The unfairness at the heart of the recruitment process. 

There is an unfairness at the heart of the recruitment process which rewards those who are good at interviews above those who are good at the job. The surprise is not that the traditional interview results in some bad appointments it’s that it ever results in some good ones!

HR have tried to shift the emphases away from the focus on the interview by introducing an Assessment Centre approach  into the final part of the recruitment process. This is very popular with recruitment consultants in selecting for senior posts. I have participated in a number of assessment centres where candidates over a two day period have undertaken tests to determine their personality traits, IQ and rational reasoning tests, test to determine their understanding of statistics and financial reports, intray exercises and even role play. And in every single case the selection of the successful candidate was based on the interview. 

If you want further evidence of the vagaries  of the decision making in interviews you only have to look at the typical  feedback given to candidates. 

“Unfortunately you were unsuccessful,  the panel though you were appiontable  but the person appointed had more experience.” 

This is not helpful feedback and appears simply intended to appease the unsuccessful and therefore disappointed candidate. Do they mean the successful candidate had more years in a relevant post because we all know people who have for example  ten years which in fact is one years experience repeated ten times, as compared to some one with three years experience who has acquired new skills and knowledge each year. Perhaps they mean that they made better use of their experience in answering questions. 

When asked to review the decision making process of interview panels I frequently found that individuals formed impressionistic views of candidates despite claims to operate a robust scoring system. In fact whilst there was often evidence of an attempt to formulate questions that related to criteria on the person specification little thought was given to what constituted a good answer. Often the absence of prior agreement on what constituted a good answer was exposed when the scoring of individual panelist’s was examined only to find a wide variation with the answer of a candidate being given a low score by one panelist and a high score by another.  In fact there was often a suspicion that individual interviews formed an opinion about a candidate very early in the interview and then bent their scoring to fit this view. 

The traditional interview is unscientific and subjective but despite this fact being generally recognised it persists because those who undertake interviews think they are good at it. Which means organisation’s will continue to appoint people who are good at interviews rather that good at the job. 

Blair Mcpherson former Director , author and blogger 

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