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So Good At Interviewing

October 4, 2016

“We Are So Good at Interviewing, We Only Have 100% Turnover.”

“Jordan” was the shiny penny among dull nickels during a long recruitment for a new sales rep. He won me over as he did other managers. So, we hired him, with great hopes he would be our next sales superstar.

Within ten days, he was our greatest nightmare.

Hindsight is only valuable if applying its lessons to current situations to affect a better outcome; so, we reviewed where we went wrong. You might expect we saw red flags signaling an impressive façade masking the psychological mess that was Jordan. Nope, the red flag was mine.

And that flag? I didn’t know squat about interviewing. Up until then, I had not taken a single course or been instructed by HR on proper interview techniques, despite having conducted many interviews. Then, I couldn’t have told you the difference between behavioral interviewing, theoretical interviewing, and a fireside chat – or whether one approach was any better than another, because I was dumb at interviewing.

This didn’t stop my manager from believing interviewing was in my skills toolbox. So, I chose good stuff I had experienced in my own past interviews, all the while thinking, I don’t have a clue what I am doing.

At the same time, peers and senior managers seemed confident in their ability to ferret out good and bad candidates. However, as some of their hires were disastrous, I wondered how they could think so highly of their skills.

The story of bank robber, McArthur Wheeler, may provide insight.

In 1995, 44 year-old McArthur Wheeler decided to rob banks. Wheeler believed that smearing lemon juice on his face would make him invisible to bank surveillance cameras as lemon juice used to write invisible letters only become visible when held close to heat. In fact, Wheeler was confident in his belief. When police caught Wheeler the same day he robbed two banks, after recognizing him from the banks’ video footage, he was, it is said, astonished his plan had not worked.

This inspired researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger, from the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, to explore why Wheeler was flabbergasted by his failure. Their findings resulted in what is now called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, whereby some people are so incompetent they don’t realize just how incompetent they are, and, as a result, believe themselves to be really good. (Witness those awful but crushed American Idol contestants.)

Interviewing, like any other HR function, requires knowledge and skill. There is too much at stake for leadership to allow hiring managers and recruiters to remain incompetent in this critical competency – especially when there are tools (e.g., Video-Based Behavioral Interviewing, Validated Selection Tests, Interviewing Best Practices) that can objectively evaluate candidates’ ability and willingness to do the job.

Perhaps, then, that admitting you don’t know how to interview will make you one of the smartest people at your company.

Kathy Hammond is Account Manager, Talent Assessment at PSI.  Contact her at khammond@psionline.com  or by phone at 818.847.2090.

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