Why the Traditional Job Interview is Hurting Employers and Candidates


As demands on the workforce grow increasingly complex, companies need a better way to assess and hire the best possible candidates. A first step: stop relying on the fundamental flaws of the unstructured job interview.

The Importance of the Right People

When companies sit down with investors they pitch their team first. No matter the industry you’re in, the success of your company ultimately comes back to the team that you’ve built to execute your vision. Significant resources are dedicated to hiring, training, and keeping top talent, but the hiring process has failed to adapt to a changing world and those dollars aren’t getting the return that they used to.

It has never been harder to find the right people to bring into your company, and many factors – from skill set, to cultural fit, to a willingness to learn – are essential to making the right hire. We now ask our employees to do more complex jobs than ever, and it is essential that they come equipped not only with the tools to do the job itself, but the capacity to adapt when things go off script.

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink points out that as jobs require a higher level of cognitive skills, an individual’s abilities become increasingly important points of differentiation. New hires can’t simply meet the baseline technical or specialized qualifications for the role you’re seeking to fill. They must also bring to the table essential power skills like creativity, critical thinking, and an ability to solve complex problems.

You also need to know when you hire someone to do a job that they will stick around long enough to create a positive impact. As we discussed in our blog, “Why New Hires Don’t Stick”, there are myriad reasons why people leave their jobs, but one of the most common is they don’t fit well into the role they’ve been hired for. This sort of systemic failure corresponds to the way businesses hire people. Somewhere along the way, the candidate may have poorly represented their alignment with the job requirements, or the company may have miscommunicated the job role expectations.

High turnover is more than just a huge monetary blow; it can also have a negative impact on the company as a whole, leading to reduced productivity and restricted growth. More jobs are becoming collaborative and team-focused. Companies can’t as easily “plug in new players” anymore. It takes time and commitment for every new hire to become highly effective.

Companies have every reason to tamp down flaws in the hiring process that could lead to turnover, heavy hiring expenses, and decreased team morale. The first step is to address the the number one culprit for why these problems arise: the unstructured job interview.

Why Interviews Don’t Work Anymore

Most people don’t enjoy conducting job interviews. It’s a stressful and time-consuming process. But, absent other approaches, many have come to accept interviews as the only way to get a “real sense” of the people potentially being brought onboard. We believe we can accurately read candidates based on their personality and response to our questions. What we have learned, however, is that as jobs get more complex and challenging, not only are interviews frustrating and costly, but they may not be all that effective. Interviews may, in fact, reduce the likelihood  of finding and hiring the right candidates.

A problem with job interviews is that they are a poor proxy for the work they are being considered for. Candidates put all their effort into making a strong first impression. They focus on nailing the interview rather than making their best case for why they actually suit the job. As humans, “we have a deep-seated need to feel that we can judge character.” We overestimate our ability to identify the best fit, while underestimating our unconscious biases. In this system, how often does a company hire the the most polished interviewee, not the best person for the job?

Even if we assume that every single person who walked into the room for an interview was being completely honest, there are so many ways that human intuition can let us down. Writing for the New York Times, Jason Dana tells the story of a friend of his who walked in 25 minutes late for an interview. The company did hire her, and one of the interviewers mentioned how impressed they were that she stayed calm and composed despite being late. The twist? Because of a miscommunication, she was under the impression that she had arrived 5 minutes early for the interview and would have acted very differently had she known she was late.

Psychologist Ron Friedman explains that we often make false judgements about a person based on their appearance. A tall person might strike us as inherently more authoritative, while an attractive person may be perceived as more capable. We are even prone to tailoring the questions we ask in minor ways based on our assumptions. Those subtle differences can have a surprising impact on the answers you get from a candidate, as well as your own impressions of the candidate.

Intuition simply can’t be relied upon, and the unstructured job interview continues to depend in large part on intuition to work. If we want to hire the right people that check all those important boxes outlined in the first section, we need to seriously consider alternatives. Likewise, structured interviews that strive for fairness and impartiality have drawbacks as well: They can inhibit relationship building, make interviewees tense, and prevent ad hoc follow-ups or recharacterization of certain questions if they aren't readily obvious to the candidate.

A Better Solution

In an ideal hiring scenario, a company would have the tools not only to accurately measure a potential candidate’s ability to do the job, but also those other essential power skills, like problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. On the candidate’s side, they shouldn’t feel the need to be disingenuous about what they are bringing to the table or feel compelled to focus all of their effort on nailing the interview.

To clear up both of these problems, an objective, third-party is needed — a moderating force that can assess new hires fairly without letting the bias, subjectivity or assumed “intuition” get in the way. Authess uses authentic assessments for that exact purpose.

Rather than relying on intuition or the limited utility of multiple-choice personality or performance tests, authentic assessments are problem-based scenarios that mimic the kind of real-world challenges a prospective candidate would have to deal with on the job. The goal with every authentic assessment is to provide a relevant opportunity for each new candidate to show, in a genuinely useful and accurate way, how capable they are for the specific job role they are being considered for.

The face-to-face employer/candidate conversation can focus on the “how and why the candidate took a certain approach to solving a novel problem in real time,” rather than elicit canned responses to inquiries about the candidate's self-reported knowledge and experience on a resume.

The value of challenging new candidates with these actual, problem-based scenarios is two-fold. First, these assessments give a clear and objective sense of a candidate’s ability to solve the kinds of problems they will be dealing with in the workplace. Second, with AI-driven algorithms that not only measure whether or not a candidate solved a problem, but how they came to their solution, these assessments end up being great predictors of all those other skill factors that Daniel Pink lays out in his book as essential to success: creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking.

These so-called “intangibles” aren’t nearly as unpredictable to us anymore, and we don’t have to rely on intuition to suss them out. The result we are driving toward is a world where every new hire is comfortable and successful in their new role, allowing them to stick around long-term and grow with the company toward mutual benefit. Reliably creating and re-creating that scenario isn’t so far away.

To learn more about Authess and the ability to assess skills and competency, please contact us  to see a demo of our assessment platform in action.