It's not news that job interviews are problematic. Anyone who's been on the hiring side of the table for awhile has stories of candidates who seemed exceptional in interviews and ended up being duds at the office. And most, if they're honest, will also admit to the niggling suspicion that they've also passed on some great talent over the years.

In response to this reality, the internet and the rest of the business media are chock full of suggestions on improving interviews, from articles on essential questions to ask (and which to avoid) to pleas to include more objective evaluations in the hiring process, and even more offbeat ideas.

But recently on BloombergView Harvard law professor and author Cass Sunstein offered a more radical prescription: let's just ditch job interviews entirely. Interviews are irrevocably flawed, he explains:

Suppose that you are considering two candidates for a job in sales, Candidate A and Candidate B, and have interviewed both. You and your colleagues were far more impressed with Candidate A, who was dynamic, engaging, and immensely likable -- a natural, especially for sales. By contrast, Candidate B was a bit awkward and reserved, and so seemed to be an inferior "fit."

One of your colleagues points out that both candidates have taken an aptitude test that relates to the job; their personnel files also contain their scores on a general intelligence test. On both tests, Candidate A was just OK; Candidate B performed superbly.

Which applicant will you choose? If you are like a lot of people, the answer is still Candidate A.

But Sunstein notes that a whole lot of research shows that Candidate B is the better bet by far. "Specific aptitude tests turn out to be highly predictive of performance in sales, and general intelligence tests are almost as good. Interviews are far less useful at telling you who will succeed," he insists.

The post goes on to explore in detail why we're so often badly misled by interviews (in short, people are really good at making up stories to confirm their own subjective and basically useless first impressions), which is well worth reading in full. But the most thought-provoking aspect of the article is probably its stark conclusion.

"People ought to be relying far more on objective information and far less on interviews. They might even want to think about scaling back or cancelling interviews altogether. They'll save a lot of time -- and make better decisions," Sunstein concludes.

Do you agree with him that it's time to retire the job interview? Or do you still think interviews are more valuable?

Published on: Nov 9, 2016
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