Should Traditional Interviews be Updated for the 21st Century?

Posted On November 1, 2019

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

If you are anything like me, traditional interviews make me nervous. When I speak I want to be able to get across my point in a short, precise, reflective mode and somehow everything that I know disappears from my brain during an interview. I have given presentations and facilitated workshops, taught classes and given speeches, however the interview itself always seems to feel like I am on trial. Incompetent until proven competent.

After having spent a number of years in HR in different industries and my own self-reflection of the interview process I do not believe that it is effective. In fact I don’t think it has ever been effective, it’s just the way we have always done it. I have seen candidates’ looking exceptional in the interview, only to find that they weren’t capable of handling the workload. Whereas other candidates that interviewed poorly and were passed over by a firm, later excelled in the same type of position for a different firm. Traditional interviews are just not effective. Finally though people are admitting, “I don’t think this is working.” A group of 9,000 hiring managers were surveyed concerning the effectiveness of interviews.

The top five areas where interviews showed signs of ineffectiveness:

·        Assessing a candidates soft skills

·        Understanding a candidate’s weaknesses

·        Bias of interviewers

·        Process Length

·        Not knowing the best questions to ask

I have been in and conducted quite a few interviews. Most highly successful candidates were found because of non-traditional techniques thrown into the interview process. Some things that I would recommend include:

Meet in a casual setting – have lunch with the interview team prior to the interview. This allows the candidate to assess the personalities of the group

E-mail interview questions to the candidate – prior to the interview. I have seen more than one qualified candidate fail in trying to answer vague interview questions. If a candidate knows what will be asked they are given a chance to research and prepare for the questions, as well as have some examples ready. I have never been given a project by a superior that didn’t give me a chance to gather information prior to being asked questions about it. When you handle hundreds of projects – you don’t always remember all the details of how and what was done to finish the job. If a company can provide the questions they will be asking, the candidate can gather specific examples, and refresh their own memories on how they completed the project, which makes for a more efficient interview. Being articulate is not always a sign that the candidate can do the job.

Project based skills assessment – give the candidate a project to return based on what skill sets you are looking for. Make sure to outline specifics and give more than a vague scenario – set up a rubric with expectations for any projects.

Portfolio Candidates – If your company is hiring for the type of position that has a portfolio, review the portfolio prior to an interview. Make sure the team asks some questions about projects from the portfolio, candidates shine when they speak about their work. This also shows that the company is taking the time to invest in a candidate vs. just expecting the candidate to show initiative.

Avoid vague questions – Asking questions that are vague will leave a candidate scrambling for what type of information the interviewers may be looking for. A structured interview will scaffold specific questions off of each other. This allows for a candidate to elaborate as they answer.

Interviewers should avoid giving their own list of credentials – It’s stressful enough to interview with 3-4 people asking questions, try not to add more stress to the interview by giving a long list of your accomplishments in the field. If you must give them, wait until after the interview so the candidate does not feel like their own credentials may be lacking in comparison.

A couple of new techniques for handling candidate evaluation, would provide a better experience for both the candidate and the company, such as:

Job Auditions – whatever skill you are looking for, have the candidate come into the office and give them a task. Then watch how they approach it. I know this sounds almost as intimidating as an interview, but personally I would rather focus on what I know how to do.

Case-Study – a no questions approach to interviewing. One company brings in a candidate to see how they work in pairs, working in pairs is the company culture, they observe how the candidate works with a partner in three different rounds. So different partners and observers for three separate rounds. Another company brings candidates in to work in the company for 3-8 weeks in a paid try-out and the try-out process ends with a skype chat with no video (the companies culture involves the employees communicating via instant messaging on a regular basis) to evaluate candidates solely on their answers.

Both of these suggestions will help candidates to showcase their soft skills as well as knowledge base in their area of expertise. Plus it helps the candidate see if they are a good fit for the company and the team. The company can also evaluate how well the candidate would work within the culture and team.

The interviews of today are handled the exact way that they were 30 years ago but they added in technology along the way. Instead of just adding some technology elements, let’s re-build the foundation of how candidates are chosen. By introducing some personality profiling and simple projects, informal one-on-one meetings instead of group interviews, giving candidates a chance to prepare – send them the questions and have them submit a video of themselves answering the questions, etc. The possibilities are endless. If Mark Prensky can introduce a new curriculum to change the foundation of education, businesses could certainly come up with a new way to choose candidates for the 21st century. Many talented candidates get passed over because of a companies inability to see their potential.

Written by Evelyn Howard

A problem solver with a business background within a variety of industries compliments my teaching/training design and development skills in the areas of technology, pedagogy, and management principles and practices.

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1 Comment

  1. AffiliateLabz

    Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂


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