ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Thursday, June 02, 2016

How Not To Hire

Today's hiring policies are designed to be "fair" and "culturally blind." Thus decisions are made that seek to treat every candidate exactly the same.  While the desire to be even-handed is a good one, the end result if too rigidly applied runs the risk of hiring incorrectly because the real information is never acquired.

Some government agencies apply this concept so strictly - by asking the exact same questions to each candidate - never probing and never varying. In this way, they never delve and only get the expected - canned - answers. So, they are defeating the process they are trying to achieve.

For example, when consulting to one of our Silicon Valley cities, I observed the interview process for potential new employees. There was a panel of interviewers. Each was given a specific question to ask every one of the candidates interviewed. There was to be no deviation allowed. Not even additional questions - including not being able to ask for clarification or more information.

The result - a false sense of fairness. Candidates were graded based on their responses and of course that were better rehearsed got higher marks. This came about because most if not all the questions were pretty standard and pretty obvious. Because of the limited nature of this process, very little beyond what was on the resumes was learned.

That's how not to hire.

A good interviewer will delve deeply into answers, seeking for example additional information, clarification, and anything else that will enable her to really get to know the professional strengths and weaknesses of a particular candidate.

When I interviewed for high level positions, I usually took as much as a whole day with the candidate. I interviewed, I observed and quite often I administered a battery of tests. That's because the decision to hire someone at the C level in an organization is critically important and a wrong decision can not only cost the company thousands of dollars, but can reverberate down the chain of command and cause inestimable harm within the company.

Now clearly you can't spend that much time with candidates for supervisory or below positions because the risk is less. On the other hand, there is risk - remember "one bad apple can spoil the bunch." But, instead of having a bunch of people each spend a few minutes, you might seriously consider having far fewer people spend more time delving more deeply.

Not only do you want to measure skills and learn about experience, you also want to learn if the personality, character and values are compatible with those of your department and company.

I've noticed that sometimes when the interview process is either a large panel of people or a chain of individual interviews, the person that gets the job is the most mediocre - he or she is the one that everyone could agree on - not the best qualified.

So, I caution you to realize that interviewing is a skill and will take among other qualities the ability to walk in the other person's shoes - to empathize - to listen - to observe and to get out of your own prejudices at the same time.

Good Luck!

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