by Dr. John Sullivan
Interviewing is a well-established component of hiring that you have probably used for years without much change. But, now that the use of data and technology has begun to permeate recruiting, every aspect of interviewing is undergoing close examination and change. It’s important for those responsible for hiring to keep track of these developments because some of the new alternative interview and assessment approaches are both powerful and exciting.
But, it’s also important to realize that as a result of applying data to the interview process, we now have additional documentation revealing that the traditional approach has many serious flaws that can significantly hurt your hiring results. For example, Leadership IQ found that and an astounding 46% of all new hires fail within 18 months. Google research found that the unstructured interviews used by most simply don’t predict on-the-job performance. Here’s what Google found:
“Interviews are a terrible predictor of performance.”
“Many managers, recruiters, and HR staffers think they have a special ability to sniff out talent. They’re wrong… It’s a complete random mess… We found a zero relationship.” (Laszlo Bock)
As more firms gather data on the effectiveness of interviews, recruiting leaders are learning that there is an abundance of reasons why you should be skeptical about your current interview practices.
For example, too many firms have practiced “death by interview.” This is where firms require as many as a double-digit number of interviews. However, we now know that an excessive number of interviews ruin the candidate experience. And in addition, research at Google demonstrated that beyond four interviews, little value is added. They also found that the commonly used “brainteaser questions” that were made famous by Microsoft also provide no predictive value. Even the most common types of questions, behavioral interview questions, have proven to be problematic because these types of questions unfairly favor those that are good at telling stories and those that shamelessly take credit for the work of others.
Perhaps the strongest reason to change your current interview approach is the growth of the Internet. It has made the days when you could surprise a candidate with your interview questions distant history. With the Internet and social media, candidates now know exactly what questions to expect because there are now literally hundreds of sites that provide candidates with the most commonly asked interview questions. As a result, if you are expecting genuine, original and unpracticed answers to your typical interview questions, be prepared to be disappointed.
As a start, it’s important to educate interviewers about the many problems associated with the interview process. And also consider alternative assessment approaches that can’t be as easily gamed and also make sure that the interview questions that you use accurately predict performance on the job, even if they are known in advance.
The top 10 new and emerging interview modifications and alternatives
If you’re open to considering new candidate assessment approaches, the good news is that there are some exciting variations and alternatives that you should know about. These developments in the interview process include:
1. Shifting to a data-driven interview process because of its high impact
There are three critical assessment components within the hiring process; resume screening, interviews, and reference checking. Fortunately, with the refinement of ATS software, the resume screening component of the hiring process has become much more accurate and objective. The accuracy of the third process component, reference checking, has also improved as a result of the wide availability of social media/Internet candidate information and 360° reference checking. And that makes the middle assessment component, interviewing, the most impactful but the least accurate of the three elements.
Interviews serve as an absolute gate or barrier. Meaning that if an otherwise qualified candidate doesn’t do well or if the process is inaccurate, you will never know, because the candidate will be permanently eliminated from consideration. The finality of the interview assessment has forced many large corporations to shift away from an intuitive or gut-driven process and to adopt a data-driven model that relies on data and predictive algorithms.
Google is the best example, but other firms are now using data to determine critical interview components, including who should interview, whether training helps, how many interviews are needed, which knockout factors should not be used and what specific interview questions or assessment approaches accurately predict on-the-job success.
Google even used data to discover that hiring managers almost universally make poor candidate assessments, so they don’t allow individual hiring managers to make final hiring decisions. Instead, they use trained and experienced hiring committees that have a much higher success rate (e.g. some HireVue data found that hiring managers to get as many as 80% of their assessments wrong).
I estimate that if you’re not using a data-driven approach to interviewing and assessment, you will increase your percentage of weak hires by up to 20%.
2. Video interviews provide many advantages
Because video interviews are becoming mainstream, it’s no longer necessary for candidates to physically show up at your site in order to interview. Video interviews offer many advantages, including the fact that they can be done remotely on a mobile phone, making the always difficult scheduling of interviews much easier.
Many firms are now routinely conducting Skype interviews and there are also numerous vendors that can help you conduct live “interview from anywhere” sessions that are video recorded. Because these interviews are recorded, managers can review and re-review them many times and those that can’t be at the original session can also view them at any time.
And because video interviews are fully documented, there can be no doubt about whether illegal questions were asked. Firms like Goldman Sachs and Zappos have even encouraged candidates to submit their own self-designed videos. Some firms are already using artificial intelligence to more thoroughly assess candidate performance on these recorded interviews.
3. Measuring the quality of hire improves both interview and hiring results
As the use of data becomes more prevalent in recruiting, more firms are beginning to fully understand the critical need for measuring quality-of-hire. Measuring the quality-of-hire (i.e. the on-the-job performance of new hires) allows firms to determine how well interviews predict overall.
Comparing what top-performing hires have in common (and weak performers don’t have) can reveal many important things. Including, which skills and competencies can’t accurately be assessed during interviews and which specific interview questions accurately predict future on-the-job performance. This validation allows firms to reduce the number of interview questions that have no predictive value and to focus on the ones that do for each job family.
4. In addition to interview questions, give them a real problem to solve
Almost everyone agrees that standard interview questions don’t accurately reflect “doing the job.” And the problem becomes exacerbated when interviewers don’t know the right answers to the questions in advance. So a superior alternative is to give the candidate a current problem from the job to solve.
Tech firms like Google and Tesla have led the way in providing candidates with real problems to solve either during or separate from the interview. The candidate is then assessed not just on their solution, but on which steps they include or omit in their problem-solving process. Typical scenarios can include outlining their learning action steps for their first month or finding an error or problem in a current flawed process.
