July 16, 2021

Alternatives (or Additions) to the Standard Interview

The Managers’ Corner:

If you have followed us through this series, you’ll know from the beginning that Bendel Services questions the efficacy of the standard interview in selecting candidates for a position in any type of organization.  We also know that the standard interview will not be disappearing any time soon so let’s live with it.  In any case, there are three possibilities for managing the selection process and the interview challenge.  These are:

  1. Improving all aspects of the interview process including, but not limited to, the type of          questions used, scripting, interview set up and interviewer training 
  2. Using another process instead of the interview
  3. Using another process in addition to the interview 

This next series concentrates on the latter possibility.  What we are going to do in the next nine blog entries is to explain how the particular technique under discussion can be used to gather information that may not be available through standard questions and provide a fairer and more defensible process for all candidates.

But before we move into the specifics of the different techniques, let’s clarify what a productive selection process looks like:

  1. It must be effective.   In this case “effective” means the selection process must, as conclusively as possible, allow the best candidate to come forward. 
  2. It must be efficient.  That means that the process must be able to be implemented in such a way as to ensure it can be completed in short order.  If it involves too many steps it will  discourage people from applying or agreeing to serve on a selection team.  
  3. It must take into account that the notion that not being a successful interviewee does not mean that a candidate will not be a successful employee.  
  4. For purposes of alignment, no matter what the selection technique or techniques, the content should be based on the job description. 
  5. Finally, as noted above, it must be, and be seen to be, fair and defensible.

Let’s look at two overriding considerations that address, in some measure, all of the above.  The first pertains to using at least one additional (beyond the interview) technique to assess the candidate.  This echoes the sentiment expressed earlier in the series about moving from what candidates say about themselves, to what candidates do, to what others say about candidates. In other words, try to find a method that gives the assessor information NOT from the candidates themselves — and then check it out against the interview data.  This is, of course, a form of triangulation that can be very productive and very revealing.

The other consideration is using different assessors for each phase.  For instance, suppose the process involved the completion of a case study by candidates as an initial step and an interview as a final step. To avoid overload on assessors, the organization could set up a team to assess the case study and another team to assess the interview — without any consultation between the two teams.  I think you can see where this is going. First, no one assessor has to complete both tasks.  Second, if the performance on the case study is not made known to the members of the interview team, each candidate starts the second phase (in this case, the interview) with a clean slate.  No bias is carried from one part of the selection to the other.

The question arises:  Who, then, makes the decision?  Here is a suggestion.  

The chair of the case study team and the chair of the interview team could be tasked with putting together a separate ranked list from each phase, perhaps with a annotated summary of each candidate’s performance and a justification for the ranking.  If the case study and the interview questions are based on the job description as suggested above, the comparison is much easier to assess. You are, in effect, comparing “apples to apples” in the form of the identical criteria used in both.  These “final reports” could then be handed to the Management Committee or simply reviewed by the chairs who could then make a decision based on all of the data.

By using two data sources and two sets of assessment teams, no one is overburdened, candidates are given the opportunity to talk about themselves and then back it up by showing what they would actually do, both parts of the process could be going on at the same time to save time and the built-in bias control of two different groups of people would enhance the credibility of the process in the eyes of the candidate.

And there is one more benefit that we can speak of here on the basis of past experience using multi-assessment techniques and multi-assessors.  Being on a selection committee of some sort is a tremendous learning experience for staff.  They feel honoured to be chosen, they feel part of the deciton-making in their organization which will likely affect them and they get an inside view on how selection is carried out and the kind of effort and professionalism that goes into it.

So, as we go forward into discussing additional/alternate techniques, keep these ideas in mind.  Next week:  Designing Effective Case Studies

Dr. Dan

To arrange a customized Interviewing webinar for your recruiters (with examples on how to create alignment between the job description, advertisement, selection process, reference checks, debriefing, training and appraisal processes) contact Jen and Dan at info@bendelservices.com.