Stop Interviewing, Start Interacting
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In 1921 Thomas Edison decided he wanted to hire only highly knowledgeable college graduates and devised a written test for them. It contained almost 150 questions that ranged from Geography (“Where is the river Volga?”) to History (“What war material did Chile export to the Allies during the War?”) and Industry (“Of what is brass made?”). He even served them soup in the interview. Those who added salt and pepper ‘before’ tasting the soup were automatically ruled out because Edison wanted people who never made assumptions.
While interviews were around long before this, Edison was among the first to adopt written evaluations. Over the last century, the methods of evaluating candidates have evolved alongside technology. With the advent of the telephone and the internet, we adopted telephonic and video interviews to expand the pool of talent we could evaluate. With the rise of social media, our personal and professional history resides in many places, not just a resume. Through all of this, however, the interview itself has remained largely unchanged. Candidates come in, answer questions to be evaluated, and go home to wait for your response.
Why do we need an evolution?
As the proverb goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. Interviews have remained unchanged for a good reason; they have been working. But as with all things, evolution is inevitable. Interviews are no longer a tool just to assess knowledge, but also to ascertain a cultural fitment. At the same time, the battle for talent has grown more competitive than ever before in history. Candidates can now share their opinion of your interview process on corporate review websites, making the interview experience an important area of focus.
There is no doubt the interview process needs to reflect this evolution. Here’s a quick look at how and why you need to move from interviews to interactions.
1. Don’t Drive the Discussion
Interviews can be one-sided. The interviewer usually asks all the questions and the candidate answers them. Throughout the interview, the candidate is in a defensive mode. It’s no wonder most people find job interviews highly stressful! Instead, let the candidate feel like they are in control of the discussion, so you can arrive at a more honest, two-way interaction.
Start by asking more open-ended questions like, “What do you think about that?”. Help candidates open up and speak from the heart about their experiences and perspectives. This reduces the pressure on them to showcase their achievements and academic knowledge, and it can help you understand their personalities and better judge a cultural fitment.
Encourage candidates to ask YOU questions. It can put them at ease, while subtly putting them on the spot. With this approach, you can educate candidates and positively influence their opinion of the company, while also assessing which candidates were able to ask the right questions. It can sometimes be more revealing to check if someone can ask intelligent questions than if they can give intelligent answers.
While recruiting candidates for account management roles in our company, we adopted this approach to find people with the right mix of listening skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving ability. Employees who were brought on board through this process displayed an innate capability to ask clients the right questions so they could peer through the haze and correctly identify underlying issues. They were also able to learn fast and operate much more effectively in areas of uncertainty.
2. Be Less Decisive
Studies show that no matter how experienced you are, your ability to tell when someone is lying never really gets better. Are you sure that the candidate you just hired displayed real capability and not just creativity in how they answered your questions? Even completely honest interviews are highly susceptible to bias. No-one is perfectly impartial. You’re bound to like someone who shares your interests or has the same philosophy, and the same applies to interviews.
Don’t make your decision during the interview. Use your interaction with a candidate to gather evidence that allows you to make the decision. Take copious notes that can allow you to compare candidates and reassess your initial impressions. When there are gaps in the information available to you, check the candidate’s LinkedIn or resume and give them a call to gather more data. Candidates will perceive a greater degree of fairness and objectivity and will appreciate your thorough assessment.
First impressions shouldn’t be last impressions. People are complicated and making the effort to scratch the surface can reveal hidden potential. The whole point of moving from interviews to interactions is to get to know candidates better and make more informed decisions, and this certainly doesn’t need to end with the end of the interaction.
By taking more deliberate decisions, we have managed to bring errors in hiring at our company down by 50per cent. The candidate experience is more open, honest, and unbiased. We have even seen rejected candidates referring acquaintances to be considered for the same job!
3. Don’t be Ambiguous
If there’s one thing worse than rejection, it’s not knowing why you got rejected. An interview implies that you are interested in hiring the candidate, just as it implies that the candidate is interested in being hired. The interview is an investment from both parties in the hope of developing a relationship, and there should be some returns on this investment whether a relationship forms or not.
Make sure that not just the interview, but also the end of your assessment is interactive by sharing your assessment with the candidate. Tell them what you think and why you arrived at the decision. Ask them if they concur or if they have any fresh information or evidence to present. Candidates who are rejected will appreciate the candid, consultative feedback and retain a positive perception of the interview experience. Also, time is always short in interviews, so there’s always a chance that the candidate miscommunicated some information or forgot to share something crucial that might impact your decision.
Opening up your decision making process and conclusions to candidates can also yield insights into your own hiring processes. If you uncover new information at this stage, ask yourself how it got left out? Was the candidate not comfortable sharing it in the first instance? Did you not ask the right questions? Is there something that needs to change? As you aim to provide more clarity, you might find more clarity in turn as well.
Candidates who were provided complete insight into interview results at our company showed a very high degree of acceptance. Being open to clarifying any doubts helped them perceive a higher degree of fairness and objectivity. Their feedback consistently helps us plug holes in our interview process, and continuously improve our interview experience for future candidates.
Turning interviews into interactions takes the pressure off both, the interviewer as well as the candidate. For a candidate, the interview experience is like a preview of the employee experience they can look forward to. An interaction is a better tool than an interview to provide the best possible experience. For an employer, the interview needs to yield enough insight to choose a candidate with the right mix of potential, knowledge, and cultural fitment. The traditional interview is far too unreliable to meet all of these goals.