What's Wrong With Recruiting - Part II: Behavioral Interviews Suck
In a post a few weeks ago I lamented about what is wrong with recruiting. About how the reactive nature of filling requisitions combined with business need for talent puts us in situations where we are hiring nearly complete strangers.
With so many requisitions and so little time, we must quickly assess candidates and make a decision. The number one method used by most corporations is the behavioral interview. After all there is research to suggest that the competency based behavioral interview is our best bet for predicting future performance.
But I believe you might do just as well by flipping a coin.
In May of 2000 Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, wrote a piece in The New Yorker entitled The New-Boy Network. It is all about what we actually can learn from the job interview. In his own words he tries to determine "what, exactly, can you know about a stranger after sitting down and talking with him for an hour?"
I encourage you to read the whole article, but here are a couple of key findings:
In a study at University of Toledo researchers found that the first 15 seconds of the interview, the proverbial handshake, was almost equally influential as the entire interview. People who only observed the first 15 seconds used the same criteria as the interviewer to rate the candidate. "On nine out of the eleven traits the applicants were being judged on, the observers significantly predicted the outcome of the interview." It means we have already made our decision well before asking "Can you tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult person?"
Another shortcoming of the job interview is that we often forget about context. In social psychology it is called the Fundamental Attribution Error - where we give too much credit to the person for the behavior and not enough to the given situation. We assume that the behavior a candidate displays in an interview setting will be the same in other situations such as collaborating on a team, working under pressure, or in a public social setting. If a person is likable in the interview, we assume they will be likable everywhere else. When a candidate gives a great response to a behavioral interview question, all we really know for sure is that he/she is likable and skilled in taking a behavioral interview.
Both of these issues illustrate the gaping holes in the way we are currently recruiting and selecting talent for our organizations. But I don't think it will necessarily come as a surprise to you, because what more can you expect from an hour long conversation with a complete stranger?
We try to apply technology to address the problem, but it has only been making matters worse. We have been focussing on building the biggest possible funnel of information about people we don't know, and try to apply better filters so that the candidates we pluck out of the pile are of higher quality. Then we apply the same silly process of spending as little time as necessary with a person in making a decision as quickly as possible.
Little did we know that we only needed the first 15 seconds.