Why Do We Have Job Interviews?

(a question or proposal for hiring managers)

Why do hiring managers interview job candidates? This is a question I’ve often pondered. Perhaps, the answer is rooted in both ignorance and tradition. Most questions have been recommended by HR departments—and the answers can be found in many self-help career books. Candidates need only memorize a response and regurgitate it appropriately. This serves neither party well. And many companies have done this for more than half a century.

Some employers use an approach that I call, “the grand inquisition,” reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, a period between 1478 and 1834, during which the Catholic Church sought “heretics” and punished offenders through torture and persecution. This interview method employs interrogation techniques under duress. That’s great if, as a manager, your management style is based on intimidation. But certainly this is unsustainable if a company wants dedication and long-term commitment, or wants to foster a culture for professional development.

Instead, I recommend that hiring managers initiate a CONVERSATION with candidates—and that candidates provide a DEMONSTRATION. What do I mean? The hiring manager asks the candidate (notice I didn’t say interviewer or interviewee) to show them how they would do the job that they’re being hired to do. Of course, the job candidate must be made aware of your expectations before the interview. It goes like this:

“Please go to the whiteboard and outline for me how you would do the job, what skills you would use, what resources you would need, what obstacles you might expect to face and how you’d deal with them, and finally, how would you do the job in a way that would profitable for us?”

This is real; there are no answers to memorize (or fake). No Halloween party. It’s realty TV if you prefer the modern adaptation. Certainly, you can continue using other questions if you like. But at some point during your meeting, try what I’ve suggested. You’ll be surprised, perhaps stunned, by the results. Most candidates will completely “blow” the interview because they aren’t prepared. They just want a job. They’re not ready. But the few that execute this process successfully will, if hired, consistently be your outstanding performers.

Doug Morrison