At the end of last year I attended one of Bill Boorman's recruitment unconferences. The basic concept is an open and unstructured forum where recruiters can discuss and debate topics. The very nature of the set-up attracts some interesting characters including a gentleman called Kevin Wheeler who offered a controversial idea that interviewing candidates is a complete waste of time.


My initial reaction was what a load of tosh. Interviewing is at the very heart of what we recruiters do. If you don’t interview a candidate, how can you tell if they are right for the job ? What about the right culture fit? What about the candidate’s motivation?


He went on explain that the results of an interview is worthless in comparison to other recruitment techniques such as profiling, skills testing, psych testing, referencing etc. In his opinion most people who interview don’t do it very well and it allows for personal judgement and opinion to get in the way of more measurable, reliable, consistent and less subjective results. At best, an interview adds no value to the selection process and at worse it leads to the wrong result. He painted a picture of the not too distant future whereby companies would map the background of their most successful employees which would form the basis of a software program into which a candidate’s information could be entered. The individual would be scored against some pre-determined criteria and along with testing and referencing this would be enough to make a hiring decision. No interview– just see them on day 1.


He made some valid points. If you have ever had the perfect candidate rejected because the hiring manager ‘just wasn’t sure about something’ in the interview, then the idea of getting rid of this subjectivity sounds great. It would certainly be a lot easier to punch a bunch of information into a programme and let it churn out the best candidate whist I made a cup of tea. It would also be a much cheaper way to hire. By the end of the discussion Mr Wheeler seemed to have convinced most people in the room, all experienced recruiters, that interviewing was pointless.


On the other hand I was far from convinced. If the interview is done by an experienced professional who knows what they are looking for, has the ability to ask the right questions, and get beyond the fluffy stuff they will come away with justified reasons as to why an individual either is or isn’t suitable. It will likely tell you much more than any test will. A good interview also serves to personally engage with the candidates and build some rapport. I wouldn’t accept a job having not met, or at least spoken to my manager and seen the environment. Without the opportunity to engage the candidate in this manner, they may not be convinced your company is where they want to work. All the test results and algorithms in the world won’t change that.


It was to my surprise that Mr Wheeler convinced nearly everyone in the discussion that interviewing is a waste of time. What do you think? Would you be happy to employ someone having not met or spoken to them ? Does the human element just get in the way of logic and scientific reasoning ?

Views: 1182

Comment by Ilona Jerabek on January 18, 2012 at 10:23am

I am in the psychological tests business, but I've got to say that relying solely on tests to make hiring decisions is not only dangerous but also illegal. Tests can provide loads of objective information about a candidate and plenty of insight to work with during an interview, but it certainly cannot replace human judgement.

Sure, interviewers are prone to all sorts of biases ... that's why objective assessment is, in my view, a must. But tests have their limits as well. You cannot possibly test for all factors that are important in a job unless you are willing to subject the candidates to days of psychological scrutiny - and few will agree to that. In addition, tests cannot take into account specific situations and experiences that a candidate might have, which might affect their responses.

In my personal and professional opinion, the best way to go is to screen candidates using tests to be able to focus on a candidates who have what it takes to do the job, then interview them and probe deeper using insights from the tests. Our tests, for instance, provide suggested interview questions that will validate the results of the test for a particular individual, and dig out more info in relevant areas.

Ilona Jerabek,

Comment by Travis Yeager on January 18, 2012 at 11:04am

I still interview. I also think it's important to note that this remains a PEOPLE business. No amount of technology, social media, and all the other things THAT TAKE YOU OFF THE PHONE, no matter how cool or groundbreaking will ever replace "Hi, this is Travis"... 

voice+phone=success    -- say the right things, to the right people, enough times = success

Second interview waste of time, although I've seen it in the case of meeting an owner or something, more formality than anything else.

(all over the place today)

Comment by Emily S. on January 18, 2012 at 11:12am

I think the idea Mr. Boorman is trying to get at is a comprehensive approach to hiring. In no way do I think the interview should be eliminated but by modeling the hiring process after successful employees, through an organizational competency model (aka: pre-determined criteria), then the process as a whole can assess various aspects needed to successfully perform the job. In this case the interview cannot stand alone but serves as an important tool in the overall assessment. Plus, as several have already said, the interview is a 2-way street! Remember, the candidate is interviewing YOU as well.

Comment by Eric Smith on January 18, 2012 at 11:29am

Interviews are not just one-sided. Smart candidates want to interview, in order to ask questions and determine if it is the right fit for them too. As a candidate, I also would want to see how proficient the interviewer is and what kind of questions are asked---which tells a lot about the people, the organization, and the company. Passive, in-demand, hi-tech candidates want to interview.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 18, 2012 at 11:41am
Here is the problem I have with all this stuff (tosh, I love that word).

"interviews by recruiters are subjective and inconsistent"

Of course they are because people like jobs, companies, and life in general is subjective and inconsistent. If the job and all the people we work with on a daily basis were objective all the time and consistent with no chage between Monday and Friday or this month the same as next month, then we could say "here is the job,this is it,it will never change so take this test and we'll evaluate you based on what it is and always will be. Pax vobiscum, job without end.

