He looked at the CV and spoke to the 4-person panel with enthusiasm, ‘Ah! This guy is from my school and he has also played rugby’ and winked and said ‘must be good’. Two of the panellists looked at each other in exasperation; deep down, I sighed myself.
Interviews, by far, are the most widely used selection technique in the corporate world. Needless to say, interviews are invaluable in indentifying the right people for the right jobs, if designed with relevance and used with professionalism. They render a great opportunity for the companies to showcase themselves to the candidates and also gauge the calibre of the candidate-pool who would be interested in working for the company. Some companies may spend money on marketing and use attractive job advertisements but forget the importance of maintaining the same image when candidates are called for interviews and other assessment proceedings. Whilst it is convenient to think that it is a very small handful who would be called for interviews (compared to the general public who would see these marketing campaigns and adverts), it is wise not to forget that this very handful could go and bad-mouth the company amongst family and friends.
We all know this to be true; we would never forget the bad experiences we have had with certain companies at interviews and some of us may have walked out of a company vowing never to consider it as a potential employer. As much as companies select people, people select companies.
The problem of making a selection mistake can be attributed to many causes. One trap could be the prejudices we have towards certain groups and categories of people, be it gender, age, ethnicity, religion, class, caste, sexual orientation, etc. Stereotypes are pervasive in our society; we all stereotype and are all subject to being stereotyped by others. However, they are not always productive and correct especially when they become the basis of making important decisions about who is in and who is out. The simple presence of stereotypes is not the problem; the problem occurs when stereotypes are used to judge people’s abilities and competence, and develop unfair and incorrect expectations.
Prior information about the candidate, be it an attractive CV or his/her relationship with someone in the organization, can lead us to make an opinion about the person even before the candidate walks in for the interview. ‘Similar-to-me effect’ is our tendency to like people who are like us, who have shared somewhat similar experiences like us. The ‘first impression error’, in which we get attracted by people’s sociability and appearance instantly, is also very common. Is a person only about, a trimmed haircut, clean shave, warm smile, firm handshake and appropriate posture of confidence?
You may agree with me that people don’t have to be experts to manipulate a situation; it’s all about impression management which comes very naturally to some of us. Some might call it being shrewd, some might call it being clever, but whatever we may want to call it, the inevitable truth is that we have the ability to play along in the most desirable way to get what you want.
Some candidates may use blatant tactics of ingratiation such as agreeing with the interviewer’s opinions and even complimenting the interviewer. Self-promotion techniques such as talking about what they have done with over-enthusiasm and passion, can also give enormous amount of power to the candidate in the conversation. An interview is a power exchange and it is most balanced when the interviewer/panel and the candidate take turns at appropriate times to voice their questions and answers.
How can we improve our interviews and increase the predictability of future job performance? A structured interview that is designed in alignment with company competencies and values, and also the abilities and personality required by the specific job, can minimize the biases and help us select the person for the relevant vacancy.
A panel is always better than a single interviewer. Training the panel to design and conduct such competency based interviews and comparing/averaging the ratings given by each panelist for the candidate, can decrease the subjectivity involved in the decisions. Training should involve active listening, attention to detail on the match between words and body language, detecting lies and probing for further clarification when it happens.
Attitude, values, personality types and work styles; these are fundamental in deciding the person-job fit and person-culture fit, thus future performance. Have you ever wondered how the wrong people are in the wrong seats? Even though it may not always be the case, the answer may lie in the selection process.
Right people grow right companies! Right companies grow right people!