A growing number of tech firms and the startups are using “whiteboard tests.” Which is where a candidate is asked to spontaneously solve a problem on a whiteboard and they are then evaluated on both their solution and how well they communicate. Other tech firms have offered Internet problem-solving contests in order to identify, attract, and assess potential candidates. Although they are still in development stages, amazingly realistic virtual reality assessment scenarios are on the horizon.
5. Minimize unconscious bias in order to increase diversity hiring
The recent revelation of the tremendous economic value added by diversity hiring has put an added focus on minimizing the biases that occur naturally during interviews. For example, organizations that require candidate performances (a superior approach) like orchestras have learned to put candidates behind screens.
Other approaches that reduce biases because faces and voices can’t be seen include questionnaire interviews and text interviewing. Data has shown that the assessment of fit is so subjective that it routinely eliminates otherwise qualified diversity hires. Requiring interviewers to use, fill out, and turn in interview “scoring sheets” can also help because it keeps interviewers exclusively focused on the most critical job-related factors.
Offering unconscious bias training to interviewers has also proven to be effective at firms like Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, and PwC.
6. Online skills, voice and personality assessments
There has been a growth in the number of available online technical skill tests that firms can offer. Footlocker, for example, found that the addition of a single skill test resulted in new hires that produced a double-digit increase in sales.
There are a wide array of tests that cover commonly needed skills like programming, customer service, and accounting. There are even voice stress assessment tests (VSA’s) that can tell if a candidate’s voice will be engaging to customers. However, it cannot yet accurately assess deception during interviews.
Personality tests are also available, but they can’t improve your quality of hire until you know for sure which personality traits accurately predict on-the-job performance. Other organizations now require new hires to have technical certifications as another way to assure competencies.
7. Artificial intelligence assessments are already here
Firms like HireVue, Facebook and IBM are already offering some combination of AI technology, deep machine learning, and facial recognition software to assess taped interviews. Technology allows the assessment to go beyond the actual answers and to assess phrases, facial expressions and even subtle physical movements that humans simply couldn’t catch.
In the future, expect the use of technology to assess transcribed interviews in order to determine if the information provided matches the answers provided by previous high-quality hires.
8. Improving the candidate experience impacts current and future hiring
Data has shown that a negative candidate experience can directly affect both your future recruiting and product sales. And unfortunately, due to the growth of social media, it is now much more common for poorly treated interviewees to spread the word about their negative experience on social media.
In order to improve the candidate experience, firms like Blackberry and Google have provided detailed information to candidates about the upcoming interview process, so that candidates know what to expect. This reduces anxiety and therefore it improves a candidate’s interview performance.
Google also offers candidate coaching to ensure that qualified candidates aren’t eliminated as a result of inconsequential errors. Other firms are improving the candidate experience by offering more convenient night/weekend and interviews at professional conferences, fewer interviews, and fewer repeat questions.
Some firms are also offering “speed interviews” that allow a candidate to interview with multiple managers of the firm within an hour’s time. Completing all interviews on a single day improves the candidate experience, but since all top candidates will likely be gone within 10 days, it may also improve your quality-of-hire.
9. The sales components of interviews are becoming more important
As the competition for talent continues to increase, it becomes harder and harder to sell top prospects on accepting a job. As a result, the sales components of interviews are now reaching the same level of importance as candidate skill assessment. As a result, smart firms are consciously allocating a larger percentage of interview time towards selling the candidate on the job in the company.
In order to ensure that that time is not wasted, interviewers need to be better trained on how to influence and sell finalists. Many healthcare institutions have found that utilizing “peer interviewing,” where coworkers conduct most of the interviews, provide many assessments and selling advantages.
10. Move beyond traditional skills and assess highly desirable advanced skills
Many firms are realizing that in addition to the assessment of traditional skills, there are some advanced skills that are highly desirable in new hires. As a result, interviewers have begun to focus on identifying strategic thinkers, innovators, mature adults and the self-motivated.
Google already assesses the “career trajectory” of candidates and their ability to do “this as well as the next higher job.” Data from Google and others have revealed that the most important skill across all jobs is rapid learning and candidates with a “growth mindset”.
Don’t be surprised when you encounter these advanced approaches
In the future, there will continue to be many advances and developments in the area of interviewing and assessment. For example, don’t be surprised if firms begin paying top candidates for interviews (the tech firms in New Zealand now offer an all-expenses paid four-day trip to New Zealand just for agreeing to be interviewed).
Also, expect firms to begin assessing the accuracy of individual interviewers by showing them a series of both good and bad videotaped interviews in order to uncover the accuracy of their assessments.
And even though it, unfortunately, isn’t currently common, expect increasing legal challenges to force recruiting leaders to statistically “validate” their overall interview and assessment process, as well as each interview question. Finally, realize that virtual reality simulations will eventually dominate the assessment. These simulations have already been implemented by U.S. Army and KPMG.
With all of the recent advances in interviewing and assessment approaches and technologies, it’s hard to argue against the premise that now is an opportune time to re-examine every aspect of your current interview process. Closer re-examination is also warranted because we now have an abundance of data that clearly reveals, “What works” and “What doesn’t work” in the interview process.
Re-examination is also necessary because candidate knowledge and candidate preparation for interviews have reached such a level that what occurs in most interviews can no longer be labeled as genuine. Of course, you can wait until the latest assessment technologies become mainstream, but that will put your firm at a competitive disadvantage. And unfortunately, it won’t be sufficient just to give a one-time look at current interviewing approaches, because I predict that new alternatives will be continually developed over the next several years.