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What's Wrong with Job Interviews, and How to Fix Them, by Adam Grant


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So much good practical advice in this article on how to design job hiring processes that actually find the top performers, weed out the worst performers, and give proper weight to company culture while hopefully reducing bias.

I had never heard of this practice before:

Rather than wasting a great deal of time and money interviewing applicants, you can learn a great deal about them from online situational judgment tests. To write a situational judgment test that’s tailored to your own arena, start by writing short descriptions of the types of situations that distinguish your stars from average and poor performers. Then, give the scenarios to some of your colleagues, and ask what they would do. You can create an answer key by scoring the responses from the star performers at the top, and the responses from the poor performers at the bottom. From there, you can test-drive the questions with a pool of applicants. See if you get a range of answers, and if the candidates with higher scores end up being better performers on the job. Once you have some evidence, use the test to weed out the applicants with the poorest results. Research by Rick Jacobs, an industrial-organizational psychologist and founder and CEO of EB Jacobs, suggests that the cost of a bad hire is often double the benefit of a good hire, so it’s most valuable to screen out the lowest-scoring candidates.

One big problem with interviews is confirmation bias.

Interviews are terrible predictors of job performance. Consider a rigorous, comprehensive analysis of hundreds of studies of more than 32,000 job applicants over an 85-year period by Frank Schmidt and Jack Hunter. They covered more than 500 different jobs— including salespeople, managers, engineers, teachers, lawyers, accountants, mechanics, reporters, farmers, pharmacists, electricians, and musicians—and compared information gathered about applicants to the objective performance that they achieved in the job. After obtaining basic information about candidates’ abilities, standard interviews only accounted for 8% of the differences in performance and productivity. Think about it this way: imagine that you interviewed 100 candidates, ranked them in order from best to worst, and then measured their actual performance in the job. You’d be lucky if you put more than eight in the right spot.

Interviewer biases are one major culprit. When I dismissed Ari, I fell victim to two common traps: confirmation bias and similarity bias. Confirmation bias is what leads us to see what we expect to see—we look for cues that validate our preconceived notions while discounting or overlooking cues that don’t match our expectations. Since I had already concluded that Ari wasn’t cut out for sales, I zeroed in on his lack of eye contact as a signal that I was right. It didn’t occur to me that eye contact was irrelevant for a phone sales job—and I didn’t notice his talents in building rapport, asking questions, and thinking creatively. Once we expect a candidate to be strong or weak, we ask confirming questions and pay attention to confirming answers, which prevents us from gauging the candidate’s actual potential.

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