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At the Australasian Talent Conference last month, I attended an interesting break out session on the future of interviewing and whether assessment would make interviews redundant.

The panel made plenty of interesting points in response to questions and comments. Unsurprisingly nobody was predicting the end of interviews any time soon.

One of the excellent points made by one of the panel in discussing the many ills of interviews, as they are currently being conducted, was this: far too many interviews are conducted without the purpose of any particular interview being clear.

For people who don’t conduct interviews on a regular basis (and even for the many that do) it is an important aspect of interviewing to consider.

It baffles me when I hear about the process for a position being filled and it has five or more interviews that the preferred candidate needs to attend. How can all these interviews be really necessary?

Before anyone asks a candidate to attend multiple interviews I would suggest that the following six questions be asked internally:

  1. What is the specific purpose of each interview? (eg. to assess the candidate’s technical capability, to assess the candidate’s motivation and cultural fit, to ‘sell to’ the candidate, to validate aspects of the candidate’s background eg referees, qualifications, academic results, certifications, licences etc, or a combination of some or all of the above?)  

  2. Is an interview the most effective and efficient way to accomplish each of the purposes above, and if not, what could be used instead? (eg. could a candidate undertake an online test to benchmark technical capability?) 

  3. What information must we gather, or use, to ensure that the purpose of each interview is fulfilled? (eg. key selection criteria, employment check/verification criteria, position description, examples of the candidate’s work etc) 

  4. What criteria is being used to judge the outcome of each interview? (ie. the scoreboard by which the candidate has either passed or failed the interview. Remember: an interview is a test of a person’s suitability for employment therefore you have to either pass or fail the candidate, otherwise what’s the point of having the interview?) 

  5. Is the person or persons conducting each interview sufficiently skilled to undertake this interview? (ie. do they know what to do and how to do it?) 

  6. What is the likely impact of each interview on the job-interest level of our preferred candidate(s)? A candidate is required to invest more of their own time for each interview than the interviewer(s) is/are investing of their time. At some point the candidate(s) experience diminishing marginal returns causing a candidate(s) to lose interest in the position.

I would suspect that a large majority of interviews arranged are done so without barely a thought for any of the six considerations, above.

The typical interview is conducted by an unskilled interviewer who has no specified criteria to assess or scoring system to use; the interviewer simply ‘rocks up’ to the interview and asks a lot    of questions to see whether they ‘like’ the candidate (forgetting that they won’t ‘like’ the candidate for very long if the candidate is not capable of doing the job or isn’t motivated to do the job).

The inevitable outcome is that a candidate succeeds if the interviewer completes the interview with a ‘good feeling’ about the candidate. The candidate fails if the interviewer completes the interview without a ‘good feeling’ or has a ‘bad feeling’ about the candidate. Multiple interviews are arranged to see if everyone relevant (or everyone relevant with clout) ‘likes’ the candidate. At some point the candidate scores enough ‘likes’ and they are offered the job.

The likelihood of a potential hiring disaster (ie wrong person hired or right person turned off or not hired) is increased with each additional interview for the simple reason that the responsibility for the decision becomes diluted with each additional interview.

In other words if the candidate has passed through four interviews prior to me interviewing him I’m likely to assume (in the absence of any communication to the contrary) that everyone who interviewed this candidate earlier has decided that the candidate should be hired, therefore I am just ‘having a chat’ to them.

In all likelihood nobody has actually decided that this candidate should be hired as they assume someone else further up the interview chain will make the final decision. By the time to sixth or seventh person has ‘interviewed’ the candidate, it seems ridiculous not to hire the candidate because nobody has strongly objected.

Guess what? The default hiring decision becomes ‘yes’. The quite-good candidate who appeals to the most people is hired. The best candidate who has other opportunities or maybe isn’t quite so likeable has either self-selected out of the process after the third or fourth interview, or has received a more compelling offer from a company that has moved more efficiently through the interview process.

How many interviews does it take to hire top talent? I suspect it’s three, maybe four. I would confidently assert that it’s not six or seven.


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Terence Verma

Hi Ross,

Interviewing should be left to the professionals. Without prompting they will garner information/impressions on two accounts…1.Technical skills and, 2. Personal traits.

They have the ability to keep the candidate engaged through incisive questioning. The results will be shorter interviews and less intimidation of the candidates.

It goes without mention that the interviews will be more objective and the interviewer will worry about his reputation.

Adam Ponting

Its true Terence, left it to the professionals and they give you short and efficient interviews.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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