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Are Job Interviews Useless?

| April 20, 2017 4:45 pm

On April 8th The New York Times published an article titled, “The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews” in their Sunday Review section and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The basic premise of the author, Jason Dana, an assistant professor of management and marketing at the Yale School of Management, is that the current trend of free-form or unstructured interviews creates impressions of applicants that, at best, have no correlation to performance or, at worst, are actually counterproductive. He and his colleague’s work, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 8, No. 5, September 2013, build on previous work and findings that indicate that unstructured interviews are not particularly good and then goes a step further to say that interviews can harm accuracy.

What, as recruiters, do we make of this? How should we change our approach to screenings and interviews to better serve our clients and hiring managers? How do we find the signal in the noise when interviews are expected and/or mandatory?

In one of their three experiments, one group of students interviewed other student subjects and attempted to predict the interviewee’s G.P.A for the following semester. Alongside of them, another set of interviewers attempted to predict the following semester’s G.P.A based only on the student’s course schedule and past G.P.A without having met the student. As you may have guessed, the group that performed interviews were significantly less accurate than those who did not perform an interview. It’s a fairly simple experiment to run, with clean data to review.

The issue is that we rarely have such clean data points of past experience. For instance, when I’m recruiting recruiters I certainly spend time addressing numbers, (requisition load, submittal, interviews, fills, time to fill, etc.) but how can I normalize these numbers across skillset? How can I even begin to normalize the numbers in different environments and industries? In my experience, it would be difficult to judge an applicate fairly against their numbers without an interview to provide enough context to know what these numbers mean. That said, different college courses are also different environments so maybe I’m making the same mistakes that those students are making when they make inferences based on the personal interview.

And yet, I still believe there is an important role that interviews can play. Back on March 8th, our Sr. Recruiter, Mandy Vitto wrote a post, “A Lesson in Listening,” on the importance of listening. She writes about listening to WHY a candidate wants to move, when they want to move, what an ideal opportunity looks like, and what motivates them. I think when you perform an interview you’re not only evaluating if this person is currently successful but also how you can make this person more successful. You’re trying to figure out what you can do to make this applicant better than they are. An interview should be more than and a simple evaluation and that’s where I think these experiments fall short.

John Rice is the Director of Business Development at NSS RPO, a consulting firm that provides on-site and virtual recruiting professionals. Contact NSS RPO to learn about how we can help your organization meet and exceed it’s hiring goals.