Sunday, December 02, 2007

Job Interviews - Useful or Not?

I’ve got myself involved in discussions about the recruitment of the next England football team manager.

One of the outstanding candidates is Martin O’Neill and I read that the reason he did not get the job 15 months ago was because he had a ‘bad’ interview. It got me thinking about how much importance we should or should not place on an interview.

I’ve always taken the view we should recruit for attitude and train for skills which is the opposite of the perceived wisdom in business for the last 200 years. We traditionally look at the CV to check everything looks ok on paper. Then we draw up a shortlist of candidates; we have an interview in front of a panel; then we come to a decision.

Where the CV and qualifications are much the same between candidates the clincher is the interview. I have to ask myself is that really the best way?

I would like to see more emphasis placed on the personality of the candidate and what passion they will bring to the organisation.

Martin O’Neill obviously did not impress at his interview but most football fans know his record is superb and his passion is obvious.

I would ask questions about the qualifications of the interview panel who decided to appoint Steve McLaren ahead of Martin O’Neill. McLaren was a failure and resigned after 15 months. So much for selection based on interview.

We will never know what might have happened had Martin O’Neill been appointed but one thing is certain – if a ‘bad’ interview was the reason he didn’t get the job 15 months ago then please don’t use that same criteria again.

What are your opinions about how to select the best person for a job?


Anonymous said...

I agree! I pick people based on their personality - if I think they will fit in with the rest of the group I will set up a second interview. I then schedule a brown bag lunch with the potential employees and my team and we do an impromptu lunch (kinda of a get to know you) I get feedback from my entire team and if the majority votes against the person I don't hire them. I can teach a skill - I can't teach people to like eachother :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you Anonymous!!

That's brilliant .... and it gives me remewed hope!

I just wish you were running the National Health Service!

David Wike said...

Is there a foolproof way to recruit people? I rather doubt it. The experience and perceptiveness of the interviewer(s) will be major factors in the effectiveness of the selection process. Psychometric profiling can be very helpful, but probably is not within the budget of smaller organisations. To some extent it depends on whether the recruitment is an internal or external process. If you are appointing from within the organisation, then it is somewhat easier as it should be possible to find out how someone performs in their current job. In the case of the England manager, one would have thought that the capabilities of the various candidates would have been fairly self-evident. It is good to see that this time there is an intention to invite an input from experienced managers and senior players.

A brown bag lunch is not an expression that I have come across, but the principle of inviting an input from those who will have to work alongside a person is a good one. It is very much in line with the way Ricardo Semler operates at Semco.

The last time we recruited in my corporate life, about 48 hours in advance of interviews we set a challenge by asking candidates to make a presentation on a specific topic. The way they went about this given the tight timescale said as much about them as what they actually presented back. I am absolutely certain that we got the right person as a result.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks David

Twenty years ago when I worked with patients who had a learning disability we involved some of the patients in the interview process for the care staff – that was a real eye opener – their judgment was immaculate!

I love the Semler approach of involving everyone in the recruitment process.

Presentations at interviews are very much the norm nowadays in the NHS and I had to do a few in my time! I was never convinced that the interview process was as up front and open as senior managers would have us believe. I’m afraid to say the old boy’s network still applies in my opinion. How I wish I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

First of all involve many of the stakeholders in planning the recruitment. Ask peers, co-workers, the boss, customers what the new recruit should be like. Who should they be like? Who shouldn't they be like? LISTEN TO THEIR ANSWERS! Ask them what they would see a great candidate doing? Saying? Being? Act on what they tell you. for more!

David said...

Depends upon what the person will be doing for the company and what the company culture rewards. Diversity of thought in a new hire can be eradicated by cultural antibodies organizing to "reject the organ transplant." If the individual is expected to be a catalyst, respectful behavior is necessary but personality may be an ineffective differentiator in this case. Someone who is expected to be a maintainer may have more similarities than differences with his/her new co-workers. Team feedback is helpful but with the caveat that everyone on the team understand what problem this hire is coming in to help us solve. If we only need more people to think like us, then I would challenge the need to hire from outside in the first place. If we are struggling for innovative approaches to old or new problems, we may be looking for someone with a quite different personality as well as knowledge, skills and abilities.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks David – I agree the recruitment for different jobs may need a different process depending on what we are looking for.

Most of my career in healthcare management seemed to be about recruiting people to carry in the same vein as the current culture. I can’t remember one boss telling me we needed to recruit people who were going to rock the boat even just a little.

Maintaining the status quo means nothing ever changes and that is probably why I eventually got out of healthcare management.

It was fundamentally not much different 35 years after I joined it …. Sad to say!