Traditional interviews don’t actually predict performance. Rather, the best way to predict performance is to test job-related skills in context. Nevertheless, there is a place for interviews in the hiring process.
Interviews are a useful tool to build rapport, and even start a relationship with candidates after their skills have been validated. They can, and should, also be used to answer unanswered questions from the hiring process.
Interviewing is often used as a synonym for candidate selection, but it shouldn’t. Interviews should only comprise a small part of the candidate selection process.
In fact, if an “interview process”, aka a selection process, is designed properly then traditional interviews only need to play a minor role.
Rather than dealing with hypotheticals, here’s a real blow-by-blow story about a recent hire by Vervoe.
The process included a recruitment agency, marketing, online skills assessment using Vervoe’s own platform, interviews and reference checks.
This is arguably the most important step. If you don’t define the role correctly the entire process will be flawed because nobody will have clarity about the kind of person you’re looking for.
A helpful starting place is thinking about the purpose of the role. Why does it exist? For example, Vervoe wanted to hire someone who could help their largest customers get maximum value from their investment in Vervoe. That was the “why” for this role.
Vervoe wanted someone who had expertise in assessment and I/O psychology, was a natural with enterprise customers and would thrive in a startup.
Recruitment agency appointment
Vervoe doesn’t usually use agencies and does not advocate for, or against, the use of agencies. It depends on the situation. In this case Vervoe was looking for a candidate with a very specific skill set and was almost certain that they needed to attract passive candidates.
The people who met their criteria weren’t necessarily looking and, more importantly, they were probably working with a big company and therefore not looking for roles with startups.
So Vervoe wanted an agency to help with candidate sourcing, particularly market mapping ad outreach. In other words, they wanted the agency to find people and convince them it was an exciting opportunity.
This fact that Vervoe was tapping passive candidates on the shoulder influenced the rest of the process.
They had to convince candidates to talk to them rather than the other way around. So throwing them into an assessment wasn’t going to work. Vervoe had to sell to them.
So the agency approached them and had an informal conversation. After that the hiring manager met the candidates. Is this the most efficient use of time? No. But it was necessary given the calibre of people Vervoe was trying to attract. This wasn’t a high volume situation.
The purpose of the conversation with the hiring manager wasn’t to determine whether candidates could do the job. It was to sell to the candidate, get a feel for their motivation and give them visibility over the remainder of the process. It was about buy-in.
After speaking to the hiring manager candidates were invited to complete an online skills assessment, known as a Talent Trial. They had to opt into this stage.
Vervoe positioned the skills assessment stage as a two-way street. An opportunity for them to see how they perform job-related tasks, and an opportunity for them to get a realistic feel for the role and the product they’ll be working on.
It made sense. Every single candidate invited to this stage successfully completed their skills assessment.
Then came the interview. Vervoe didn’t focus on skills because they already had evidence the preferred candidate could do the job. She performed very well in the skills assessment, which was carefully crafted to reflect the role.
Vervoe discussed with the candidate how they’d work together, including her preferred working style, how Vervoe can invest in her, some of the quirks of the team and what she can expect if she joins. It was lighthearted and fun.
Reference checking is important, but not for the reasons you might expect. References are almost always positive. It’s a rigged game.
But, if done correctly, reference checks can be very effective in setting candidates up for success. They help understand what it would be like to work with the candidate, how you can support them and how you can get the best out of them.
They’re an employee onboarding tool of sorts. You ask the recruitment agency to conduct two reference checks and send you detailed notes.
Meeting the team
Vervoe wanted one more conversation with the hiring manager and the team. At a startup it’s really important to bring existing team members into the process.
In fact, it’s important in any company. It increases the chance that existing team members will welcome the new hire, and gives the preferred candidate an opportunity to see who they’ll be working with. It reduces the risk for everybody.
A quick offer is a good offer. Vervoe didn’t make the offer after the final discussion with the hiring manager and team. Vervoe made it during that discussion. After meeting the team, and after everyone gave the thumbs up, the candidate spoke to the hiring manager privately and got the good news. She accepted.
This article first appeared in Vervoe. At Vervoe, their mission is to fundamentally transform the hiring process from mediocracy to meritocracy.