Your hiring process is obsolete 03 Jun 2020

I’ve recently came across an interesting post on LinkedIn. It’s about a recruiter having interviewed 30 candidates without finding any good fits. Of course, the comment section is mixed as usual, some blame the recruiter for being a perfectionist, others claim you should never lower your standards. I’m not here to render judgment, but the discussion got me thinking: why do we even stick to the usual interview setup?

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Ye olde Process

I’m pretty sure everyone is familiar with how old-school interviewing works, because there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been jumping through these hoops dozens (or more) times.

What’s wrong with the classic way of interviewing?

It’s a gamble

Half an hour over the phone? An hour or two in person? Okay, no what? You must make a decision whether to hire the candidate or not. The problem here is that you have no chance to evaluate how the new colleague will fit the team or how they would perform, because interviews are synthetic, your impressions there may not be accurate.

It’s a waste of time

Considering how most of the process requires real-time interactions, you’ll inevitably run into the fact that both the interviewer and the interviewee will most likely have a job, usually with identical business hours. Promising candidates may drop out simply because they don’t have enough time to be present at every possible job interview. Remember, just as you interview multiple candidates simultaneously, they might be interviewing at different companies, too.

You’re waiting for the perfect match

Caused by the uncertainty from the first point, it may be hard for interviewers to commit, because you want to be sure you get the best value for your money. It’s okay, if you understand good performance (with potential to be great) is much better than great performance that doesn’t exist.

Numbers & Keywords

Speaking of perfection, most job descriptions are infested with quantifiable, yet totally irrelevant requirements. 5 years of experience with SQL Server? Alright, but why not 10? Or 20, even, that’ll surely be enough.

Except… it doesn’t matter.

I’ve seen awesome senior SQL Server rockstar ninja gurus (insert other buzzwords here) with only a couple of years of relevant experience, while the candidate with the 10+ years behind them barely survived on the job.

The dreaded ATS

If made-up numbers don’t discourage applicants, your ATS applicant tracking system will surely do the trick. While ATSes are great tools, you must be careful not to use them to automate a flawed process, like throwing CVs to the garbage if they don’t include a specific keyword, or the applicant is 2 weeks short of the absolutely required 5 years of SQL expertise.

An ideal world?

I wish I could tell you how to fix it, but no, I can only offer a few ideas.

Evaluate early, evaluate often

It’s 2020, the relevant skillset of most of the jobs can be tested easily on a computer/phone. Instead of categorizing CVs (which contain the applicants’ self-evaluation, usually not particularly unbiased), categorize the people behind them based on the level of their skills.

Test results can be persisted, so there’s another benefit: the applicant may be a wonderful choice for a role which they never directly applied, even if they are not a good fit for the one, they were originally interested in.

Work on something real

Now that you have a very effective tool to create a ranking of applicants, you can spend your time more efficiently evaluating the shortlist than before. Same amount of time / less candidates = improved chances of making a good decision.

Instead of spending n*1 hours interviewing with different people on the same subject, you can invite your potential new colleague to an “open day”, where they can meet their future team, and more importantly, they can work on something together. Like on an actual side-project, not very urgent, not very confidential, but true, meaningful work.

This way, you can make sure the candidate fits the team and their performance can be evaluated with real-life problems instead of the usual interview-riddles.

It actually works

My best interview experience was with a consulting firm, where I was never hired – at least I can be objective here. The application form on the website asked for my name, phone and email + my LinkedIn profile URL. Nothing else.

The first round of selection was an online test. Simple, easy: math, reasoning, etc., the usual stuff. They’ve culled the herd quite heavily there, about 1 in 5 candidates were invited to the second round of more extensive, in-person testing.

I’ve made it to the third round, where I’ve met with 3-4 potential team members and we spent an afternoon ideating a (depersonalized) project of how the company could help boost tourism in a South American country. I had no idea of tourism as a business, but I’ve quite enjoyed the discussion.

What’s quite interesting is that the hiring manager wasn’t part of this event – deliberately. He deferred the judgment to his team (after all, I’d have spent way more time with them, than him) and he’d only act as a final go/no-go check. In my case, it was a no-go, mostly because both of our expectation was a bit different, but still, a pretty awesome selection process.

Make it easy on your applicants, they’ll be grateful. I’m quite hopeful though, more and more employers come to the same conclusion.

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