How many of us are being interviewed for a job? What is the value of these interviews? During my working life I have carried out many interviews. I still wonder how good I was at them? Is it fair to select a candidate out of from a 20 minutes interview? There is surely more to it.

From their books “Sway” written by by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, I have extracted a relevant chapter that discusses on the interviews.

The First-Date Interview

Here’s where value attribution meets up with a sway

called the diagnosis bias — our propensity to label people,

ideas or things based on our initial opinions of them —

and our inability to reconsider those judgments once

we’ve made them.

When you think about it, the standard job interview is

a lot like a first date. As Professor Allen Huffcutt

explained, “You don’t have a clear format to follow and

you just let the interview go as it will.” It’s easy to

understand why companies would be so drawn to the

“first-date” interview format. After all, managers will

spend a lot of time with the person they hire; they want

to make sure the person is a good fit.

Standard Interview Questions

That Don’t Cut It

The standard job interview questions are familiar to all

of us, but they make Huffcutt cringe. He shared a list of

the top 10 most commonly asked questions during an

interview. You’d think that, given the frequency with

which they’re asked, at least some of them would be useful.

But from the whole list, Huffcutt gave a passing

mark to only one question.

1. Why should I hire you?

2. What do you see yourself doing five years from


3. What do you consider some of your greatest

strengths and weaknesses?

4. How would you describe yourself?

5. What college subjects did you like the best and the least?

6. What do you know about our company?

7. Why did you decide to seek a job

with our company?

8. Why did you leave your last job?

9. What do you want to earn five years from now?

10. What do you really want to do in life?

When we look at these questions more closely, we

see that they cluster around specific themes. The first

group (questions 1, 3 and 4) is taken from the Barbara

Walters school of interviewing. The second group (questions

2, 9 and 10) requires the candidates to gaze into the

future. But unless they’re applying for a job at a psychic

hotline, their predictions carry little weight. The final

cluster (questions 5, 7 and 8) takes the opposite approach

and turns the interviewer into a historian. The thing is,

when people revisit the past, they often reconstruct it.

That leaves question No. 6,“What do you know about

our company?” as the winner.“That can actually be a

decent question,” explained Huffcutt.“That gets into

whether they took the time to research your company,

which can be a good sign — at least better than the

previous questions.”

Does a Good Interview

= Good Job Performance?

When researchers conducted a meta-analysis — a

broad study incorporating data from every scientific

work ever conducted in the field — they found there’s

only a small correlation between first-date (unstructured)

job interviews and job performance. The marks managers

give job candidates have very little to do with how well

those candidates actually perform on the job.

It all comes back to the dating analogy.“How many

people go on a first date,” Huffcutt reflected,“get a certain

impression; keep dating the person; and then, over

time, see the reality of the person? That first impression

can be totally wrong. You later wonder, ‘What in the

world was I thinking? How did I not see these things?’

The same thing happens in the interview. You’ve got a

very limited time exposure, applicants put on their best

show and — not surprisingly — you don’t see the realities

of the person in 20 minutes.”

When it comes to interviews, managers need to

restrain themselves from delving into first-date questions

(i.e.,What do you see yourself doing five years from

now?) and focus instead on specific past experience and

“job-related hypothetical scenarios,” said Huffcutt.The

idea is to focus on relevant data and squelch any questions

that invite the candidate to predict the future,

reconstruct the past or ponder life’s big questions. It’s all

about the important information. What kind of accounting

software are you familiar with? What experience do

you have running PR campaigns?

But even then, interviews aren’t that great as a predictive

tool, because some people simply know how to sell

themselves better than others. As counterintuitive as it

sounds, you don’t need interviews at all. Research shows

that an aptitude test predicts performance just as well as a

structured interview.

The point is, when we’re in the position to make a

diagnosis, we all become overly confident in our predictive

abilities and overly optimistic about the future. _


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