Why the Selection Interview doesn’t work


Having sat on both sides of the interview table during the past 30 years I feel I can speak to the issue with some clarity. If you think about it, most interviews can be categorised into several areas. The two that seem to be predominant are the let’s “just visit” interview and the interview where the job candidate is told and sold.

Not much worthwhile is gleaned from the “just visit” interview. I have watched managers and interviewers conduct their interviews in a very loose and unstructured manner. Occasionally, the manager may ask a few general questions, but it is most times a free wheeling, tell me about yourself interview. This type of interview rarely provides any helpful information to make an informed hiring decision.

I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to watch managers with whom I have worked go into what I call the “sell them into the business” interview. This is a sight to behold as a manager tells and sells the job candidate on every aspect of the job and company. Then the same manager says, “Now, I have some questions for you.” Then you hear questions like, “ How do you see yourself doing this job?” If the candidate is reasonably bright, he/she will parrot back to the manager what he/she has just heard about the job. This type of interview occurs more than any of us can imagine. The results are again less than helpful, because the candidate has been spoon-fed all the right answers.

Interviews by themselves have been and continue to be mostly ineffective in their ability to predict job success. Today we hear the “buzz” words “structured interviews.” This process of interviewing has become quite popular in the past several years. But structured interviews by themselves are most times poor predictors of future performance. Even though the questions may be directly related to the job and performance on the job, most structured interviews are not reliable predictors of job success. In fact, research suggests that they predict success at a rate not much better than chance selection.

This becomes even more evident into today’s work environment with so much information relating to the hiring process available to job candidates. Books are available by the hundreds, tapes too, that talk about how to interview, what to expect in an interview, including a structured interview. Consider a recent book, “The 100 Best Answers to the 100 Toughest Interview Questions.” The question you have to ask yourself; is this the candidate's personal answers to the interview questions or are they someone’s “book” answers. Does it make a difference where their answer comes from? Absolutely! What if it isn’t their personal answer and you hire the person based on his/her “book” answers. The odds of the person not being able to perform the job adequately just increased dramatically.

Companies and organizations think the interview is the least expensive part of the selection process, when in reality they are often the most expensive. Interviews are expensive from a cost of time versus results and very expensive due to the risk of making a poor hire.

Today there are more predictive methods of making an informed hiring decision. They are called assessments. The best assessments are those that are validated against actual job performance and have the ability to predict the potential for job success.


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