Traditional job interviews – R.I.P?

Traditional job Interviews – R.I.P?

Most companies rely on traditional job interviews to make hiring decisions but even with effective interview skills this is a potentially risky method of selecting the right candidate because apparently 4 out of 5 people embellish during an interview (see also The Best Place to Work – The Art & Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. Prof. Ron Friedman PhD)

According to Prof Friedman, award-winning social psychologist and the author of The Best Place to Work, we are creating a condition where people are being dishonest because it is simply the only way for them to get a job. In other words, if a candidate does not have a specified skill set, they’ll talk around it to give their potential boss the impression that they do… and employers believe them! On top of this our brains join in to sabotage the decision with our unconscious biases which can influence the way in which we interview.

Turn to Science!
Using data gathered by the Wisconsin Longitudinal StudyEssex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research claim that people who are good looking may benefit from a ‘beauty premium’. Writing in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Dr Knies of Essex University, says that employers may be subconsciously drawn towards attractive staff. Therefore, as Friedman claims, people who are good looking tend to be evaluated as being more competent or intelligent, people who are taller tend to be evaluated as having better leadership skills and people with a deeper or lower-pitched voice are viewed as possessing greater integrity and trustworthiness. As research suggests that we can’t help being swayed by these factors which inevitably affect our decisions, what then is the solution?

Some employers choose to use psychometric testing although there is some debate over its value.   However those that do use it believe that it can give a more objective overview of a candidate’s character, strengths, weaknesses and working style. Typically it will never be used in isolation but as one component part of a wider process.  It can measure a number of attributes including intelligence, critical reasoning, motivation and personality profile and it can be argued that it may provide a more fair and accurate way of assessing a candidate, as all applicants will be given a standardised test that can be integrated into the recruitment process.

Some argue that we should abandon traditional interviews and go with “job auditions” or what is more commonly referred to as a work trial. After all you wouldn’t hire a musician or chef without seeing their work first. This means that the final decision is based on seeing them do the job rather than how they look and how well they answer any scripted questions. This approach could create a better workplace by selecting the right people for the job and workplace culture.

Work Trials
Automattic (the people behind take the principle of a work trial further by employing candidates that have successfully undergone first interview and selection process on a 3-8 week contract. This approach allows both parties a chance to size each other up and although there are quite a few ‘drop-outs’, the aim is to find the right person for the job and ensure that the resulting relationship is mutually beneficial. At the end of the trial period the CEO interviews candidates for the final time via text-only Skype chats or instant messaging. This means he has no idea of their gender or ethnicity which is as impartial and objective as he can get.

Extreme Interviewing
No, not whilst abseiling! A software developer called Menlo Innovations uses a version of “extreme interviewing” without a single question ever being fired at applicants. Up to 50 applicants are tested at a time and to simulate their work environment they work in pairs for 20 minutes, sharing a single computer, passing the mouse back and forth while brainstorming ideas! In a hyper collaborative work space, culture fit is an absolute must. The audition is designed to ensure that no person comes on board unless everyone is happy to have them. The best candidates go on to do a 3-week paid trial before they are offered a permanent position.

How Much?
Not many companies have the resources to embark on “auditions” on the scale that Automattic and Menlo do but most, whatever their size, can undertake or even outsource initial telephone screening interviews which are generally quicker, so larger numbers of candidates can be screened without any unconscious bias, making the process much more cost effective for the employer.  They can also access tools for psychometric testing (via trained consultants such as us!) which can be carried out at the late application stage followed up by a final interview to explore the results. These both have the advantage for both parties of saving time and money.

Keep the Change
Job interviews are here to stay but in their original unstructured format the do not have a great reliability record. Tightening up the interview with structure and using behavioural (competency) based questions along with adding to the selection process with auditions or trials  is a multi-faceted, more robust means of identifying suitable candidates.


For further information, advice or assistance with your own selection processes, please contact us.  We conduct initial telephone screening interviews, administer numerical ability, verbal ability and personality profile psychometric tests and design interview questions to enable you to identify your ideal candidate.

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