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    We do structured/behavior interviews, but the problem is that the consultant/HR people who make up the questions don't know how to tailor them for legal practice and we aren't supposed to change the questions. So the very best process for us is that we fill a lot of our slots with our outside counsel who might be looking for a lifestyle change from the billable hour. Then we know their work. That is how I got my job. I worked with these people for 4 years as outside counsel before I joined the company.
  37. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    Yes, yes, they do. I have this one recruiter who calls me multiple times a day and sends email and when I don't return his calls (because I'm at work), he says in the email "do you have another number? That number doesn't seem to be working." :rolleyes: Dude, it's the middle of the day and I'm AT WORK.

    Our company gets the questions from everyone so that's not an issue. The issue we have is that you can't determine technical competence from a STAR interview so we are on our own with that part and some do a better job than others.
  38. Erin

    Erin Well-Known Member

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    I agree on both counts. Perhaps this is top of mind because I'm in the middle of interviewing candidates and I just walked out of one where I really have no idea how the person would do. Socially, I'm sure she would fit fine, but she lacks experience in our area and there was absolutely nothing that would give me a sense of how quickly she would pick up on things.

    Perhaps Louis's timed analysis and/or take-home exercise is the solution here. I'm not the hiring manager, though, and I'm not sure how something like that would be received at this stage.

    This has worked pretty well for our department so far, too, starting with me. My current employer is my former client, I hired two former colleagues who are also contractors, I hired a woman who had interned for another department in the company, and I'd also hired someone who had been a client in my former job. Unfortunately with the two open positions we now have, I'm starting to feel like our resources are tapped out and anyone where I do know their work wouldn't be suitable. I'm not sure what the solution is at this point.
  39. Ajax

    Ajax New Member

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    Ugh. :revenge: This is why I stopped posting my resume on Monster and making my contact information available there. All it attracted was low-level recruiters who wanted me for insurance sales positions. (I'm in investment research... the two have practically nothing to do with each other!) What's worse is they just wouldn't stop! They kept sending me emails and leaving voice messages on my phone, day after day after day. If I've never responded to a single one, can't they get a hint?
  40. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    I finally got smart. No phone on my resume and I got a Google Voice number for my Dice profile. The calls have really died down and the emails have picked up. The emails are less intrusive and easier to deal with.