How Interviews Can be Too Much of a Good Thing

I was listening to a local radio show and the host and expert were talking about the rise in the number of interviews candidates are being asked to go through.  I didn’t hear any data to support this claim (perhaps it was given before I got into the car), but the conversation about interviewing, including call ins) caught my attention.  It was filled with all kinds of bad practices and assumptions about the interview process that can be easily addressed.  These included:

  • Lots of people should get to conduct their own interviews. The biggest issue here is that different interviewers are going to hear different information from the candidates.  Or, hear the same information, but interpret it differently.  This means that determining who did the best in the interviews can become a debating contest among interviewers rather than an evaluation of the candidates’ skill and abilities.  Having a panel of about 3 interviewers conduct a single interview will be more accurate in that everyone will hear and evaluate the same information.  Then any disagreements in interpretation can be based on the same set of data.
  • The more interviews, the better. Somewhat related to the above, there is only so much relevant information that a candidate can give a company.  One good structured (see below) panel interview will tell you what you need to know.  Everything else is costing you staff time with very little return on the expenditure.  The streamlining of the process also makes for a better candidate experience, which can pay off in the engagement of those hired and your reputation as an employer with those who are not.
  • Interviews are the best way to learn about a person’s skills and abilities. This may be true if your interview is well constructed, including:
    1. Questions are written based on reviewing the skills and abilities required for the job instead of using a “favorite” question.
    2. Candidates for the same job are asked the same questions.
    3. There is an objective scoring guide used to evaluate answers to the questions.

However, if your interview is more free flowing, then there are several types of techniques (such as ability tests, asking a person perform part of the work expected, and personality tests) which are much better.

I appreciated that the hosts mentioned that effective selection systems use other assessments in addition to interviews.  You should also remember that different selection tools measure different things and that interviews rarely can cover all of the skills and abilities required of many jobs.

The moral to this story is interview less and interview better.

Selecting the Go-Getters

There have been many words written about “quiet quitting” and people being more committed to work-life balance since the beginning of the pandemic.  Of course, trends do not include everyone, so while there may not be as many ambitious job candidates available as before (or you’d like), they are certainly out there.  The issue is how do you identify them?

It may be easier to identify those with strong work drives than before the pandemic.  This is because it has become acceptable for someone to say in a job interview that they aren’t interested in pulling long days/weeks.  Also, people are likely to feel less compelled to present themselves as having strong work drives on a pre-employment test.

This also dovetails with how best to select people who can work well in a hybrid environment. Among the skills and personal characteristics you would want to consider for hybrid employees are:

  • Time Management—what tools and experiences do they use to get things done when they control their own schedule?
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity—how well can they perform in a role where they will have to make some decisions on their own with incomplete data?
  • Communication—how willing are they to reach out to others in order to complete tasks and build relationships?
  • Work drive (since I mentioned it)—what do they view as the right amount of work? And, can they accomplish a lot in a short period of time?

There are no “magic” assessments for all positions and you want to create a selection process that meets the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics of the specific job.  Remember that differences in candidates are your friend when making hiring decisions.  If someone shows signs of not having the level of drive you need for a position, they have just done you a huge favor.  You just want to be sure that you have a valid way of recognizing it.

Candidate candidness about how hard they are willing to work can be a hiring advantage for companies that use valid tools.

Work Has Always Changed

It’s the time of the year where futurists make predictions (we really need more follow-up on those) and big proclamations are upon us.  Among these I’ve been reading are, “Work has changed forever!” and “Is this the end of the 9-5 workday?”

The implications of the 9-5 workday are two-fold:

  • Once the US moved from a manufacturing economy to a service one in the late 20th century, buyers began to expect 24/7 service. Obviously, that’s not conducive to a single work schedule.  While this led to some outsourcing of many service positions (and the infrastructure that supports them), it led to many different work schedules onshore as well.
  • For non-service positions, this phenomenon is more closely linked to the autonomy provided during work from home. But, even this was taking place pre-pandemic via the gig economy.  Once office workers got a taste of the value of controlling their own work schedule they have decided that they don’t want to give that up and the continuing Great Resignation has given them the leverage to keep it.

So, the 9-5 workday has been eroding for many years.  I am not going to predict where it is going, but I think the trend is that we will continue to see fewer 9-5 jobs, even as some employers are insisting on more traditional schedules due to return to work edicts.

I don’t know if the pandemic and resulting economic implications changed work as much as it changed how a lot of people feel about work.  When your employer (or the government) decides that your job is “essential,” but you don’t feel that your compensation is reflective of your essential-ness, you are going to have a more transactional approach to that relationship.  This had led to unionization in sectors which had not had them before and increases in wages and working conditions in restaurants.

For office workers (and management), the pandemic revealed some other new truths:

  • You don’t have to go to an office everyday to be productive.
  • Things that were thought to be a part of work that were not great (e.g., commuting, inflexible schedules) are bugs, not features.

The current low unemployment rates will continue to provide people the opportunity to flex their autonomy regarding how they want to work so that they feel better about it.  The current levels of this won’t last forever, but I think it is realistic to think that the rates of job switching will stay high relative to future unemployment rates in the near term.  People now understand that they do not have to put up with what they feel are not great working conditions.  This additional turnover could provide people with more options, even when unemployment rates creep up.

Change is every present.  It’s hard to predict, but easier to understand and adjust for if we seek to understand the causes.  The bigger mistake is assuming (hoping?) that things will go back to the way there were.  That just is not realistic after such an impactful event as the pandemic.  Regarding employment trends, we are much better off looking ahead, even if that doesn’t include making predictions from a crystal ball.

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