The most qualified , objectively, candidate has a high risk of failure if they are not a fit with the subjective and inconsistent things that exist and happen in the real world on a daily basis in any company on any given day.

To me tests are like the difference between a balance sheet and a monthly financial. A balance sheet is statement of financial position at a given point in time. The monthly financial can be dramatically different each month moving forward. We don't make financial decisions based on what things are at a point in time. We make them based on a review of a history or trends reflected over many months and years.

Why would we make hiring decisions based on a test at a point in time when people and jobs are fluid and subject to dramatic change. Several personal face to face interviews over several weeks with different people within a company, in my experience, makes for better decisions on both sides. If recruiters are harried, so be it, that is the way things are in that company. These are the same people you have to work with if you join. Is it better to take an exhaustive objective test, spend an hour with a hiring manager and take the job? I don't think so. Would you take the eharmony test, meet a person and marry them? I hope not. What about all those little inconsistent things and subjective things that make people what they are. No test and a one hour interview tells anybody if it's going to be a long term relationship. They may have cleaned up the office and told the idiots to hide the day you tested and interviewed. Surprise, the day you start the wombats are walking the halls. Where did they come from? The test didn't ask you if you can work with wombats. That would subjective.
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 18, 2012 at 11:49am

I almost didn't get a job once because the personality profile test said I wasn't money motivated. The test obviously didn't take into consideration that I have 4 kids (3 at that time) in addition to a serious shoe & Starbucks addiction. Please. Luckily the manager met me in person (an interview!) and saw the error of that concept.

Comment by Ilona Jerabek on January 18, 2012 at 12:03pm

In response to Sandra's comment: Personality traits are fairly stable, so I would see psychological tests more as a balance sheet rather than monthly financials. You will some fluctuations depending on mood, social climate, recent events etc., but you should not see huge differences in scores from day to day ... if the test is any good, that is.

Otherwise, I totally agree that you cannot know a person based on an hour-long interview ... or three interviews for that matter. Candidates are on their best behavior during interviews and they are very skilled at answering typical questions. That's why tests are important - they provide an objective evaluation, the same for all candidates.

Ilona Jerabek,

Comment by Paul Alfred on January 18, 2012 at 12:17pm

I still think the interview process is important ... Looks like Kevin Wheeler wheeled too much influence on that group at the unconference... 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 18, 2012 at 2:05pm
And then there is that little thing called "test aversion". There are many people who simply either can not take tests, and many who could answer verbal questions extremely well but when told "this is a test go sit down and take it "would be hard pressed to state their names correctly. On the flip side some people are test lovers and stumble through a verbal interview. So we get into something like,"candidate a. Scored off the charts on the sales proficiency tests but the guy is like watching paint dry in a personal interview."

Hiring manager: " I don't need a test taker, I need a face guy.

When the test says one thing and the person presents totally differently which is more important? In the real world I know the answer but if you are a test believer do you bring him back for another interview because of test scores or do you scrap both candidate a. And candidate b. who did poorly on the test, but presented well and has a track record of successful selling and keep looking until you find a test taker who presents well. I know companies who do just that. They have about the same rate of successful hires as the company who doesn't test,does a series of interviews and checks references.

I think we can test people for a lot of technical aptitude but other than that not so much value as personal interaction and validating past performance.I have seen the test mania come and go about five different times over the course of my time in recruiting. Most of the clients I have had who got all excited about them, dumped them after a few years. They were passing up too many people who went to work for their competitors and kicked their butts in the marketplace.
Comment by Ilona Jerabek on January 19, 2012 at 10:34am

You do make some valid points, Sandra. There are some people who suffer from test anxiety, but this applies more to skill testing that to personality assessment.In addition, this is a slim minority, if we are talking about being completely paralyzed in a testing setting..

People are surprising honest on personality tests - at least that's what we are seeing in validation studies that we run for our tests. Typically, you will see a good correlation between results of the test and performance once on the job. In addition, there are studies showing that assessments can predict performance with substantially better accuracy than interviews - this, of course, depends on how good a judge of character the interviewer is and his/her experience.

The tests can really pinpoint some areas that most interviewers would miss. I am not saying that you should eliminate candidates who don't perform well on a test, but it is a piece of information that should be at least considered. From my personal experience, I have hired people who did not do well on the test, but I rationalized the results (because we were in a hurry to hire someone, and it seemed like the person would do) ... every single time, this decision came back to bite me in the behind.

Quite simply, I do want to know what kind of personality the new hire has. It's not important only for cultural and team fit - it provides me with info about how to best manage the person, what motivates them, what are the weaknesses (or to be PC - their challenges) and where they need additional training. It also alerts me to potential problems that are best addressed (and can be addressed smoothly in generic terms without offending the person) before the likely issues translate into real ones.

Perhaps your negative attitude towards testing stems from a bad experience. But there are many good assessments out there ... I like to think that ours are among them. If you or anybody else is interested in a free trial, I can get you set up to 'test drive' some of our tests. Try them before you reject them - you might actually get some ideas from the results that you may not have picked up yourself, even with your wast experience. And you might find that the results are quite useful for presenting your candidates because you can describe their personality to the client in pretty concrete terms, give them suggestions on how to get the most out of the person and provide them tips on how to best manage the new hire. That's a lot of added value that you are leaving on the table.


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