You' have the resume. You have the talent, experience, and know-how. There's just one last step before you secure the job. The face-to-face interview.
And ... you don't get an offer.
Who's to blame? Is it because you're a bad interviewee? Could be. Or it just might be that the interview itself was flawed.
The problem with job interviews is they are far too subjective. Interviewers often put too much confidence in their natural ability to suss out candidates. They think their gut instinct based on a free-flowing chit-chatty conversation is enough to make the right hiring decision.
Turns out, most people are terrible at picking good candidates based on interviews, an associate professor at Yale School of Management points out. Jason Dana elaborated in his opinion column for the New York Times delightfully titled "The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews." Dana backed up his opinion with results from several studies and experiments.
One particularly telling real-life example comes from 1979. The Texas Legislature insisted the University of Texas Medical School at Houston add 50 more students to its incoming class. The law school extended acceptance to 50 students they had previously rejected after the interview portion of the application process. Ultimately, those students performed just as well as their peers. The interview stage of the admissions process proved to be completely useless in determining future academic success.
When interviewing hurts, not helps.
Dana and his colleagues conducted several of their own experiments to test the effectiveness of interviews.
In one, participants were asked to predict a student's future performance based on three things: GPA, class schedule, and an interview. Another group of participants only used the GPA and class schedule to predict a student's future performance. The second group's predictions were more on-point, meaning the interviews made for less accurate predictions.
Dana also conducted an experiment in which his research team instructed half of the interviewees to answer honestly and the other half to respond arbitrarily. They didn't lie exactly, but answered yes-no questions randomly. The interviewers couldn't tell; none of them noticed they were getting dishonest responses. "More striking still," Dana writes, "the students who conducted random interviews rated the degree to which they 'got to know' the interviewee slightly higher on average than those who conducted honest interviews."
Who's really to blame?
The real problem with interviews is us. We're all human. We may think we're great at judging character and catching liars, but that's not really the case. We put too much weight on our first impressions, when those impressions might not accurately represent who someone really is. Keep in mind that during an interview, the person on the other side of the table can present whichever persona they want. And that person isn't always the same one who shows up to the first day of work.
Even though their effectiveness is in question, interviews aren't going away. So what to do?
Dana recommends asking every candidate the exact same list of questions to ensure your decision is as qualitative as possible. Ask strategic questions designed to reveal the candidate's true character. Web-hosting service Weebly even goes so far as to invite candidates to work a trial week before making an official offer.
Above all, don't base your decision on the interview alone. Because a smooth talker isn't always (and dare I say is almost never) the best fit for the job.