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  1. #1
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    Why interviews are a lousy way to judge candidates

    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

    ... managers are consistently overconfident in their ability to identify the best candidates using a job interview. We cling to the fanciful notion that we can perfectly predict future job performance, despite overwhelming evidence against it. We all want to believe that we are good judges of character, yet we do not bother to collect the evidence we would need to test that belief. Rather, we rely on gut intuitions about whom to hire.
    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?

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    Uncle Dick's Beyotch!
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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.

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

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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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny View Post
    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?
    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.
    "If people are looking for guarantees, they should buy appliances at Sears and stay away from human relationships."~Prancer

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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    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.
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by modern_muslimah View Post
    I actually like his solution. I've always thought interviews were biased towards extroverted, sociable types.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostonfan View Post
    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 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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostonfan View Post
    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.
    When I worked at Kohl's, we gave that test to potential new hires. What floored me was how many people failed it.

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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?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrellH View Post
    My favorite question in a job interview that I faced was "If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?"
    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.

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    I'd be a kangaroo so I'd have a place to stash office supplies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrellH View Post
    Interviews are fine. It's the Swimsuit and Evening Wear portions that can be tricky!
    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw View Post
    I'd be a kangaroo so I'd have a place to stash office supplies.

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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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostonfan View Post

    We don't do IQ tests. For some industries, it might make sense to do one.
    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.
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    We do this - we call it STAR. Situation, Task, Action, Result.
    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.
    "Cupcakes are bullshit. And everyone knows it. A cupcake is just a muffin with clown puke topping." -Charlie Brooker

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacMadame View Post
    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.
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bostonfan View Post
    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.
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    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 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 by agalisgv; 02-09-2012 at 11:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    I would tweak that a bit to say people want to hire those they like and feel comfortable being around. 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.
    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 by Lacey; 02-10-2012 at 12:18 AM.

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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!

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