eLearning Center Demo
It's back-to-school week here in Colorado, so my eight children are beginning yet another year of school. It's always interesting to me to gauge their reactions to their new teachers. They form their impressions very early, and some of those impressions are negative. Last night my son told me about his new sixth grade math teacher from you-know-where. "Oh dad, she is absolutely awful! She's extremely strict, she doesn't allow talking in class, and home work has to be in on time. If it's a minute late you get zero credit. She's way too serious, no fun, and she's the hardest, worst teacher in the school. Can you help me transfer out of her class?" We've all had teachers like this one, but what's interesting to me is that as you go through this process over and over with so many kids, you realize that the first day of school is very much contrived. It's a huge multi-act play. Every teacher has on his/her game face. Some try to scare the kids into submission while others try to win the students over by being open and friendly. Each has their own strategy and it's all carefully orchestrated to set the stage for the coming year. In two or three weeks once the impact of the teachers' "first day of school" speeches wear off, I'll start to get the "real" scoop. Sometimes the toughest teacher becomes my child's favorite. What I really care about is simply their ability to teach my children their subjects well.
I think interviewing is much the same. Candidates put on their best game face. They carefully orchestrate the impression they want interviewers to have, and if we're not careful we can be fooled by their preparation.
Here's a question: are the candidates you've interviewed lately better prepared for their interviews than candidates 3-5 years ago, or are they not as well prepared? Do they have their carefully prepared speeches with just the right information, and do they get their subjects (hiring managers) into just the right mindset to hire them? When I ask people that question I get mixed results. Thirty years ago, Behavioral Interviewing became the standard for interviewing in the U.S. Books were written and DDI made a whole industry teaching people to become better at Behavioral Interviewing. Most people know the basics of Behavioral Interviewing and many companies have adopted BI as their interviewing standard.
However, most managers don't use it. In fact, a recent internal study at one of our clients revealed that managers only used the traditional behavioral interviewing techniques to exclude candidates they didn't want to hire, but used other interview questions with candidates they liked and wanted to hire. Surprised? I was.
I think we've made it too easy for candidates by using behavioral interviewing. Another lesson from our sometimes frustrating educational system is the repetition. Now that five of my children have had the same teachers for Spanish, math, and science, we're starting to see the pattern and we know the routine. While their teaching methods don't change much year to year, teachers are still very careful not to use the same tests each year because eventually the questions and answers get circulated throughout the whole student body and among siblings. If they didn't do this my younger children would be the smartest kids on the planet--at least on paper. Teachers don't do this simply because giving the same test over and over quickly becomes a poor predictor of student knowledge. Behavioral Interviewing has fallen victim to this phenomenon. It is no longer a good predictor of true performance because everybody knows the answers. Well, almost everybody. . .
Just a couple of facts:
Below are a few titles of the most popular books:
Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions
Fearless Interviewing: How to Win the Job by Communicating with Confidence
How to Interview Like a Top MBA: Job-Winning Strategies From Headhunters, Fortune 100 Recruiters, and Career Counselors
301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions
I DON'T RECOMMEND ANY OF THESE, but I'm sure they are selling well. Most, though, are a waste of time. Who reads this stuff anyway? People who really need a job--translation: desperate people. I'm not sure these are the people we want to hire.
Now let's ask some hard questions:
Here's my belief: Top performers don't read interviewing books. They don't have the time. The fact that candidates that have done a lot of research on your company and have carefully prepared their pitch doesn't necessarily mean they are going to do well on the job. It's mostly an indication of how motivated they are to get the job, not how motivated they are to do the job. The very best interviewers gain that skill by going to a lot of interviews. That, in and of itself, may be an interesting predictor. Don't be fooled by presentation skills--they don't correlate to on-the-job performance. Many of the best employees are not great interviewers. They already have good jobs, they haven't been on a lot of interviews, some get nervous, and many are not polished. The most desperate candidates will do all of the above, and they may impress you during the interview, but they may not be a great employee.
I've never tried this before, but here are some questions that might be interesting to ask a candidate right up front in the interview.
How many interviews have you been on in the last two months?
How many books on interviewing have you read?
How much time did you spend preparing for this interview?