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Most people who conduct recruitment interviews have never been trained in how to interview effectively. Yet this lack of training doesn’t stop these interviewers from believing that they have good interview skills and don’t need any training.

It’s called confirmation bias eg ‘I hired Gavin and he turned out to be a winner’. A view that is rarely countered with the opposing voice, the voice of reality, saying ‘Yeah, but you also hired Brad, Sarah and Steve and they were all duds’.

If the person was good, that was due to my good interviewing skills. If the person was a dud, then ‘it’s not my fault – they all interviewed well’ is the unconscious belief of almost all interviewers.

Confirmation bias occurs due to there being no feedback or reality check that the interviewer is actually crap at interviewing. For people to accurately equate cause and effect, the outcome (effect) needs to occur as close as possible after the action/activity/skill (cause) to enable the causation to be clearly established.

A red light doesn’t start flashing in the interview room the moment you ask ‘What are your greatest strengths?’ The floor doesn’t open up and send you sliding down into the dumpster as you enquire of the young(ish) women ‘Are you planning to start a family soon?’ And the interviewee doesn’t stand up and leave the room when you seriously ask ‘What would your manager say about you?’

Compare this with your view ‘I am a good swimmer’. If you have no life jacket and your boat starts sinking and you have to swim one kilometre to shore, you receive a very fast reality check. If, after 50 metres, you start to struggle and panic when you see how far away land is, you have immediate feedback about your swimming skills. There is no doubt about whether you are a good swimmer, or not; causation has been established.

Companies that are serious about improving the quality of their recruitment efforts, look very closely at all components of the recruitment process to ensure the following:

(a) The process is best practice (or as close as is practical/possible)

(b) The people responsible for undertaking the process, or their part of the process, are sufficiently skilled to do so

(c) The process is followed every time

(d) The results of each stage of the process are captured and reviewed

(e) As a result of (d) the process is constantly improved

In my experience, all five of the above components constitute areas for improvement in organisational recruitment practices.

The most difficult area to gain substantial improvement in is (b) simply because most people responsible for interviewing don’t realise (and have no interest in finding out) just how crap they really are.

The legendary Billy Beane (as played by Brad Pitt in the movie of the book Moneyball), understood this very clearly. He proved, through the recruitment philosophies that he applied to his management of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, that the ‘skills’ of professional baseball talent scouts, no matter how experienced, were no better than a guess when compared to a thorough review of each players’ cause-and-effect (the statistics).

Beane proved that the talent scouts were crap at their job because they had all survived on confirmation bias; ‘I scouted Joe. Joe was a major league star. I’m great at scouting’.

Beane proved that the skill of traditional baseball talent scouts was largely illusory. They were crap at their job, they didn’t know it and (worst of all) their bosses didn’t know it … just like most interviewers.



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