A group of executives discussed the questions they would ask a candidate during an interview. Interviews were planned to last about 20 minutes. “The goal,” they said, “was to be certain to hire the best qualified applicant and the applicant most likely to help the business.”
How much can you really get to know about a person in 20 minutes? Sure, there are tons of books and courses on reading people. The idea is that there are short cuts to getting to know people. The idea is that there are short cuts to predicting what people will do, can do, or won’t do.
It is highly egotistical to think that you could spend 20 minutes with a person and ask a battery of unobtrusive questions and afterwards declare you know the person will or will not help you. There are some extremes that do lend to predictable accuracy. However, a 20 minute interview is the challenge because even extreme people can put on a nice show for 20 minutes.
The 20 minute interview provides decision makers with a limited amount of information. Still, they may know more about a person if they found out any one or more of the following things:
1) What sort of car the person drives
2) What does the person’s home look like when they are not expecting guests
3) What music/media is on their IPod
4) What were the last 10 phone calls the person made before the interview
5) What sports passion do they have
6) What is their favorite pastime
7) What is their hobby
8) What would they do if they were independently wealthy
9) If you dig around in their car, what will you find
10) What were the last 10 TV shows they watched
In most cases, the answers to one or more these questions should offer the interviewing panel a high degree of predictability about the person and how they will help support or harm the business.
Once an intern told me she was having trouble with the team projects she was assigned. She asked if she could simply work alone. I told her teamwork was critical to our business objectives.
I wanted to guide her, so I asked her to think about a team sport she participated in growing up. She did not participate in any team sports growing up. Band? No. Science club? No. Scouts? No. Chess club? No. What about at home working on things with the family, even just cleaning up around the house? No, she was an only child and she did all the chores with no help.
I then asked her if she watched any sort of team sport on TV like the NCAA tournament or ice skating. No. So, I asked her, what it was that she liked to do when she wasn’t working. She said he liked to play video games. I asked if she played sports games or multiplayer contests. No. Internet games where you go online to play with people around the world? No. She said that she also liked to sleep a lot when she was not at work.
So you can see, that in about 20 minutes, I could better predict how this intern would fit into the business. She told me that had she know the job involved so much teamwork, then she would not have accepted the offer.
So in these interviews, will we know if the person will help or harm? Are we identifying the most helpful, or are we simply hiring the person with the best 20-minute show?