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Statistics show that only between 10 and 40 percent of job interviews lead to successful, long-term appointments.
Yet despite their poor predictive value, interviews are used by many organisations as the only way to identify suitable candidates for specific jobs.
Poor hiring decisions can have a particularly negative impact on an organisation’s staff morale and motivation, not to mention the disruptive effect on productivity and significant cost and time wasted in recruiting, training and managing performance of unproductive staff.
So what goes wrong?
According to Liesl Cloete and Inge Trümpelmann, directors of Equip Assessment and Development Services, a specialist assessment and staff development consultancy, one of the most common mistakes made is the mirror effect.
“People tend to hire in their own image and often relate to people who are similar to themselves, in background, personality or attitude,” explains Cloete.
“They also tend to give undue influence to some positive or negative expectations they have of a candidate, based on their CVs or application forms. This is known as the expectancy effect.”
Cloete says first impressions of good or bad often lead interviewers to ask questions that serve to confirm their biases across the board. In this case, the negative or positive perception is generalised to other aspects of a person, making the candidate “all good” or “all bad”.
Trümpelmann adds that, regardless of job-related factors, managers may have set ideas about the right person for the job.
“We call it the box effect. Interviewers are focused on finding that specific personality type they believe will perfectly fit the position,” she says.
“However, as we all know, people are more complex than any one personality type or description and there is no perfect fit. When this approach fails employers often move to the opposite side of the spectrum – moving from box to rebound.
“They start overcompensating by choosing the opposite personality type next time round.”
Desperation to fill a position is probably one of the biggest culprits when it comes to poor hiring decisions. After interviewing several unsuitable candidates, employers reduce their selection criteria in order to make a quick appointment.
Increased access to information through the internet is also changing the face of interviewing.
Cloete says today’s applicants are far more savvy than they were 10 years ago and can easily access a host of useful information on the internet on interview techniques.
“The result is that the interviewee can often present the ideal corporate face, and interviewers, unless they are highly trained, will be hard-pressed to break through the facade.”
This increasingly results in a poor person-job fit and may explain why 69 percent of employees in the US have been found to be disengaged from their work.
“We believe the percentage is similar in SA,” says Cloete.“When people are not engaged with what they do, we see low motivation, decreased productivity, and inconsistent performance.
“On an individual level, those employees who feel unsupported in terms of their personal values, goals or work styles, are likely to experience a lack of achievement and lower confidence, which over time impact on their coping and general sense of wellbeing.”
Regardless of where the selection process goes wrong, hiring a less suitable candidate can have significant costs in terms of lost opportunities and the emotional stress of subsequent terminations, both for the organisation and the individual.
Studies indicate that as the degree of structure in job interviews increases, so too does the likelihood of predicting job success improve significantly.
Thus, a well-structured interview focused on measuring specific job-relevant constructs can certainly help to narrow down suitable candidates.
Combining this with the use of appropriate psychometric assessments increases the predictive validity of interviews by up to 65 percent.
Personality testing can then be used to provide relevant behavioural evidence and other information to confirm or refute the assessment findings.
In summary, a well-designed holistic selection process, coupled with structured behavioural interviews conducted by trained interviewers, will contribute to a more efficient selection process and improve hiring decisions.
l For more information visit www.equipsa.co.za