I’ve failed quite a few times at interviewing prospective job candidates. A fail meaning I’ve gone through the recruitment process, and a few months later (for whatever reason) we’ve parted ways with our new hire.
Getting a new hire wrong is crazy costly for the business and the person, so I’ve tried many approaches to ensure a good decision…mostly based on google searches for how to do interviews better.
I’ve tried behavioural based or situational questions as past behaviour is meant to predict future behaviour. Complemented this with some science based psychological profiling (both automated and in-person).
There was also a phase of whacky quiz type questions about shrinking to become a frog in a blender, how do you get out? These types of questions were meant to give an indication of how people think when faced with a problem.
The dickhead test of getting candidates into a social setting and going out for a coffee or a beer.
Removing my own bias’ and getting multiple team members involved in the selection process.
I’ve tried setting assignments in the interview so we could see an example of their work.
Throwing my arms in the air and outsourcing to the professionals who do this all the time — bringing in the recruiters.
Combing all of these with the assessment of CV’s, detailed reference checking and good old gut feel.
I’ve always been totally convinced the decision was right, yet too many times I’ve still managed to get it wrong.
For me it feels like the recruitment and selection process is fundamentally broken. All of the above come from a foundation of probing and assessing the candidate to make a decision if the person is a good fit. From a candidate’s perspective it is natural to want to please, and to give the answers they think the interviewer wants to hear. The process sets up an imbalance of power where candidates often feel anxious and stressed (I know I do). The employer’s goal is to make the right choice and the candidate’s goal is to be selected.
I’ve lost so much confidence in the traditional process that I’ve found myself doing a different approach. I come from a foundation that together we need to work out if we’re going to be a good fit for each other because we want to have a lasting and mutually rewarding relationship.
Instead of asking and probing, I share the goal of what we are looking to achieve together. I convey the importance of sharing an accurate picture because the last thing we want is to have them join the team only to work out we’re not actually a good fit, and have to go our separate ways.
I take the first step and do my best to describe a really accurate picture of what it’s like to work in our business. Warts and all. I cover our values and the behaviours they translate to, what’s important to us, the type of attitude that is successful in our environment, what doesn’t work, how the role contributes to the bigger picture and the team dynamics. Most importantly I go into challenges that will be faced, things we don’t do well, stuff that can be frustrating and anything I can think that might derail us at a later date.
I then get curious as to what they think about the picture I’ve painted and does it sound like a place they would enjoy working at. I ask them to describe an accurate picture of themselves, their values, dislikes, how they prefer to work, what frustrates them, what their ideal day looks like, what level of autonomy works best for them.
When we’ve managed to share and really clarify our respective pictures, I find it much easier for us both to decide if we’re going to progress to a ‘second date’. The decision is not so much about one side choosing a candidate, it’s more about either party self selecting out of the process.
Anecdotally I’m getting more success with this approach. It comes from a genuine desire to achieve a shared goal of a good fit, where the imbalance of power has been pushed away in favour of mutual trust. Furthermore it sets up the relationship for success if they do join the team. Realistic expectations have been set on both sides and it becomes a much easier conversation if course corrections are needed.