Are job interviews irrelevant?

Job interviews have flaws, but is that reason enough to turn hiring over to machines or do away with interviews altogether?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Under normal circumstances, if I stumble across a far-fetched idea, I’m usually racing to be an early adopter. If it challenges social norms or leans toward counter culture, I’m typically all in. The weirder, the better.

But for this idea, I’m proceeding with caution.

At first glance, the headline of a recent article published by the progressive business magazine Fast Company nearly hooked me: “What if we killed the job interview?”

Yes! Get rid of interviews! That tiny snapshot of a person isn’t adequate to determine — to really know — that a candidate will or will not be a good fit with your company.

Except, I actually like interviews.

Sure, they can sometimes be painful — some of those questions! — but I look better in person than on paper, which is odd for a writer.

Maybe it’s because I’ve felt the sting of applying for jobs that would fit me to a T, at least according to the qualifications being sought in the job description, just to get ghosted by the hiring manager, never so much as an email back to tell me they went in another direction. (That is a column for another time.)

Conversely, I’ve never been turned down for a job I’ve had an opportunity to interview for. Call it luck, but I think I have a talent for interviewing. My secret, if you can call it that, is that I’m honest — something a lot of people aren’t in interviews. At least, I think I’m honest. According to the Seinfeld character George Costanza, it’s not a lie if you believe it.

“All interviews are essentially artificial social situations in which candidates are asked to present the best version of themselves, all while pretending to be themselves,” writes Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in that Fast Company article. “In other words, they’re exercises in ‘impression management,’ and there are big, individual differences in how well people handle that. The real question, though, is why we care so much about a person’s ability to display a desirable behavioral repertoire during an hour or so. Unless they’re being considered for a sales or customer service job, it’s just not a terribly relevant skill set. To be sure, political skills — and even acting skills, to a degree — can be helpful career lubricants, but they don’t say much about performance on the job.

“In fact, so-called ‘dark side’ personality traits, such as narcissism and psychopathy, are found among people with otherwise strong social skills, at least in short-term interactions, which makes them perform rather well on interviews,” Chamorro-Premuzic continues. “In that sense, interviews are just like a first date: Just because someone charms you the first time you meet them doesn’t mean you should marry them.”

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to be good at interviews after all.

(Continued)

 

Chamorro-Premuzic brings up some very salient points about the flaws in interviews. In otherwise structured and standardized interviews, the interviewer still relies too often on his or her gut feeling about the candidate’s skills, personality, values, and culture fit. Even the most open-minded interviewer still has unconscious biases that affect how they rate a candidate, or worse, their biases are conscious and they’re proud of them.

Psychometric tests, which tend to be both quicker and cheaper to administer than interviews, are actually almost as accurate at predicting a candidate’s success in a position as an actual interview, according to research published 20 years ago in the Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

Chamorro-Premuzic also points out that some technological solutions, including AI-based tools that review interview footage and people’s words and actions into predictive performance scores (among other tactics), are quite promising.

AI interviewers could definitely even the playing field for some people who otherwise get a raw deal during the interview process. If it were that simple, I’d be all for it. But forgive me for still clinging to the human element in the interview process. At least until I learn how to charm a robot.

What do you think? Can we build a better interview, or should we just scrap the process altogether? Email me at jason@ibmadison.com.

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