Are Interviews Going Out of Style?

Ah... job interviews, everyone's favorite activity.  Just kidding. For most of us, interviews are a source of anxiety. Yet, Interviews have become a standard tool in the recruiting process, often being required twice before the official hire. It's not uncommon to have to pass four, five, or even more rounds of interviews for some jobs. But is interviewing as important as we think it is? At least one researcher has sought to answer that question.

Jason Dana is a Yale business professor who conducted a study back in 2013. He wanted to learn about "sensemaking," the ability for interviewers to make sense of anything the interviewee says, and "dilution," the tendency for non-diagnostic information to weaken the predictive value of quality information.1 What he determined was that these two things led interviewers to make decisions that focused too much on impressions of the interviewee and that were not based on enough valid information. The language of the study is complicated but it seems to suggest that innate human bias got in the way of making the right decision.

The quantitative data checked out when he asked his students to predict the future GPA of students they interviewed vs. students who were not interviewed. The future GPAs of the students who were not interviewed were predicted more accurately.1 This isn't surprising to anyone who has read anything about business psychology. Plenty of factors can take over our feeble human brains. The adjective in the previous sentence was a joke but the psychology isn't. Everything from height to perceived attractiveness affects our impressions of people and their abilities. It's not easy to control the hardwired instinct in us. 

Another example of studies undermining the effectiveness of interviewing is a 1979 occurence at the University of Texas, which was cited in Dana's study. A group of 50 students were admitted to the program after having been denied in the interview stage. As it turns out, they performed as well as the students who were deemed superior by way of the interviews.

All of this research is great but we can't stop interviewing, can we? You could. Some companies substitute tests for interviews and it tends to work out. Dana says structure is the key. Every applicant should be asked the same questions and interviewers should make a consistent effort to base their decisions on valid, relevant information. Across the net, there seems to be a consensus that testing should be devised as a precaution. Of course, candidates should be given the same test in the same environment. Here's the bottom line: A casual, unstructured interview that feels like a chat is probably a waste of time. Next time you need a new team member, try your best to make the interview process count.

Sources

  1. Dana, Jason. (2017, April 8). The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews. The New York Times.

David Kalla