The Interview as a Candidate Assessment Tool

We’ve luckily been able to do a good bit of hiring over the last year or so, both in the Greenhouse Studios and in the digital repository and the archives.  Of course one of the difficulties of the hiring process is that you typically have to make what amounts to a long-term investment decision based on what turns out to be a relatively small amount of information and in a compressed timeline.  (This reminds me very much of the process of buying a house, where you spend far more money than you have based on walking though a building for 20 minutes.)

In recent searches, we have been moving away from the traditional inquisitional interview approach where a panel of people asks questions designed to elicit from the candidate some indication of how they would actually perform on the job. This approach tends to weed out the obviously inferior candidates who are not able to discern what the “right answer” was to a particular quesiton, even if it had nothing to do with their approach to working.   Moving from what is the right answer questions to more hypothetical approaches was only somewhat more valuable since again, a reasonably intelligent candidate could figure out the correct answer to a question that went something like “How would you deal with a colleague who you felt was preventing progress?”  would not be “I’d adopt passive-aggressive tactics to make their lives miserable until they quit.”

In recent searches we adopted a combination of conversational discussions about a certain relevant topic and experiential interviewing techniques.  Experiential interviewing means placing the candidate in a situation similar to the work they would actually do, and seeing how they performed.  For example, consensus building skills and the ability to assess the skills and interests of others was a big part of the work of the Greenhouse Studios coordinator. As part of the interview process, we had the candidates engage with a relatively random set of individuals and come up with a potential GS project that they could all agree on and contribute to. This was essentially simulating exactly what they would be doing as part of the position. We were surprised on more than one occasion when the person who we expected to perform well (or badly) based on our more traditionally structured video interviews performed much differently in the “real word” test.

We’ve continued to use the experiential interview approach for searches going forward and have been pleased with how quickly it shows, at least for our particular application, who has the capacity to collaborate and build a consensus, and who struggles with that.


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