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article imageOp-Ed: Reinventing the job interview as something useful

By Paul Wallis     May 2, 2020 in Lifestyle
New York - Anyone who’s ever had anything to do with the employment sector will tell you the hiring process is way beyond absurd these days. Arcane rituals, meaningless interview questions, astonishing time frames, it all needs to go.
The New York Times recently published a frontline article on this subject. It’s well worth reading because it accurately describes a process that is out of control. It’s a pretty succinct way of describing what’s wrong and what’s needed.
Some background:
The woeful tale of hiring practices
The other issue, however, is how convoluted even the idea of hiring has become. Since the late 1980s, applying for a job has become a truly unproductive process.
The old theory that job interviews give you people who can do job interviews, but not necessarily do the job, is quite true. The hiring process is no better. Many HR experts say this process is just busy work for HR, adding time and cost to what should be a very simple process. It looks like a lot of work is being done, and it is; the problem is that work doesn’t need to be done at all.
Why should it take months to get an entry-level employee? What possible use is it to take six months or more to fill a current position? How much extra time and money does it cost to waste so much time and effort?
Then there’s the “fire everyone to save money” motif which is so widely despised by real employers. Cutting staff doesn’t just cut costs. It cuts your capacity to do business. Why downsize, and then belatedly realize you need to hire more people just to do the basics?
The “do more with less” myth is another factor. Technology does replace people in some areas, but not in others. Increased volumes of people and transactions mean you need more people minding the store, not less.
How job interviews make things worse
The job interview is one of the major factors in this almost total lack of productivity. You will have heard of the multi-stage interview, which can take weeks, with multiple interviews to hire one person. Consider the cost benefits of using up all that time on perhaps 20 people. The interviews are costing more than the job because you’re sidelining any number of interview panelists away from their own jobs. It’s truly insane. Worse, job interview questions are the same as they were 20 years ago. The whole idea of job interviews has long since stopped being about getting the right person for the job.
For interviewees, stunned to have actually got an interview during the usually totally inefficient application process, it’s also stressful to the point of high risk.
I have actually been on an interview panel where an applicant totally seized up. She couldn’t get one single word out, even among people she worked with every day. The irony was that this was the person doing the job, and she was quite OK at it. Fortunately, the convenor just asked if she’d like to come back later, which prevented a meltdown right then and there. (This is productive? How?)
So having created a high-stress environment, job interviews then ask absurd questions:
• “What’s your greatest weakness?” As though anyone would expect an honest answer from any human being on Earth.
• “Why do you want this job?” Why do you think, morons? Why does anyone want a job?
• “Where do you expect to be in 5 years?” “Probably doing more useless job interviews” is the most likely, and probably right, answer.
• “Are you a team player”? Another idiotic question where for some reason an honest answer is expected. You don’t have much choice in any workplace, and if you’re not a team player, you’re out. This question needs burying, fast.
• “Which animal would you rather be, a goldfish or a bear?” Amateur psychology 101; don’t waste time with absurd arbitrary analogies. Professional psychology 101; self-image does NOT relate to your ability to do any job.
Nobody benefits from this ridiculous ritual. The employers don’t even get to ask enough meaningful questions because these antiques are included mindlessly in every interview. The rehearsed answers and parroting of interview tips don’t help much, either. Add to this the fact so many middle managers simply falsify interview results and are highly nepotistic, and you have a job interview process which simply can’t work well, if at all.
The critical issues in a job interview couldn’t be simpler:
• Does the applicant have the verified skills required, yes/no?
• Can the applicant communicate effectively, yes/no?
• Is this person a good fit?
Nothing else is relevant to hiring an employee. These are the questions the employer needs to answer to their own satisfaction.
The new approach to job interviews
The new approach is functional:
• Behavioural questions, another very much-debated issue, are one of the options. Past experience can be a predictor of future behavior, but lying your head off is still an option. A question where the interviewee correctly identifies the issues, risks, and solutions is the better option. That type of behavior is impossible to fake, and you can’t have a ready-mix answer when you don’t know the question.
• Valuing responses, not just listening to good talking, is another initiative. Substance vs babble, in fact. Who’s delivering quality?
• Work samples are another good move in the right direction. Proven experience and capacity beat self-hype. This experience is also verifiable.
• Clarity of questions improves quality of answers. Who needs the blue sky approach when you’re hiring a phone salesperson? “Can you sell our products?” is a pretty good question, don’t you think?
This is the beginning of a long-overdue way out of the trackless wasteland hiring has become. Now, just demand that hiring is done in less than a week, not months, and things might get a lot better for the people who can actually do the jobs and the employers who need them.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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