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What if Reality TV Used Trained Raters?

June 21, 2012

I've been watching The Voice this season, and it got me thinking about the importance of trained raters when interviewing candidates for hire.  How do the two relate to one another you might ask?

Well, The Voice was launched as an alternative to American Idol and touts its focmicus on talent, not looks or personality. As someone who has also watched American Idol, I can say that there were plenty of contestants over the years who continued to make it through week after week for reasons other than their singing ability.  Viewers might have voted for someone they thought was attractive or likeable.  No one knows for sure, but the entire outcome of the show was based on the votes of the viewers.  Votes were cast for a variety of reasons and, in the end, the best vocalist may not have won the show.

So, along comes The Voice.  They have four coaches who are choosing individuals for their teams by listening to their voices only.  The idea here is that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like or how old they are, it’s about their vocal talent.  Early in the competition, the coaches make the decisions about who is eliminated before the viewers have a say.  Even then, the viewers’ votes and the coaches’ ratings are combined in determining who stays and who goes.  This show places an emphasis on vocal talent and gives the experts (coaches) a strong say in who is eliminated.  The model used here provides a strong emphasis on talent and gives individuals who are able to recognize that talent (coaches) weight in determining the outcome.

If you think of voters as interview raters, let’s see how these relate.  In the case of Idol, we have a large number of raters who have no common reference point.  They are using any number of reasons for casting their votes.  If you were to apply this model to your interview process, you would have a group of interviewers who are asking different questions and looking for different characteristics in their candidates.  One interviewer might be looking specifically for someone with a “good personality” and another might be looking for someone who is “hard working” and doesn’t care about personality at all.  It’s impossible to know what criteria are being used in the decision making, and this approach opens up the opportunity for personal biases and/or discrimination to enter into the picture.  Taking this approach will likely yield you a group of employees who have one or two characteristics you’re looking for and gaps in other areas - not the most productive workforce.

On The Voice, they take a more trained interviewer approach by giving the initial decision-making power to job content experts (coaches).  The underlying assumption being that they are all successful vocal artists and are trained in recognizing vocal talent.  While they may be group interviewusing slightly different criteria to make their decisions, at the end of the day, they are working from a common reference point.  At the end of the show when the viewers cast their votes for the winner, the final four artists got there by impressing their coaches with their talent, thus increasing the chances that a strong vocalist will win, regardless of the criteria being used by the audience.

When it comes to finding the most productive employees, you have to know what you are looking for by identifying the success characteristics within a certain position.  Then, each of your interviewers should be trained on what these characteristics are and how to ask questions to gather information around them.  If your interviewers are all looking for the same thing in the same way, you are increasing your chances of winning by hiring the best people.

For tips and tricks on how to effectively interview candidates, check out the Interview Essentials eBook.

Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Manager of Product Development at PSI. She is an expert in the design, development and validation of psychological assessment tools. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous competency-based assessments, including online in-baskets, job simulations and motivational fit instruments.