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Why are we wasting each other’s time with this interview?

The final step before deciding on who will get that important job is normally the interview

As the head of department, you’ve always relied on your instincts, but when it comes to choosing the right person for that important job, those same instincts might be letting you down.

The final step before deciding on who will get that important job is normally the interview. New research now indicates that this final stage might not be needed, and your trusted instincts might actually be leading you astray.

Consider this situation. You have just interviewed two candidates for a sales position. The first applicant was dynamic and likeable, seemingly perfect qualities for sales. The second, however, was awkward and reserved, attributes not exactly ideal for the job.

Then you check their scores in an earlier aptitude test. The first contender only scored averagely in that test and in a general intelligence test, while the second scored highly in both.

So what do you do? Your natural reaction, honed by your years of experience, is to fall back on your instincts and take the first candidate.

A new study says you would be wrong. Specific and objective tests have been shown to be a much better indicator of actual job performance than standard interviews.

The reason for this is not the candidate, but you. This latest research, led by Yale University’s Management Professor, Jason Dana, suggests that the interviewer tends to bring his own preconceptions into face-to-face sessions. Unfortunately this can include subconscious prejudices.

Perhaps the interviewer has negative feelings towards Latinos, is slightly misogynistic or has other similar issues. So a good candidate might be passed over on matters that would not have been raised if the appointment was made solely on the basis of aptitude and written tests.

In a physical interview, the interviewer will make a quick assessment of the candidate, then, perhaps unconsciously, use any answers and responses from the applicant to further bolster that impression. Professor Dana decided to test this hypothesis by instructing test interviewees to give random, even nonsensical, answers to some of their interviewer’s questions.

When the interviewers were questioned later, they stated that they had actually received valuable information. To explain this, the Professor decided that the interviewers had woven together all of those unrelated or even illogical responses into a form that reinforced their own first thoughts on the candidate.

In other words, it suggests that the interviewers were relying too much on their own instincts.

The study has also shown that this doesn’t just apply to the world of sales either. In medical schools, the same patterns were shown. If a student does well on a personal interview to gain a place, it doesn’t follow that they will do well academically or clinically. The same goes for Law schools, where a student is normally accepted based on how they do at a face to face interview, which is no indication on how they will do as professors or researchers.

This evidence shows that relying on a physical interview is both unnecessary and an actual hindrance to the hiring process.

The way forward, then, seems to be to focus more on objective testing and less on interviews. That way, apart from getting better results, we could stop wasting everyone’s valuable time.

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One comment

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