I read a great article in the New York Times on Sunday called the Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews. In it, Jason Dana, an assistant professor of managing and marketing from Yale makes the case that interviews tell us much less than we believe.
Dana uses research done to show that even when participants know that responses from interviews will be random, they still believe that they can get the best results and make a decision about hiring someone, simply from meeting them and talking face-to-face.
It is a truly fascinating article, as we all want to believe that we learn the most about others when we meet them and chat with them personally. But, as his research shows, our current interview structure (at least in some circles) shows that we learn little to nothing from most job-based interviewing scenarios.
Dana makes the case for at least two interview shifts. The first is one that we abide by in our department at my organization. He speaks to the need for all candidates to be asked the same questions; he believes that social interviewing, the idea that we can shift questions wherever the conversation takes us, is incredibly flawed and results in unusable data. Dana also encourages interview conversations to be purely job skill focused. Rather than attempting to get to know “the person,” we should strive to get to know “the person’s work.”
I enjoy interviewing greatly, and like the participants in the study, believe that there is much that can be learned from learning about others when hiring. Of course, an article like Dana’s helps me to remember that what I believe and what the facts say is important to recognize. Interviewing, while seemingly helpful, may not always be the best way to learn what others will bring to a given organization, or what we can bring to the table ourselves!