Make your interviews count


By Cheryl Anne Andre

This article first appeared on HR Hub.

Few organisations would risk making an important decision without first gathering and analysing critical information. Yet many do every day when they make un-informed decisions about the people they hire or promote – and these decisions can affect the organisation for years to come.

Interviewing is the single-most-relied-on form of assessing candidates. Ironically, there is quite a lot of academic and professional debate as to how effective interviews are at predicting how candidates will perform if you hire them.

We’ve all attended that interview where deeply philosophical questions, such as “If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?” and “What is your favourite colour and why?” were asked. But the real question is how effective are these really in selecting the right candidates for the job?

It makes good business sense that the quality of an organisation’s selection system is one that will make a positive impact on the organisation’s success – through people. Organisations can no longer afford to do an “OK” job in identifying candidates or be positioned as moderately impressive to these candidates.

Being human, our recruitment decisions are vulnerable to subjectivity, biases and other influences, which we should be both aware of and take steps to counteract so that we can introduce more objectivity into the process.

There are many types of interviewer bias (as written by Kazim Ladimeji) – too many to mention here – but here are four of the more prominent ones:

1.  Confirmation bias: This is a tendency for humans to seek out information that supports a pre-conceived belief about the applicant, which has been formed before the interview. This means interviewers look to confirm a possibly shallow impression they may have formed of the candidate before the interview, as opposed to having a more open outlook on the candidate’s abilities in this area

2  Affective heuristic: This is where interviewers’ decisions are influenced by quick and superficial evaluations, such as:

  • How attractive a candidate is;
  • His race;
  • His gender; and/or
  • His background.
  • None of these evaluations are relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the role. One study found that 35% of recruiters are influenced if an applicant is obese.

3. Anchoring: This is a tendency for interviewers to place an arbitrary expectation anchor of a candidate, which then influences their evaluation of the candidate. For example, candidates who had a high anchor of expectation were evaluated more favourably than those with a low anchor scale.

4. Intuition: A huge part of a candidate’s evaluation process is based on intuition as there is not enough data to test every area of the candidate’s fit with the culture and demands of the job objectively. The problem is that intuition is not reliable as it is thought to be susceptible to factors not related to the hiring decision, e.g. emotion and memory.

So having understood that we, as humans, are subject to interviewer bias, what steps can we take to eliminate, or at least minimise, it to allow us to make more predictive hiring decisions?

When organisations feel an impact on their bottom line, the focus is usually on unnecessary expenditure and people. They may:

  • Realise they do not have the correct employees in place;
  • Note that performance is below expectation; and
  • Remark there is an urgent need for change.

Staff members are retrenched or transferred, processes are redesigned, new forms are introduced, induction is spruced up, recruitment systems are upgraded and new and usually costly assessments are introduced – yet too often wield the similar results.

In most instances, the interview process is not addressed and herein lies one of the most cost-effective, critical solutions. A solution that can be implemented proactively to eliminate the damaging effects of wrong hiring decisions. The solution is a structured selection process with increased accountability!

Targeted selection is aimed at any individual in an organisation that is responsible for interviewing, selection and employee mobility. Its structure and content supports organisations to achieve accuracy and equity in hiring. It meets the need for an effective interviewing system that identifies and hires the best person while simultaneously making a positive impression on job candidates.

So while you may not find out that your candidate’s favourite colour is in fact blue, and you may never know that he would prefer to be a dog because he has a very loyal nature, you will be able to tell accurately if he is competent for the role and can add value to your organisation in the quickest time possible. That will win the debate each and every time.

For more articles on interviewing clickhere.

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