Recently, I heard from a reader with an interesting take about hiring and firing. The email went like this: “Steve – I think you need to warn employers about relying too heavily on the job interview when hiring a new employee. I have worked in HR for years and managers typically give an undue amount of emphasis to the job interview, and I am left to clean up the mess. What I have found is that an interview is rarely a good predictor of job performance.” Is my reader right? I think she probably is.
Like you, I have nailed my share of job interviews. But truth be told, it is also a fact that just because I interviewed well it did not follow that I always excelled at those jobs. Sometimes, but not always. I bet if you think about it, that is probably true for you too. Now why is that? There are a few reasons:
Bad interviewers: Interviewing is both an art and a science, but if someone comes in and is charming, smart, funny – you know, the whole great-candidate enchilada – the interview often goes off course into more comfortable areas. That may be fun and easier, but it doesn’t often yield important intel.
Great interviewees: After awhile, interviewing for a job gets easier; people learn the ropes and know the program. They know what the “right” answers are: Where they want to be in five years, what their weaknesses are, and so on. Candidates who interview well therefore have an advantage over those who don’t, but interviewing well is not nearly the same as working well.
Interviews analyze personality more than skills: The upshot of the first and second reasons is that a job interview often ends up becoming a personality contest rather than a skills, experience, and match evaluation.
I recall a friend in law school who was not a great student, but he sure was a world-class schmoozer. Although his grades meant that he didn’t get a lot of interviews for one of those coveted post-school jobs, he killed in the few he did get, and eventually he took a job with a big New York firm.
He was gone from there in less than a year.
Turns out he was not a great student for a reason; he was apparently rather lazy (at least, that is what he confessed to me later on). But that probably never came across in his interviews.
Maybe it is no surprise then that a study by the University of Michigan found that a job interview increases the likelihood of accurately predicting job success only by a mere 2%.
So if job interviews alone are not the best way to hire someone, what is? It has to be a multi-faceted process:
1. Create a good list of qualified candidates: Cast a wide net: Online, on job boards, using word of mouth, etc. The broader the pool, the better. Often current staff members are the best source for culling this list as they know the deal.
2. Create a committee to interview candidates: That way the process is less dependent on one person and their personal, subjective analysis.
3. Get work samples from the candidates. And evaluate the work.
4. Get referrals. And follow up.
5. Consider a trial run: If possible, hire the person short-term and/or have them do a few projects for you before extending a full-time offer.
Hiring this way can be a hassle, yes, but firing and starting over is worse.