There is this saying that I grew up hearing from my mother, “speak the truth…cost it what it will, he who hides the wrong he does, does the wrong thing still.” So in an effort to not hide the wrong I think I do, by continuing to conduct interviews, I would like to discuss why they probably should not be done. It is my hope that one day HR practitioners will not be expected to do them.
Interviews are by nature fraught with problems and really should only be used in cases where some system has been put in place to mitigate the inherent dangers in interviews or supplement their shortfalls.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few problems with interviews:
- Human bias. All humans have biases; we use our experiences to create rules that we use to make sense of our world, but these rules are really biases. Even though no one likes to admit that they operate on the basis of their bias, we only need to think about the phrase often used at neighborhood watch meetings… “suspicious looking person” …to see that in our everyday life we use bias. All that phrase really means is someone who doesn’t look like us or belonging to our neighborhood. The purpose of any activity undertaken in the selection process within an organisation ought to be focused on selecting the best person for the job, however, interviews often only amount to an opportunity for the interviewer to impose their own personal bias on the organisation by selecting someone they feel comfortable with. Since we know that humans feel most comfortable with others who are similar to themselves, interviews usually fail to deliver anything new to the organisation.
- Weak comparative information. Unless a very tightly managed structural interview is implemented where there is absolutely no deviation from the script regardless of the candidate’s response….no two interviews are ever alike. This therefore means that no two candidates got the exact same opportunity to shine and therefore no two candidates can really be compared head to head. Interviews are more likely to create a situation of comparing apples to oranges than apples to apples.
- Poor relevance. An interview does not create a relevant scenario within which to assess a candidate. Again, the purpose of selection activities ought to be to determine which candidate will have greater success at the job. The interview usually does not resemble the job in any way, and the skills required to do well in an interview are rarely ever required to do well at the job. Interviews often require the candidate to persuade and present, whereas not all jobs require this skill. There is also the matter of personal communication styles and comfort levels. Most people find interviews very stressful, therefore they are rarely ever themselves, no matter how much the interviewer tries to be nice and friendly. So what is really being seen in the interview scenario is how each person manages stressful situations. While this is useful information, unless the job is one that requires the candidate to constantly exist in a state of high stress this is not relevant.
- Dishonesty. No one tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in an interview; so why bother to ask questions that are really designed to see who can lie the best? When an interviewer asks a candidate why she left her last job….do you really expect her to say…. “my boss was a jerk and I couldn’t take it anymore”, even when that is the real reason. No, we expect her to come up with a good lie. Are good liars really good employees?
- The internet. I am personally yet to ever be asked a question in an interview to which the best answer does not exist somewhere on the internet. The existence of interview guide websites has reduced the interview process to merely a matter of who picked the best website to prepare from. This has absolutely nothing to do with a candidate’s ability to do a good job.
- Life. We have all heard that saying…. “if something can go wrong it will”. Now, just because on the very day of an interview everything in your life goes wrong it doesn’t mean that you were not the best person for the job. But it is unlikely that anyone will communicate any challenge to an interviewer if the challenge is of a personal nature because it will give a bad impression. But the reality is that bad things do happen and life happens. Interviews rarely take this into account. Therefore, the candidate that is at their best may be the candidate that life passed by on that day and not necessarily the best person for the job.
So obviously I hate interviews. But, you can’t complain about something without offering an alternative. So here are my alternatives.
- Psychometric testing that is not culturally specific
- Assessment centers
- Gamification that replicates the actual job to be executed
- Job trials
These methods are more likely to yield information the organisation can really use to guide decision making. They give information about the candidates’ personalities, competence, coping skills and job specific capabilities.