The Interview: How Much Should It Matter?

I’m frustrated and getting (or is it going), mad about “the interview” and what led up to it. No, I’m not mad about the movie (but we’ll get to that later).

Resumes (or LinkedIn profiles) along with personal connections are the key factors in getting to the interview phase for many “knowledge worker” jobs today. Essentially, whether you know someone there or whether you had a virtually identical job elsewhere determines if you get on the short list to be interviewed. A 3rd related screening factor is how close your current compensation is to the budgeted number. If you’re 10% too high or low, you must be over or under-qualified. Aptitude for the day-to-day activities of the role at this company and specific relevant skill sets typically aren’t factored in.

If you “pass” this gate then the all-important interview occurs and the candidate explains the resume in more detail and gets to use salesmanship to puff up achievements and explain away gaps and other questionable entries. If it is a sales job. you may also get some form of a “Sell me this pencil!” exercise as well. Are those really the best we can do?

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How the candidate dresses, their height and weight, and how they are groomed and speak are also at least subliminally factored in by the interviewers. Yeah, those factors make a huge difference when there’s a deadline, right?

How much of all of that resume and interview stuff is relevant to doing the actual job? From my experience, very little to none.

What matters more? Well, the ability to run and efficiently participate in a meeting for one. Another would be the ability to make a decision and rally others around that decision to drive the project or initiative quickly to success. Yet another would be deeply understanding the target audience.

Yet I’ve never heard of anyone even trying to gauge a candidate’s ability to do those things. The amount of time wasted because of people hired without those skills and aptitudes is staggering. Does LinkedIn even try to highlight those? Do interviewers “test” for them? They damn well should because I’m hopping mad at all the time wasted and momentum lost today.

As with the Sony Pictures fiasco involving “the interview” of the leader of North Korea, yes, it can be difficult to know what will be the result, post-interview, for all parties involved. I’ll bet you’ve all got a favorite “bad result” interview story; I sure do.

My advice is this:
To the hirers, really think about what you want things to be like a few weeks and months from now and do your candidate screening work with that top of mind. What will matter on the job day-to-day and especially when things get stressed or “weird” at your firm? Which candidates seem most likely to shine then should be the thought. Consider de-emphasizing the job title match and ignoring their current compensation because they may be underpaid or under-titled right now (or want to get out of a higher paying job that may have been an anomaly or one they despise).

To the candidates, include references to skills and expertise in the above referenced scenarios and areas and if you do get interviewed, find a way to bring them into the discussion and explain why they are important.

If after all that the result is still bad, well, you went the extra mile (and you can always blame North Korea).

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