Have you ever been on a set of interviews and thought to yourself, this feels a lot like being on the “The Dating Game?” If you’re not familiar with the show, the premise is an eligible bachelor or bachelorette would ask three other eligible dating contestants questions. By the end of the show, they’d have to pick one of the three to take out on a date.
The idea was romance could be found on 30-minute dating show broadcast by ABC. Or maybe I’m confusing “The Dating Game” with “The Bachelor,” although at least in that show, there’s several weeks to get to know the applicants vying for the position of The Bachelor’s “leading lady.” Which is more than we can say for “The Dating Game” …. and job interviews.
When you think about it, it’s a little absurd what employers and job seekers hope to gleam from 30-minutes to a couple of hours of conversation over the course of what is the standard interview process. While something is definitely better than nothing, what do we really learn about workplace or career compatibility from questions like “How lucky are you and why?” (interview question from AirBnB) or “Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” (this one brought by a Xerox client manager). The infamous brainteasers are really no better at predicting success, which is why Google stopped asking candidates questions like how many gas stations there are in New York. According to Google’s Sr. VP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, the company discovered these brainteasers are “a complete waste of time,” which “don’t predict anything” when it comes to whether or not a new hire will have job success or be able to culturally adapt to a company and did away with them in 2013.
That makes sense as those kinds of questions are fraught with decontextualization. In order to make the questions work, the interviewer must generalize them to the point that it takes it out of the context the behavior being asked about would naturally occur. It’s a warped version of predictive psychology that’s been proven to have limited correlative success (at best).
Furthermore, it sets the stage to allow for ‘impression bias.’ An interviewer can ask questions like those shared in Glassdoor’s Top 10 Oddball Interview Questions of 2015 such as “What’s your favorite Disney princess?” (asked of candidates by Coldstone Creamery) and have two candidates give the same answer, but yet rate them differently. This creates a confusing and often frustrating candidate experience, as there’s no way for a candidate to objectively know whether or not they’re giving a relevant answer. Because really, unless working at a radio station or in the music industry, how relevant is “What’s your favorite 90s jam?” to how well a candidate processes credit card payments? (interview question asked by Squarespace)
So then the question begs to be asked: why are we still doing it?
There Has to be a better way
Most organizations still working through interview questions that work off of “thin-slice” psychology do so because they don’t know another way. The external interview process usually begins by posting a job and job boards aren’t really set up know if there’s a work fit beyond keyword matches between an employer job description and candidate resumes. Sourcers aren’t armed with relevant behavioral questions to ask in initial conversations, because the goal is so often to just ‘get potential candidates in the running.’ They have a set of keywords to search to find potential candidates and a short spiel on why the company and opportunity rocks. Because they’re not working through personality fit and cultural compatibility with a candidate’s personal values, those questions have to be asked during the interview process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By utilizing a highly-standardized interview process and screening for personality fit and compatibility alongside keyword experience searches, we would set the scene to allow interviews to be more successful. Using this method, interviewers and would-be-employees could focus on behavioral based questions that address both past performance and provide future indicators of performance by engaging in exercises that would approximate how they would perform on the job. Once company that does this well is Dovetail Software, an organization out of Austin, Texas. Before hiring programmers, they conduct a “coding interview” that lasts approximately 2 hours. Candidates are given a coding exercise. Director of Development, Chad Myers, says this allows them to “see how [a candidate] writes code, how they think through it, and what shortcuts they take.” Since sloppy code makes for a buggy product, this kind of test provides much more value to the selection process than an interview question you might receive from Redbox: “How many people flew out of Chicago last year?”
P.S.: If you find you have some down-time, feel free to enjoy these show bloopers for fun. My favorite question is admittedly low-brow: “How do you spell relief?” Curious as to the answer? You’ll have to watch to find out.
If you find those outtakes more stimulating than the environment where you work each day, perhaps it’s time to consider finding a more compatible employer for you. In Chicago at Illinois SHRM 9.15.2015? Join Elevated Careers by eHarmony’s Dan Erickson and Elevated Insider Crystal Miller for their session, “The Dating Game” where they will tackle the broken recruiting process and its impact on company culture.