A recent look back on the Google hiring process by the New York Times has raised some interesting questions in HR and management circles. Mainly, is the interview process broken? The information from the study concluded that there isn’t much correlation between someone who performs well at an interview and someone who doesn’t as it relates to their overall job performance once hired.
What is Wrong with Interviews?
Of course, there are some problems with this study, mainly that it’s only taking into account people that did get hired, the interviewers might have been bad or rating on personal preference rather than a set guideline of ratings, etc. Overall, the numbers seemed to show that as long as you hit a certain rating, you would be hired, but people who fell below that rating mark tended to perform better than those who scored higher.
Why? Well, if you look at the fact that they were hired despite scoring very low, there is likely some intangible that the person had: a strong work ethic that the interviewer sensed, a specific set of skills that no one else had. It’s impossible to tell.
But even so, why would a person who is so right for the job score so low? Is it because bad workers have more practice interviewing (since they presumably go through a lot of jobs)? Or is the interview process itself broken?
The Problems with the Standard Interview
Let’s assume that the interview that most of us have been on in the past is the standard interview. We bring in a hard copy of our resume, sit down and answer some questions, then we’re given a chance to ask questions of our own. Simple. Wham, bam, out the door, hope you get a call or email in a few days to weeks.
So, what did that interview really measure in the time you were there? Likely, here’s what the interviewer took away:
• This person can or can’t speak English.
• This person knows or doesn’t know what s/he is talking about in regards to this job.
• This person can or can’t prepare for an interview.
• This person did or didn’t do laundry/take a shower.
• This person has or is lacking general intelligence.
• This person made me feel _______ about him/her working here.
In reality, that’s about it. The standard interview is sort of a “how do you look and do you have a semblance of social skills” type of first date. It’s impossible to judge the real tangibles that will determine an employee’s productivity and success in the workplace until they are working.
This begs the question: if the lower scoring interviewees aren’t getting hired due to their low scores (given that at least in the Google study, they perform better once hired), isn’t it time to think about the way we conduct interviews?
How Should Interviews Be Conducted?
So, what’s the answer here? Obviously, the interviewing process needs to be changed. There are quite a few schools of thought on how to accomplish this, some met with success and some just pretty far-fetched. Here are a few ideas on ways businesses can conduct more efficient interviews. What do you think?
• The Group Interview. The group interview is unique in that it gives employers a chance to see how the individuals act in a group setting. Unless the job is working alone from home, chances are your workers interact with each other, so seeing how they interact in a competitive setting with their peers is helpful. Try assigning a task or two and see who emerges as leaders, which workers are effective followers (meaning they tackle the task with speed and efficiency), who is a team player and if anyone gums up the cogs. Another benefit here is that you can compare potential candidates side by side in real time.
• The Trial Period. A controversial method of interviewing involves giving a potential employee temp status on a trial basis. Yes, this means you would actually have to go through the process of any training or whatever barriers to entry you normally tear down for new hires, but the good news here is that you will get a chance to really see how the employee works in the surroundings and as an individual.
Yes, they will be on their best behavior but, if there’s a fatal flaw in the employee, it will likely surface no matter how hard they try to keep it contained. You can even do an incentive based trial period here, with the first two weeks at a slightly lower salary, then the second two weeks bumped up to normal pay if they work out, and then at the end of thirty days, their benefits can kick in and they are officially hired.