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Why it may be best to know as little about the candidate as possible...

Interview Tips

11-12-2019
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/11/2019 - 07:09
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I was doing some research on interview tips for CFOs, and came across this rather provocative suggestion by Dr. Allen Huffcutt, a professor at Bradley University (USA) who is an academic expert on the employee interview.

Any able-minded professional knows that in order to have a productive meeting, the key is to do as much preparation beforehand as possible. But Professor Huffcutt suggests that we should know as little as possible about the person. 

It seems so counter-intuitive, so different from what we have trained ourselves to do - can it really be effective? 

But before we dismiss the idea, I would like to introduce the research behind it. 

As human beings we tend to form a bias, whether positive or negative, once we possess information.

And Huffcutt finds that this bias can influence the outcome of the interview. 

Let’s say a candidate tells you they make a mistake in closing the accounts at month-end. 

When that candidate is from Tokyo University, or Cambridge, we are likely to shrug our shoulders and think, “well, anyone can make mistakes” or “I like his honesty”. In other words, we are unconsciously choosing to ignore this new information because it does not fit our pre-conditioned favourable bias. Conversely, when the person is from a less recognised institution, we tend to confirm our negative bias and think, “oh dear, this person is not so bright.”

However, the logical action to take, regardless of your initial impression, would be to ask further probing questions to find out why, or how the person made that error. 

The UK-based job site, Monster.co.uk, recently found that employers make hiring decisions about applicants within 7 minutes (*1). I am sure we have all seen similar statistics, telling us that first impressions count. 

Although we have been culturally trained to eliminate biases based on items like race, gender, religion, or looks, such research suggests we are still consciously or unconsciously letting our biases drive our decisions. 

Huffcutt’s proposition therefore, is instead of trying to remove every single bias we might be capable of forming, we should limit the input of prior information that creates the bias, and base our judgment purely on what we learn in the 60 minutes of the interview. 

Don’t panic - he is not suggesting that we remove the CV entirely from the recruitment process.

Don’t panic - he is not suggesting that we remove the CV entirely from the recruitment process. Instead, he recommends that the process should be constructed to allow different perspectives. For example, HR can conduct a “CV-based interview”, the Finance Director conducts a “competency-based interview” (without looking at the CV), and the CFO can conduct a final interview based on the findings of these two meetings. There's also a number of new interview techniques that help assess soft skills better.

Unfortunately I could not find any information on how effective this method really is. But as I mentioned in my last blog, there is research showing that the assessment given to a candidate during the interview process has very little correlation to the professional’s performance after on-boarding. 

If this is the case, then it certainly may not hurt to try something new. 

As a recruiter, it is something I have not tried yet, but one that perhaps I can try for my own team… 

*1 Daily Mail, "First impressions really DO count"

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