My daughter loves American Idol. I’m astonished how many people mistakenly think they can sing. They clearly never heard of deliberate practice. They sing in the shower, it sounds good to their own ear, nobody tells them otherwise, so they go try out for American Idol. A few weeks later millions of people listen to them, laugh and say “Dude, what were you thinking?”
Sadly, many contestants are genuinely stunned, proving the human capacity for self deception is astounding.
Many managers have a similarly high opinion of their own interviewing skills. And their evidence of “interviewing skill” is identical to the standards used by delusional American Idol contestants – no evidence.
Managers “practice” their interviewing craft in front of helpless jobseekers who generally endure whatever silliness occurs. The hapless job seeker either puts up with the silliness to get the job – perhaps even sending an obsequious thank you note – or, if they were really offended, they “take another job” or otherwise remove themselves from consideration. No chance for manager feedback in any of these scenarios. (Of course few job seekers have the training to provide any meaningful feedback, and it would be an atrocious breach of protocol to do so).
Since very few managers get any real interview feedback or training, one babystep I like is team interviews – having two or more people interview the candidate at the same time. They can all observe the same interview event, separately write down their impressions, and then compare notes. Of course you have to agree on what you are looking for, have some decent questions to ask, and at the end you all need to use the same criteria to evaluate the candidates – but at least it is possible. We give our clients all the tools they need to do this, and most managers tell us they make better hiring decisions as a result. (Full disclosure: our 3 year “stick rate” is 85% – 15% of our placements do not work out after 3 years – so obviously we have room to improve. And nothing clarifies the mind like an 18 month unconditional guarantee period on your placements.)
Of course, as I just mentioned, the real test of interviewing ability is to keep rigorous track of how your hiring actually works out. How many past hires lived up to their potential? How many are ranked as top performers or got promoted? How many quit or got fired, or should have been fired? Well, we all know that’s rarely tracked.
What most managers do is simply forget all the data that puts their interviewing skills into question. We all like to forget the parade of people who did not work out. When forced to review actual turnover data, managers often resort to that human self delusional capacity to believe that Frank really left us for more money and Jill really left for a better opportunity. We continue to think that Sam was not a mis-hire – he just got lazy after he was hired – so he’s a “fluke.” Day in and day out I see managers explain away turnover rates that are three times their industry average. Singing in the shower. And not producing results.
If you are hiring, many people will tell you what you want to hear. Fewer who will tell you they really don’t fit your job. It’s time to stop singing in the shower and time to get some feedback on your interviewing skills.
If you’d like to stop wasting your time on the irrelevant, superficial aspects of interviewing, and start understanding the deeper elements of what really predicts success a new hire, read our post on How to Conduct a Job Interview so Top Performers Actually Want to Take Your Job.
And, if you prefer all that research and information pulled together into one attractive document you can easily share with others, download our Employer Guide to Interviewing.