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The Elephants in the (Interview) Room

Ever since evangelising video recruitment at events or in client meetings, I have noticed that there is not only one elephant in the room, but there really are multiple. And when I say there is an elephant in the room, I mean that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about. In this case, there is an obvious problem or difficult situation with job interviews that people do not want to talk about.

With this blog post I would like to help HR practitioners to confront these problems head-on. They are the ones who can help get the elephants out and back into the jungle where they belong. To this end I have listed 3 Elephants. You gotta start somewhere right?

#1: Random interviews

Did you know that people perceive an unstructured (or random) interview to be more effective than a General Mental Ability (GMA)test, aptitude tests (verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, etc.) and personality tests? That means they perceive their gut feeling to be more reliable than tests researched, validated and applied across thousands of candidates already. We basically say that we know better than science and this results in a 30-seconds CV check, followed by a random conversation that is incomparable to the one done with the next candidate. And the reality is that everyone who studied Human Resources or a related field, knows that a random interview has the absolute lowest effectiveness and is actually worse than skipping the interview altogether. Why is it that we still allow candidates in interviews to be subject to so much arrogance, resulting in bias? HR folks need to confront hiring managers in the organisation and apply the knowledge they have learned. Start structuring your interviews, in both physical setting and online video interviews. In case you skipped the class in university, check this refresher course.

#2: History vs. potential

We always grill candidates about their experience in their previous jobs and use that line of questioning to assess if someone is suitable for the one they are interviewing for. I get it and I also think there is real value in asking candidates on their past experience, why they approached project as they did and which competencies they used. However… it should not stop there and too often it does. Actually, lots of questions almost seem designed to assess if someone really is telling the truth on their CV. If we limit ourselves to historical fact finding in the job interview, we create a one-dimensional view on talent (what is will be) that ignores context about team, culture and many other aspects. It is my personal belief that we should start focusing more on potential. Does it really matter what someone did 10 years ago in the job before his or her current one? Does it really matter if someone has exaggerated a bit in the CV (don’t we all)? The world is changing fast and we need to be smarter in assessing future potential within the right context. What is someone’s learning capability and what personality, drivers and competencies does someone have to master the job after the current one? Most interviewers find this scary since they themselves may not be able to look 3 years out. HR practitioners can help train and coach their colleagues to interview smarter. Dare to let the past be (a little) and dare to venture in the future. That is all that matters. I always find the World Economic Forum – Future of Jobs Report – a good resource to see which skills & competencies are needed in the future.

#3: Text vs. Video

I have written before about that fact that our dominant online language is rapidly becoming video, replacing text. As someone who truly enjoys writing, this is an interesting development, where it not that I love video just as much. In recruitment though, I do think we have relied on text far too long. Can we really decide on whether or not to allow a candidate to enter the recruitment funnel, exclusively based on text in a CV, cover letter and application form? Are we not assessing writing skills more than we are assessing a possible match? Aren’t we preventing candidates to match with their dream job just because we have relied on text for so long? There are generations out there who can express themselves way better in video than they can in text. This is actually also the case with employers. Most job descriptions and vacancies are just Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V and with that copy-paste mentality no one has any clue about your authentic employer brand or will find anything attractive in working in your company. Allow video the role it deserves and that it has already gotten in the way we learn, consume and interact. #videofirst also applies to the interview. Get online, be structured, engaging and effective. Get some inspiration with these video statistics.

Getting these elephants out of the room is the responsibility of HR and recruitment professionals. They are the ones who have the experience, insights and science to convince others in the organisation that interviews do not need to be done like we did it the past 50 years. They can have evidence-based arguments to back up the need for coaching and development. And with these elephants out of the room, candidate engagement, but more importantly quality of hire, will soar with every interview done.