Can they talk the talk AND walk the walk?

  | May 24, 2013

Scan the web and you’ll find a constant parade of articles and tips about the importance of interviews (and we obviously couldn’t agree more). From a hiring manager or recruiter’s perspective, plenty of information is available about asking the right interview questions and watching for the right body language, etc. On the flip side, TONS of information is available to candidates on exactly how to answer those questions and handle themselves during an interview.

So if candidates are rehearsed and well-prepared for an interview, how can you be sure they are ideal for their position? Is the most important quality of a new hire how well they respond to questions, and how their personality matches your organization’s culture? Maybe a simple conversation or traditional question and answer interview IS all you need to find the right hire! But maybe you need proof, in addition to the resume and interview answers, that they truly possess the skills and experience for your position.

According to a study in the December issue of American Sociological Review, interviewers in the observed group often valued their personal feelings over identifying candidates with superior thinking or technical skills.

“It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people,” said Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University and author of the study. “But, my findings demonstrate that – in many respects – employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers.”

It’s only natural that we prefer to hire someone we like or enjoy being around, particularly if they are able to impress us or tell us exactly what we want to hear. But there are dangers with hiring solely on these traits. In addition to legal implications of bias, you risk hiring someone who simply isn’t able to do what your organization needs.

So how do hiring managers avoid this? There are several options:

One is to simply be more mindful of the inclination to hire someone you enjoy personally. When evaluating candidates, ask yourself why you want to choose each candidate (or maybe why not) – perhaps even write down your thoughts to ensure the choice is not based solely on your gut.

Ask questions that are more focused on the actual knowledge of the candidate. Use terminology that only someone truly familiar with your industry or that has the required skill set would know. For example, ask a marketing person to tell you about SEO strategy or an accounting person about P&L. If the candidate asks for a definition or their answer (as eloquent as it may be) doesn’t make sense for the question – it should be a dead giveaway.

Use a pre-employment test of some sort. There are many assessment choices with this approach: problem solving skills, work abilities, emotional intelligence, language or skill proficiency, industry knowledge – the list goes on. The results from tests such as these can be very helpful and enlightening during the hiring process, and you don’t have to create the assessments yourself – if you have the money, many companies offer just this sort of screening service.

Yet there are also cons to implementing these types of tests. First and foremost (always) is cost, followed by time. So, consider whether the position is really worth the time and money necessary to test all applicable candidates.

Then consider that these tests may not even be a true indicator of whether the person will perform well in the position; maybe they’re simply an excellent test-taker, or maybe they’re terrible at taking tests but have been very successful on the job. Either way, the results of such assessments may be unreliable.

Legal issues must also be taken into account. The EEOC has laws in place about these tests and, given that employment test issues periodically appear in court, employers must be very careful to ensure they are not violating any laws.

Finally, from a candidate’s perspective, taking a lengthy test to prove their abilities may be insulting – probably not a good move from an employer branding perspective.

So what to do? Create a good mix of all the above.

For instance, using pre-recorded video interview tools, you can easily sprinkle in a few text-based response or document review questions with your standard video responses. An interview could look like this:

Q1: Tell me about yourself.
A1: video response
Q2: Why do you want to be a Javascript coder at our company?
A2: video response
Q3: Please review the following document and tell us any coding errors you may see.
A3: candidate reviews a provided document and responds through video
Q4: Using the following text box, please create a string of code to…
A4: text response
Q5: Please discuss your greatest strength and greatest weakness.
A5: video response

Overall, what’s most important is to identify what works best for your organization and will help identify the best possible candidates for your positions. Tools like those at InterviewStream offer a variety of options for pre-screening candidates through online video so you can customize the experience to your specific needs.

Happy Interviewing!



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