Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The End of the Job Interview? Seth Godin's Thoughts

Before I get back to writing about innovation, I wanted to comment on something Seth Godin wrote yesterday. According to Mr. Godin, organizations should destroy the way they do interviews. According to him we should:

1) Admit that we've got this whole interviewing process backwards.
2) Re-examine the "why" behind most hiring decisions.
3) Have a "guided tour" of our organizations and the opportunity in question ready to go for any candidates who apply or are recruited directly.
4) Abolish one-on-one interviews and instead place candidates in situations where they would actually be doing the work they're being interviewed for.
5) Like the person so far? Hire them for a weekend for 20 hours and see how they perform with regards to both outcome and process.

I like the idea. But like what many people have already said, I have to say that I don't think Seth Godin's suggestions are practical. Mostly, I think the business world as we know it isn't ready for something like this. I also think the landscape is changing in such a way that tactic 5 would be a HUGE road block for attracting top talent.

The process that Seth Godin wants to put into place would work...IF and only if the interviewing process within an organization was already pretty good to begin with. For instance, how many organizations have dived deep into their positions? How many of these have figured out what makes someone successful for that particular role vs. someone who is just an average performer? Have they learned how to identify these success factors? And can you design an interview that shows managers these success factors within the people they interview? Most organizations that I've interacted with don't even keep track of the types of questions their hiring managers are asking. Related to this is the fact that many organizations don't look to see that hiring managers are being consistent from one interview to the next (like asking the same questions to be as objective as possible).

The second thing is...I truly believe the business landscape that we're operating in is changing towards a talent economy. In other words, an economy where organizations can only survive by "getting" the whole talent thing. As more and more organizations realize this (and as more and more Baby Boomers retire), I think we'll see an increasingly competitive environment for talent of all varieties. So the question becomes, can you realistically make candidates work for free for 20 hours over the weekend when they're getting hounded by a handful of your direct competitors? My answer is: no.

However, you have to hand it to Seth Godin for at least trying. And trying in a fresh way. So before you're so quick to criticize (me included), just know that revolutionary ideas often stir up emotions (angry or otherwise) precisely because they are...revolutionary.

Sometimes it just takes a while for these ideas to "stick."


Nick Roy said...

I have been on countless interviews as a job seeker, and have conducted numerous interviews myself as an employer. Many companies still ask questions that have only a yes or no answer. These types of questions should only be asked on the application form.

Asking a candidated "do you know Microsoft Excel?" is a waste of energy. Of course the candidate is going to say yes.

Chris Stockley, CIO and VP of Shanska, puts potential IT hires through a simulated customer service excercise. He says the purpose is to find candidates that have those soft skills. Technical skills can always be trained.

I personally like using the interview as an oral examination, much like a doctoral student being grilled by a panel of faculty members.

Phillip said...

Good thoughts, Nick.

Going even further, I think companies need to look into what exactly makes people successful at a given role.

In other words, are there any specific talents, skills, or knowledge that propel people into stardom for their particular job?

I do agree with your point about companies still asking "stupid" questions. It's sad, but I see this every day with even successful Fortune 500 companies.