Other than a summer job I applied for as a teenager 20+ years ago, I don’t have a lot of experience as an interviewee. The family business didn’t require an interview for employment, and the military doesn’t really interview so much as they reshape all their applicants into a form that they want. However, in my later years in the family business, I did participate on a few interview panels.
Long before I took my first business classes, I could tell that a lot of what we did was ineffective. A lot of the problem came from our total reliance on unstructured interviews. Yet, try as I might, I couldn’t get management to take a different approach. An article in the Harvard Business Review stated that, “Managers are overconfident about their own expertise and experience, and they dislike deferring to more structured approaches that might outsource human judgment to a machine.” This described our situation perfectly.
Without structure, our interviews usually consisted of one simple, open-ended question, “Tell me about yourself,” followed by some absurdly simple “yes or no” questions. There were no situational questions and no behavioral questions. No difficult questions. What this system did was favor people who were really good at telling us about themselves.
Obviously, we paid for our poor selection process later on. Turnover was fairly high. Some new hires were a just a poor fit for the job. Others were a poor fit for any job (read criminal tendencies). Our interview process had low reliability, because it was fraught with errors and probably produced worse results than pulling a resume out of a hat. It had low validity because nothing was really measured; everything was based on management “gut feel.” It also had low utility, because even though it cost us no more than a half hour of hour time to conduct an interview, or poor results often cost us money, making it not worth the time or effort.
During my time with the company, I could never get management to make an honest reassessment of our interview process. However, if I could, I would suggest making a structured interview using a pre-planned set of questions and asking each candidate the same questions in the same order. These questions also have to be more open-ended, situational or behavioral type questions, which would give us a better understanding of how a candidate thinks or works.
- Bohnet, Iris. “How to Take the Bias Out of Interviews.” Harvard Business Review, April 18, 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/04/how-to-take-the-bias-out-of-interviews.
- Week 4, Lecture 2: Choosing Selection Methods