The Flaws of the Interviewing Process

Interviewing is more 'art than science'

Effective interviewing is more ‘art’ than ‘science’

I think it’s not of great secret that the hiring process is a flawed system in general. When I say ‘flawed,’ it is mainly to the interview process that I refer. Many times, interviews are conducted by individuals or people that are in a position of needing to fill a gap for their organization. Often, that means people are looking to expedite the hire and get that cog in the machine as soon as possible. At the same time, it also can be exacerbated by the fact that the person/people doing the hiring really don’t know what best to look for or what the needs really are to be; they have a gap to fill.

Contributing to this break-down in the machine is, historically, if you look at colleges and universities (and businesses themselves), there has been an incredible emphasis on training people to be ready for the interview, but the other side of the fence, training effective interviewers, is sorely lacking! Even at some of the nation’s best business schools and programs, preparing FOR the interview is of paramount importance, but preparing and training people to CONDUCT interviews is almost absent from the equation. What this has contributed to is a system that perpetuates and repeats inherent flaws in the way it is designed to be vetting potential candidates for hire.

Think of it this way – an organization posts a position. People react by constructing their resumes, highlighting their history, skills and fill it with what they hope will be key words and buzz topics to get noticed. It gets read (if one is lucky) and selected as a ‘call-back!’ You’re in! Well, now begins the flaw, or series of flaws I am referring to.

Flaw #1 – The resume ends up becoming the interview guide

Let’s begin with the call-back as a start. They’ve invited you in because of your resume and because of this, once the interview begins the resume can end up as a template for the interview. What this does is put the emphasis on what candidates have done or are able to check-off in terms of the list of requirements in meeting the role’s requirements. This looking back has a tendency to focus on job experience instead of potential, and many times this allows the interviewer, in search for all the right check-boxes, to get away from finding out about who the candididate really is instead of do they have the ‘right’ requirements. Sadly, furthering down the wrong road, many interviewers are either not that inventive in extracting ‘who the candidate is,’ or in an attempt to keep a level-playing field (which it isn’t), they will have scripted interviews where each candidate answers the same set of questions. This mutes any real conversation or the ability for personality and fit to shine through.

In a perfect world both need to be assessed; experience and potential, but without potential, what value does experience really have? For example, suppose a candidate with a ‘great history’ is applying and it turns out they’re doing so just to go through the motions, needing a job and the fact is that they hated everything they did to get that experience that is now shining on the resume? They’re not the best in terms of potential to fill that gap for the employer. Experience and skill-set may indicate if a candidate can do a job, but it’s not necessarily a correlation of do they WANT to do the job?

Flaw #2 – Basic human nature

It’s a fact that people tend to gravitate towards others of common interest and/or history. No secret there but it does set up the potential that a mutual interest or association listed on a resume may make a candidate seem more desirable, even if it doesn’t hold much weight when it comes to the job itself. While one certainly cares in terms of what a candidate’s resume has on it, the ‘right boxes ticked/words used,’ you’ve already been called in for the interview, so now’s the time to find about the candidate as a person, a part of the mission, not as a list of credentials, facts & figures. Years past, I used to have a corporate recruiter that came to campus annually. In his resume reviews, anyone that had either, or both, military history & acapella were almost a shoe-in for an interview. Why? Because he liked them. Simple as that! Interviewers need to remain objective and have a good understanding of both the position to be filled but also the bigger picture, the health of the organizational culture.

Flaw #3 – It’s a popularity contest

Many times a candidate’s likability is a leading measure of employment. While one’s likability is certainly important, getting on with the interviewer is not always reflective of your potential interaction with the team or culture of the organization. The interview process really needs to examine how one’s fit into the whole will ultimately be measured. Unless you’re the only other employee, or will be working with this person exclusively, it’s about more than an individual connection. It’s about how the candidate fits within the culture of the entire company. Sadly, sometimes the desire to get an employee that’s got all the right things said, or the experience that’s needed, can over-ride a potential new hire’s ability to navigate the new employer culture, and if so, all that experience and skill set can go to waste.

Flaw #4 – No checks and balances

An interviewer can often have the first and final say in whether or not a candidate is best ‘qualified’ for a position. With that, a lack of objectivity can cloud the lens on the hiring process and bring in people that might be bad for the organization and, at the same time, send good talent walking for the door. What’s missing is an efficient check and balance measurement to ensure an objective decision is made. A smart hiring process will look beyond facts & figures and get an intuitive sense of a candidate’s offering. Soft-skills need to be measured and may include having the candidate meet with multiple people, either as separate interviews or in a group interview format, to counteract the bias of any one person.

Some people are great in interviews, but bad on the job. Interviews are often skewed by the impression that people make, which isn’t always reflective of their ability to do the job. I’ve seen good candidates be shown the door ’cause their interviewing skills were not up to snuff, and horrible candidates that are hired, but becuase they were so good at the ‘selling of themselves’ in the interview, people were fooled and by then it’s too late – damage done.

Flaw #5 – No inventiveness or creativity

HR in general will never be referred to as the ‘creative’ group in an organization. Some of this perception is fair and some is not. The fact remains that they are in place to take care of, as the title says, human resources, and some are just better at this than others. Many times, in the process of getting new hires, as alluded to above, the interviewing that takes place can be a bit dry, scripted and/or mechanized. As an interviewee, what you’re looking for is an organization that prides itself on getting to know the real you, see if you’re the best fit, and if so, get you on board. One thing that comes to mind is the S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique. If you see or hear of this process being in place to vet you as a candidate, run! While it may make sense to actually be prepared for such, it reeks of assembly-line processing of staffing and means you’ll end up dissecting your resume with the interviewer and they will really not know the first thing about who you are as a candidate. It does, however, tell you MUCH about them and what it might be like to be part of that organization!

To summarize, the flawed interview/vetting process has the potential to drain a company’s pool of talent and greatly hinder its bottom line with the high cost of turnover and poor hiring decisions. If we don’t start taking a more critical look at the way we evaluate talent, we’re sure to weaken this most valuable resource — and any respective organization — as a result. While experience and education might indicate to you whether people have the capability to do a job, but with exploratory interviewing, questions in the context of the moment and candidate, trying to see the personality and soft-skills, will provide a better indication of how well they will do it!


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