Is there anything more sacred to the hiring process than the job interview?
From time immemorial, hiring managers have relied on interviews to compare candidates and to make a final selection. By speaking with the candidate, the thinking goes, a leader can get an accurate feel of whether the person is right for the job and for your organization.
If this describes your approach, know this: You’re likely wasting your time.
As an executive recruiter, I’ve conducted over 10,000 of them.
More importantly, research has consistently demonstrated that interviews are a poor predictor of job performance and can lead you into awful hiring decisions.
In an aptly titled column in the New York Times, “The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews,” Yale School of Management associate professor Jason Dana described an experiment where students were asked to predict the future grade point average of two groups of students: one based on past performance only, the other based on past performance and in-person interviews.
The predictions of students who were limited to past performance were much more accurate than the students who also interviewed the research subjects. “In the end,” Dana wrote, “the interviews were counterproductive.”
A similar result occurred in Texas a few years ago when the state legislature mandated that the University of Texas Medical School add 50 more students to its incoming class. The school accepted 50 students who were previously rejected after the interview phase. Ultimately, those 50 students performed just as well as their peers. Again, the interviews proved to be useless.
Why do leaders consistently make bad hiring decisions based on interviews?
The likely suspect is confirmation bias.
We tend to prefer people who are like ourselves and thus, hire people who are like ourselves. When you first meet a candidate, you’ll probably decide whether you like them or not in the first twenty seconds. Our reptilian brain does this automatically as a survival mechanism i.e. “is this friend or foe?”
After forming a “gut feel” about a candidate at the start of the interview, we then subconsciously search for evidence that supports the feeling. And we ignore evidence that runs counter to our choice.
It’s human nature; we all like to be right. The problem is that we typically make decisions before evaluating all available information, and—once we’ve made our decision—we seek to confirm what we already “know” to be true.
While confirmation bias is the No. 1 reason that interviews yield poor hiring results, there’s another unappreciated fact: candidate interview performance has little to do with how the person will perform on the job.
Some candidates, particularly in sales, are great talkers. They have the ability to understand and articulate exactly what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate. Even for an experienced interviewer, it can be hard not to be swayed by a well-rehearsed and savvy interviewee.
Here’s the worst part: 81% of people lie about themselves during job interviews, according to a University of Massachusetts study.
Participants in the study told an average of 2.19 lies per 15 minutes of interview time, with the applicants vying for more technical jobs lying the most often.
Yes, I’ve been duped.
I’ve hired people who gave great interview performances, but who turned out to be very poor employees. Conversely, some of my highest performers gave mediocre interviews.
The point is this: It’s a common and dangerous mistake to make the interview the be-all and end-all of the candidate selection process. It’s a single input among many—and one that is far less predictive of job success than other factors you should consider.
Introducing the Test Drive
While most hiring managers place too much stock in interviews, nine out of ten skip the most predictive component of the entire recruiting process: the test drive.
A test drive is a real-world simulation that mirrors the actual work tasks the candidate will be expected to perform on the job.
The test drive can vary from a couple of hours to a couple of days in the office, or it might be a weekend, take-home assignment. I haven’t found a role yet where I couldn’t design a test drive.
A few examples:
Senior Executive: Have the finalist attend a staff meeting to see whether they make meaningful contributions and advance the discussion. Or, ask them to present a strategy and respond to follow-up questions. The point is to assess their leadership style and how they engage with others.
Customer Service Manager: Ask the finalist to sit in on some inbound customer calls, take notes, evaluate the team, and provide feedback. Assess how they interacted with the staff. Ask the staff if they received useful ideas from the candidate.
You should develop a test drive for each role at your company, starting with the positions you hire most often. Then build on that library, focusing next on roles that are of critical importance.
Time and again, the test drive has changed my mind about candidates. I’ve had people who were terrific in interviews fall apart during the test drive and others who performed poorly in the interview and then blew me away in the test drive.
Want to raise your hiring success rate? Downplay the interview as a decision-tool and insist on test driving each candidate.
It speaks far louder than words.
Originally published by Forbes
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