Talented recruits sometimes are not talented interviewees

As I journey daily, from organisation to organisation I am privy to HR and Management practices that leave me cold. I would like to share some of these moments with you, which will hopefully offer you a different perspective and raise your own personal awareness to the pitfalls of an unprofessional selection process. One would assume that within our unique South African context, together with strict Labour Laws, interviewing 101 mistakes would not still be happening in 2018, but this is simply not the case. A legal loophole exists for employers, which is that most South African jobseekers cannot prove they have been discriminated against during the interview process and perhaps more to the point, is why many organisations are able to get away with unfair recruitment practices.

Recruiters are easily seduced by the “professional interviewee”, this is someone who is well coached and prepared for the interview and as such, often have a very good chance of landing the job. On the other hand, if the candidate does not come across well in the interview, recruiters may miss out on highly talented individuals which would be a big loss for the business. Talented recruits sometimes are not talented interviewees! If you are “old school” and your interview method is using your intuition or “gut feel” then you are more at risk for this pitfall.

What follows next are some true scenarios I have experienced firsthand in the corporate world. Which I’m sure you will agree are neither fair nor effective and could leave the brand of these organisation’s in tatters.

Scenario 1

“Our organisation does not require Competency Based Interviewing, it’s really simple for me”, says the Director of a well known company, ”I meet the candidate in the reception area and by the time we have arrived at the interview room, I know if I am going to employ them or not”

Research over the last 3 decades illustrates that traditional interviewing is less effective than chance. This means that you are more likely to select the right person based on a coin toss than a traditional interview.

Scenario 2

A large organisation was attending a Competency Based Interviewing workshop where all the senior HR were convened, the HOD of Talent shared with the group her frustration around sourcing talented individuals, “I was so impressed by a recent candidate’s Resume”, she said, until I went on her Facebook profile and saw her picture (she pulls a face), she is just not a culture fit for our organisation”. In this case the candidate was not even afforded the luxury of attending an interview — She was excluded because of her Facebook profile.

Scenario 3

I was assigned to work with a colleague during a graduate recruitment project, I was told that I would be working with their most senior consultant who knew how the company “liked things done”, again a large, very well know company. We had over twenty interviews to conduct and as we settled in for our first day she explained her “signal”. “If you see me take off my watch it means I have decided this candidate is not suitable and we will terminate the interview immediately”. As the interviews progressed I noticed that for some candidates she would terminate after 5 minutes and others after 15, and only a few were afforded a full hour. She could give no scientific evidence as to why she had decided to stop the interviews, except that she could just get the “feeling” they weren’t right for the company.

Fair questions comply with the law, i.e. they only interrogate requirements for the position as advertised and do not discriminate. Some examples of unfair questions would be: “Where do you live?” “What’s your religion?” “How old you are?” Etc.

Scenario 4

After a robust psychometric assessment process 5 candidates, made it through to the final stage, unable to decide who would be the successful candidate, the recruitment team wrote the names of the candidates on separate pieces of paper, and while the candidates were still in the room they put them in a hat and drew out the “winner”.

How well is your organisation doing?

Have you had enough of these cringe worthy examples? Ok so time to evaluate if your organisation could be at risk of unfair and ineffective recruitment practices.

Q1: Do you recruit from up to date Job Profiles based on appropriate and relevant competencies?

Q2: Do your organisation’s interview guides ask competency based questions?

A competency based question will always ask for an example of when the candidate demonstrated the competency, rather than ask for how “would” they deal with a situation. The professional interviewee can prepare for the “would” style questions with the help of Google! Asking for real past experiences is far more predictive of competence. It’s important to note that the job interview only makes up part of a professional recruitment process, other tools that should be incorporated include: Paper selection of Resumes, reference checks psychometric assessments, in-baskets and panel interviews. This holistic and integrated approach to recruitment will ensure that all candidates have a fair and standarised recruitment selection experience when dealing with your organisation. More importantly you will minimise the recruitment risks involved by using a scientific methodology.

Q3: Are all candidates applying for the role asked the same questions and is the note taking accurate and correctly filed in case of an audit or a subpoena from the CCMA?

Q4: Are all candidates scored fairly? And can you defend your recruitment decisions?

Q5: Is your recruitment philosophy sensitive to the human condition of unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias includes but are not limited to, attractiveness bias, primary attribution error and change blindness. Here are some examples of how bias will show up in decision making during the interview: “They were late, dressed poorly, not very confident, too anxious, don’t have transport or they do not fit the culture”. None of which can be used to decide if a candidate should get the job or not.

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, your organisation may be at risk of unfair and ineffective hiring practices. Recruitment is a valuable PR opportunity for any organisation and as talent is very scarce and getting scarcer by the year, it is prudent to handle all candidates like VIPs and host them in a way which would leave them with a positive impression of the brand, whether they have been selected for the role or not. Research shows that where high turnover of staff is an ongoing theme, one must analyse the recruitment practices being used. Often the decision maker is the Manager, who traditionally has not received scientific interview training. They will mention their highly attuned intuition, a magic question they will use or simply being a good judge of character.

Now more than ever, recruitment practices need to be scientific and robust! The cost of making a poor recruitment decision is too high, especially if you missed out on a talented individual because they couldn’t interview well.

Competency based interviewing is a fundamental pillar of any good recruitment and selection process. Using structured interviews improve selection decisions and negates the disadvantage of traditional interview methods. With our Selection Blueprint System, the manual burden of storing competency profiles as well as generating interview guides is removed. Now you have a universal, online repository of interview guides and interview data — ready to be used for selection decisions!

Author: Colleen McLintock, HOD People Development, Omnicor