The one with a rant about interviews

Dating was easier when I was younger. It just involved going out, drinking just enough to get over myself, bumping into a girl and then snogging. After that was kind of the “seeing each other” bit and eventually we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Until we weren’t and the whole cycle began again. And this is in the days when you had to call a girl’s home number and ask her Dad if you could speak to her – none of this easy get out texting/facebooking/tweeting malarkey. Proper fear!

Then, somewhere along the way, dating became harder. It became like dating was portrayed in American films – a contact sport or a numbers game. Going out with a girl seemed like running the gauntlet of a set of boxes requiring ticks. It ceased to be about two people just getting to know each other and finding out if there was chemistry and became about passing some test. Those were trying times – all nerves, can I remember an anecdote that will fit the situation? Am I being impressive/empathetic/funny/interested* enough (*delete (or not) as appropriate)? I usually ended up being the worst version of myself and definitely not me…

[There should be a segue in here, I know!]

A lot is written about recruitment these days. About the future of recruitment, about how it is increasingly social, how technology is changing it and how businesses need to attract talent differently. A lot of what is written (or at least what I get to see) is actually about a small part of recruitment i.e. attraction, and not about an equally important part of recruitment, selection.

I’ve read the studies (best data is Schmidt & Hunter 1998), the best predictors of job performance in terms of selection techniques are (in order) work sample tests, cognitive ability tests and structured employment interviews. What am I saying? I’m saying I get it – the structured interview is up there with the best of the best in terms of job performance, or so the research says.

Personally, I was always more of a fan of the semi structured interview. Whilst I believe that the research is valid I also believe that it doesn’t mean that’s exactly how you should do your interview. Let’s be honest an interview is not ALL about selection. It’s also a little bit about attraction – because whilst the person is sat in front of you, they aren’t saying yes…..yet.

Also, whilst I understand that validating competence through examples from previous work is a very valid process it does nothing to help you understand how the person would react given a new challenge, how they think about the possibilities and how their existing competence could be stretched or even (perish the thought) developed in your organisation. Also, and let’s be honest here, people prepare their examples.

I’ve been trying to think of a way of describing my favourite form of interviewing and the best analogy I can use is Prime Minister’s Questions. If you ever watch PMQs (and you should do at least once) it’s a fascinating process which shows the archaic process of parliament at its most entertaining. Any MP can table a question, that is submit it in advance for the PM to answer. The submitted questions are vetted by the PM’s team and possible answers are prepared in advance (you know the folder he takes to the despatch box – that’s his homework). However, should the same MP rise again to ask a further question (and the MP will likely be called by the Speaker) they are asking what’s called a “supplementary” question where it has to be on the same topic but otherwise all bets are off, and it’s down to the thoroughness of the prep and the ability of individual to think on their feet as to what happens next. That’s how I like to interview.

Ask the ‘can you give me an example of a time’ question but then probe the answer, get stuck in, explore and try to truly understand how the individual thinks and how they learned from that experience. If you spend the time ONLY asking the “give me an example” questions you are likely only testing the ability to prepare.

Which may seem something of a tangent from the dating stuff at the beginning BUT I am getting to my point (I promise). In recruitment terms I am not a pushover I like to really get stuck in and understand the individual BUT I realise the multiple requirements of an interview. I put my ‘date’ at ease, I establish rapport, I make them feel comfortable, I let them share something about themselves and reciprocate because let’s face it; I want to see the best version of them, not the version that comes out under the pressure of nerves and intimidation.

To finish the dating analogy, I never wanted to date a girl who without thinking offered a second date, but I did want a girl who realised that the whole process isn’t easy and that making it comfortable for both of us was the likeliest route to us working out whether we wanted to meet again.

And to finish the recruitment rant, I always wanted the candidate to leave the room a) wanting to come back for a further meeting and b) feeling they’d had the opportunity to present the best version of themselves. I may have failed as often as I succeeded but this was always the intention and I’m not sure how many people share it.

As a final thought, I am very happily in a relationship and to any of you reading this who are out there dating I wish you the best of British luck! I had my fill….

 

Reference:

Schmidt, F.L. & Hunter, J.E. (1998) “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings”. Psychological Bulletin Vol 124, No. 2

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