In practically all cases, an organization strives to identify and select the best person for the job.
Ads for open positions are overflowing with lists of requirements for experience and education in an effort to prevent those that don’t meet stated criteria from applying. Nevertheless, various statistics reveal the low ratio of qualified applicants versus immense volumes of unqualified resumes received for each opening.
Assorted factors that might correlate to difficulties in attracting the best person for the job are often attributed to dubious phenomena such as the incessant war for talent, looming skills gap and shifting workforce demographics. Frequently, this combination leads an employer to pursue those employed by their competitors or to attempt to hire a promising prospect before the competition does.
Rational or not and no matter the source, those that aren’t already looking for a new job are almost always viewed as the most valuable. Usually once a potential candidate moves past visual examination of their tangible credentials online or on paper, a person-to-person assessment is typically the next step in the screening process. Whether over the phone, via video, or during a face-to-face meeting, interviewers endeavor to uncover the attributes and characteristics they believe will translate to a successful hire.
Coincidently, experts repeatedly provide evidence that interviews and interviewers are not accurate predictors of performance. There are numerous reasons for this.
For starters, job postings are notoriously poorly constructed and bear minimal resemblance to the on-the-job performance expectations. Merely listing a series of required or preferred skill sets and prior experience and education doesn’t automatically mean someone with them would be effective or someone without them would struggle. Regardless, a person with a solid understanding of the job itself should have no trouble coming up with appropriate targeted questions.
Certain questions are more suited to assess hard skills and others help evaluate soft skills. The blend of both would depend on the nature of the work to be performed. Generally, it is advisable to ensure that all interview questions asked are job-related. That, however, is rare…
Interview questions tend run the gamut between obviously relevant to downright absurd. Recruiters may rely on their favorite questions to get to know candidates. Hiring managers may depend on intuition or gut feelings to determine what the right fit means.
Behavior based interview questions are typically touted as the most effective type as they are structured to elicit information about previous experience or existing knowledge. If applied properly, behavioral interview questions may provide structure and consistency. However, there is still the possibility of subjectivity and room for interpretation, making it tough to validate accuracy of answers provided.
Sometimes situational questions are used to examine how a person would handle a particular challenge related to that company’s anticipated future needs. Since these are based on “what if” scenarios, they may or may not produce adequate information about the candidate’s abilities. The primary drawback of these behavioral or situational exchanges is lack of context on both sides. Inquiries and replies are simply based on that individual’s perspective of the topic and can leave plenty of room for incorrect conclusions or premature decisions.
Being that humans naturally think they are good judges of other humans, many involved in the hiring process decide to use their own variety of unique questions. Because of this, a large percentage of people end up weaving personality or motivation oriented queries into their conversations - believing, amateur or not, they are capable of psychoanalyzing others. That practice is a bit frightening since most often when this happens impressions and opinions are formed about likability more than competence.
Even Google’s famed random interview questions have been retired upon being deemed entirely irrelevant and ineffective by their CHRO. Finally, we can rest assured that the best person for the job doesn’t also need to be an expert in manhole cover shapes, filling school buses with golf balls or counting gas stations in upstate NY.
By incorporating unrelated questions it creates higher probability that a person that interviews well (or better) might be determined to fit the culture and the job while a potentially more qualified person that provides less amusing or entertaining answers gets rejected. Goofy questions aside, after all of the above transpires, how is it possible (according to some surveys) that up to 50 percent of the “best person for the job” hires don’t work out?
Good post. Made me think. I agree that some people interview better than others and job descriptions often don't accurately reflect the job. I don't know the right answer- I don't know how to find the right candidate and the reason 50% of the best people don't work out. It is kind of like the tootsie pop commercial "how many licks does it take to get to the center of the tootsie roll.. I guess the world will never know.." :)
Kelly - I've owed you a comment for a few days now and hope you had a great Thanksgiving. This post is awesome, so don't know if I can contribute any snark here, but I think all your points are not only valid, but right on (and, to Will's earlier remark, thought provoking, too). I think this is all really great supporting points for the two biggest things I think recruiting needs to change in terms of mindset: passive candidates (if they exist, I don't think anyone who is passive is a candidate) are not necessarily "the best," and job descriptions, interviews and other traditional screening mechanisms are broken. I've long advocated for filling open headcount with the best fit for culture and highest growth potential (far easier to retain & develop) rather than just the best person available at that particular moment who has a defined set of skills and experience. This approach would make the silly interview questions and other dog & pony show tactics at least consistent, resonant and somewhat effective - you put up with this shit, you must really want a job doesn't seem to work well. Thanks again for contributing a great post - please keep them coming!
Many of the "best" hires I made were NOT the ones who were the best fit on paper. It's a hard thing to pin down, because sometimes it was a gut feeling - how do you explain that? There are many skills that certain people can pick up and perform better then those who have received education/training or even had experience in. There are traits that translate into many fields, functions, and industries that companies won't always take the time to look for if other required qualifications aren't exactly met. Most hiring managers don't have the power or courage to hire candidates outside the mainstream image.
I had a client once who insisted if a candidate couldn't give them a SWOT analysis then they wouldn't hire them. As a test, I Googled what a SWOT analysis was, wrote one for the position, sent it to the hiring manager and asked if this was the type of thing you are looking for? Yes! It's great, we'd love to talk a candidate who came up with that. It took me 30 minutes to do, and I had practically none of the qualifications they were looking for and no prior knowledge of the industry. So does that mean I'd be great at that job? Probably not, but think it's a good point of required skills keeping good people out of the running.
Thanks Kelly, Will, and Matt: Very good article.
I think that there needs to be a gradual realization that hiring is an inexact and inaccurate task, and that even the today's perfect hire for today may not be tomorrow's perfect employee. Consequently, I'm advocating a different approach to Matt's reflecting my own biases and pre-conceptions:
Instead of concentrating on hiring the best person for the job, we concentrate on the best way to DO the job- and that may be a FT person, a temp, a contractor, automation, task simplification/elimination, or outsourcing. We need to carefully consider how long this task(s) needs to be performed, and whether or not it requires F2F interpersonal contact and if so, how much. The point of this is to minimize the amount of folks that need to be onsite with you all the time- the less someone needs to be around you, the less the "culture" matters. ISTM that the goal should be to minimize the need to"bowl a strike" with a FT, onsite employee- they should be considered the exception rather than the rule....
@ Amber: Quite true. On many occasions, hiring managers hire someone who didn't have close to the requirements that they provided in the JD, and that's one reason I'm glad to be paid hourly and not contingently....
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Agree with Tyler - Bright is awesome. I'm working on a write up of them but in the interim, worth checking out for sure. They get "big data" in a big way.
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Great post and comments as well. FWIW, Whenever I take a new job order, I sit with the manager and say 'Thanks for the job description, now tell me what you actually want this person to DO.' Oftentimes they are polar opposites, which presents a situation that needs to be cleared up before any recruiting can begin.
Thanks Will, Matt, Amber, Keith, Tyler and Steve for commenting. I appreciate what you've added from your own experiences on this topic.
Will & Matt: thanks for your support and for jumping in first with your feedback.
Amber: I agree sometimes the least obvious person (on paper or otherwise) IS the right hire and often what the HM thinks is a must have in terms of experience is something that (as you proved) could be easily learned by a novice.
Tyler: looking forward to learning more about bright. Thanks for dropping by.
Steve: What you describe should be mandatory for each search. Clearly that type of pre- due diligence is not incorporated often enough. It would save all involved a lot of time to get those details worked out in advance.
Thanks again, everyone!