I was trolling around looking for new blogs to read, as I often do, and found an excellent one called “Cutting-Edge Leadership” by Dr. Ronald E. Riggio. The article that caught my attention is titled “Learn the Right Way to Interview Job Candidates.” Immediately I wanted to read further and see what thoughts and opinions were contained within, and compare to my own. I was thrilled to find that Dr. Riggio hit the nail on the head with his synopsis. As he explains, “Interviews only work if they are done right, and even then, they tell us little about a candidate’s employability.”
As most of us have probably been through at least one interview, the observations presented in the article are not that surprising. What is refreshing is that this article isn’t simply bashing the practice of interviewing but rather giving the pitfalls and challenges of interviewing while suggesting alterations to make the process more effective. As usual, I had some of my own thoughts that I left as a comment on the article itself, but I wanted to share them here as well.
Hiring is not a singular process, and needs to be viewed as one systemic component of a greater system. In fact, hiring should be referred to as “talent acquisition”, which in turn should be viewed as only the very beginning of a much bigger picture. How many times have you gone through the hiring process, brought someone on-board, trained them, and within a relatively short period of time had to let them go, had them walk away, or become a performance problem? How much does that cost your organization in terms of time, money, productivity, and man-power? Do the math on it, if you haven’t already, and it’s enough to make you queasy and potentially throw-up in your mouth just a bit. So what is the alternative? Start correctly from the beginning. After all, the beginning is the best place to start.
Simple changes can make a huge difference for you, the organization, and the other people in the organization. The first such change is take a strong look at how you are attracting talent. Where are you searching for your next employee? Where do most of your hires come from? Are they looking for you, or are you searching for them? How many referrals do you get from other employees? These are the first types of questions to be asking because before you can even assess and acquire good talent, you need to have good talent available. Once you have a good pool of talent available to select from, the process of sifting through them is just as important. It must be standardized, objective, rigorous, and effective.
As Dr. Riggio suggests, using assessment centers is costly up-front but can be tremendously effective. To be effective you should be testing for knowledge, skills, and abilities that have been identified (generally through competency mapping) as necessary to be successful in the position. How can you do this? Simulations and role-plays can work well in some cases. For other positions it may be a written test, or a demonstration of ability. In yet other cases it may be a combination of multiple methods of assessment. And let’s not forget about actually talking with the candidate. When conducting the verbal interview, whether by phone or in person, it is important to follow a standardized and repeatable process. This means asking the same questions of each candidate which will create results which can be compared equally, as well as having a regular process to how interviews will be conducted. This refers to utilizing multiple different stakeholders, and having set stages or phases to the talent acquisition process. Multiple stakeholders involved in the interview process, both individually and in a group or pair scenario, can also help to get multiple different perspectives on a potential candidate and mitigate the silo effect of one interviewer. If the person you want in the position needs to be good with multiple generations, have multiple generations of people interview the potential candidates, and see what types of reactions you get. The same goes for male versus female; mix genders, races, ethnicities, departments…whatever you can to create a relevant cross-section and get a good feel for how the potential candidate will respond and react within the organization and even potentially outside of the organization.
While this is a rather high-level overview of an in-depth process, hopefully you can get a good sense for the time, effort, and value that should be placed on it. Once you have put a candidate through a process such as this, you should have a strong picture of their knowledge, skills, and abilities and can make a well-educated decision on whether or not to bring them in to the organization. And believe it or not, the person being put through the process will appreciate it once they make it as well because they should feel better about their fit with the organization and the position, just as you will. Performance management doesn’t start after someone is hired, it starts before they are hired. If you haven’t heard it before, please let me be the first to tell you: “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance”.