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Is Interviewing a Waste of Time? Ask Kevin Wheeler

by Joseph Murphy

In his recent post on ERE, Kevin Wheeler suggests interviews may be a waste of time. He poked the nest and stirred up some good interaction. He also suggests, that the use of more objective methods, such as simulations for pre-employment testing can improve the candidate evaluation process.

At the end of the day, the hiring decision is an act of personal judgment. The interview plays a big role in supporting that decision. And suggesting that companies abandon the interview will fall on deaf ears. However, the bigger question is what methods and criteria are used to determine who to interview. With high applicant to hire ratios, getting to the best candidates, the ones worth investing the high cost of interviewing, is a place to put some considerable focus.

A note about the gap between interviewing concepts and practices. I conducted a survey with SHRM and in 2006 published a white paper The Use of Objective Candidate Evaluation Methods. (Non SHRM members may write me for a copy).

Here are some stats. 55% of respondents stated they use behavioral interviews that are based upon questions prepared in advance. 40% of respondents stated they do not conduct interviews with prepared questions. Kevin most certainly has his editorial comments pointed at this group.

When I explored further, and asked who uses behaviorally anchored rating scales and numeric summary of interview outcomes. Only 24% of respondents stated they use of this known best practice. This is the group that Tom Janz (see comment to Wheeler's post) may be using to support his retort.

Another way to look at it is this: Every company interviews (bold assertion) in their candidate evaluation process. 40% of companies begin with no preparation for what they want to learn. 76% of companies have no structured way to evaluate what they hear.

I think Kevin’s assertion has more generalized weight about the current state of affairs than Tom Janz’s point (see comment to Wheeler's post) about results that can be achieved when interviewing is done exceptionally well. The process that Lou Adler teaches is a great example. Lou demands adherence to the process to get the results he purports.

Kevin’s bigger point is that there are better ways to learn more objective information about a candidate. And thanks to Tom Janz for the reference to the Virtual Job Tryout as one example (see comment to Wheeler's post). At issue here is the professional/technical capabilities of practitioners in talent attraction and selection roles and their ability and desire to build rigor, selection science, and discipline into their practice. Kevin is inviting a shift to more thoughtfully developed and objective methods for candidate evaluation. When your process obtains better candidate data, you may be able to make better decisions.

Thanks Kevin.