Is it Time to Rethink The Interview?

Show of hands:

How many of you out there, love job interviews?

I count one person and we don’t count them because they’re obviously deranged.

If you ask someone what the most stressful part is of the job search, the interview will probably rank pretty high up there. From worrying about what to wear and how you look to worrying about behavioral questions and Questions With No Good Answer (how many dogs are there in the world? What did you hate about your last job?), and of course worrying about whether you’ll do well enough to get the job, the interview is way up there on people’s Hate Doing This List.

And to be honest with you, most interviewers hate it too. Their credibility is on the line with their boss, they got pulled out of their actual work to do it, and most of them aren’t trained interviewers. So, believe me: they are just as uncomfortable as you are.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the interview process?

Why the Current Interview Process is Kind of Broken

Interviews follow a pretty set template: you come in, shake hands, make awkward small talk, answer the same questions with a few ridiculous ones thrown in for flavor, try to ask a few questions of your own, and leave.

Sound familiar?

There are several problems with this template though:

  • It puts many types of people on the spot, and they often do poorly in the interview, even if they would have done very well on the job. For example, people with disabilities, introverts, people who are neurodiverse, people who are shy, and people who aren’t much for showing off are all at an immediate, and often painful disadvantage. If the hiring manager is only going off the interview, they could easily end up making poor hires because the people who would have done a great job had a poor interview
  • In the Covid-19 age, the interview room isn’t very practical, but it can also be hard to do video chats
  • The focus on brainteasers and “cookie cutter questions” (What’s your greatest weakness?) are too easy to game or just show a level of sadism. Either way, no one is getting any insight into how a person will actually behave on the job
  • There is a lot of bias. Hopefully most of it is unintentional, but it is convention that Caucasian hiring managers will hire people more often if they have Caucasian sounding names and did you know that bald men are seen as having more leadership qualities, even if they don’t?

The broken interview system, for many companies, is one of the main reasons why they have a hard time finding employees who will fit in well with the company and stay in the long term. And that is a serious problem.

The Current Interview Process Cuts Out Pools of Employees

Right now, businesses are having a difficult time filling positions. This is partly due to people retiring, other people going to school and more people switching careers, but the fact remains that some of it is due to the fact that way interviews are conducted cuts out entire swaths of people who would otherwise be good fits. For example:

  • Many neurodiverse people struggle with interviews. They cannot make eye contact very well, they come off as too chatty or vague, or they simply come off as someone people wouldn’t want to work with. This isn’t due to a lack of ability on the part of the person, just the way their brain functions. In fact, neurodiverse people are just as capable of doing a wide range of jobs as anyone else, once you look passed the slightly awkward interviews and get to what they can actually do.
  • People with disabilities often don’t have the correct accommodations to showcase their abilities. For example, if they cannot get into your building, need a communication device, or need to be able to read your lips. They could do the job just fine, but if you don’t meet them part way, you’ll never know.
  • Youth may be nervous and end up shooting themselves in the foot
  • Many people come off as unprepared when they are actually shy or nervous

This is of course compounded by interviewers who aren’t trained to interview and are themselves quite nervous!

Talk to anyone doing hiring and they’ll talk about the fact that they regret hiring one person when they could have hired someone else, but that other person didn’t do well in the interview. The way we conduct interviews now is cutting out a lot of potentially fantastic employees!

How to Make the Interview Process Better

We know that the way interviews are conducted is a Problem. This is obvious: on the job seeker side, they are nervous wrecks who spend a lot of time feverishly studying and worrying and on the employer side, there are interviewers who don’t know what to look for and are feeling the pressure to find the Best Person for the Job.

But what can be done about it? Well, there is no single answer, but there are some ways that the interview process can be made more inclusive and more useful:

  • Conduct the interview somewhere neutral and away from the office. This could be in a park, in a quiet coffee shop, or in another public space where people feel more comfortable.
  • Make the interview more performative rather than Q&A. In other words, have candidates actually do something to showcase their skill, such as do a quick typing test, build something small out of lego, take a (staged) phone call to see their etiquette, let them design something quick, or pose an actual business problem and see what they come up with. Creative interview tasks give hiring managers better insight into behavior and action rather than studied answers to cookie-cutter questions
  • Frame the interview as a conversation instead of an interview. For example, ask them what they think of the business, what they would change if they could, what they bring to an employer, and so on. You’ll want to do this organically so that you don’t get rehearsed answers, but you may get some good ideas.
  • Leave other companies out of it! You are probably tempted to ask things like why the candidate left their last position, what they hated/loved about their job, what others would say about them, but this really puts candidates in a horrible position. They are probably going to say something bland and obvious – “I left because there was no more room for improvement,” and you really don’t need to know about their stress on the job or how much fun pizza Friday was. Instead, ask things like what they expect to get from your company, what they were most proud of doing in their past positions, or even see examples of their work (if practical).
  • Make sure your technology is up to date and working properly! Nothing worse than a wrecked video app when you have a video interview

If we take it as read that the point of the resume is to get the interview, then don’t let old interview processes cut out people who looked fabulous on their resumes! It could be that you’re missing out on some great employees who simply aren’t so great at being bombarded with bland questions and brain teasers in a sterile office. (Ok, that was Worse Case Scenario, but you get the idea). Take a good look at what the open position entails and tailor your interview towards finding the right person for that position through interviews that actually allow the potential hire to put themselves in the best light possible. By putting some work into changing the interviews, you may find that you have a great edge on finding talent compared to other businesses.

Do you find that your interview process is in need of a redo? If you’re struggling to find people who will help the business grow and shine in their position, you may want to take a look at the interview process and see what needs to be changed.

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