One of my colleagues, Ed Herpel, forwarded a question to me the other day: "Are job interviews even necessary?" It wasn’t his question, just one that was gaining a lot of attention on LinkedIn that day. And the responses were mixed.
The question couldn’t have been better timed. I had just finished interviewing a candidate for a Sr. Director Medical Affairs role. During our discussion, the candidate told me they’d never had an interview like ours -- and how enjoyable it was. It’s a remark I hear over and over again from the candidates we interview.
How to make an interview matter.
I’ve written about this before and I’ll say it again: the only way to really know who you’re considering for a role is to get that person talking. You can use the most advanced applicant software in the world to try to screen out the wrong candidates -- but if you’re not taking the time to get to know the person that you’re considering for a role, your process is flawed.
I’m not talking about the standard half-hour screening interview (or less; anecdotally, I’m seeing more outsourced executive recruiters dropping those screens to 15 or 20 minutes with a junior consultant). I’m talking about a series of conversations that help make candidates comfortable and help them open up to you. Conversations that are focused on finding out if the candidate is a cultural match for the company and the company’s goals (no applicant tracking software can do that). Conversations that get to the heart of why a candidate is interested in the role, what it would take to motivate the person, and what the candidate’s long-term potential is for success with the organization.
These aren’t late-stage interviews that I’m talking about. These in-depth screens should happen early on -- interviews conducted by the recruiting team. By the time a recruiter or an executive search consultant puts a candidate in front of the Board or the CEO or even the hiring manager, everyone should know how that candidate will perform if embedded into the organization. Before a company’s ultimate decision-makers sit down to meet with the top candidates, they should be confident that they’re talking only to candidates who have the skills and the drive to truly excel in the role.
We’re all busy. That’s why interviews are even more important.
Everyone is busy today. But ruling out interviews, cutting them short or even relying too much on technology to augment a search are all quick tickets to hiring the wrong candidate. If you thought you had no time before, wait until you place a manager or executive who’s really not the right person for the job. You’ll either pick up the slack yourself or start the hiring process all over again far faster than you ever anticipated.
Finding the perfect candidate takes time and finesse (I know -- I’ve been doing this for 30 years; fortunately our detailed process has helped me make some great friends in the industry, too). It requires a deeper knowledge of a person than any hiring software or technology will ever give you. It requires time, dedication and real concern for the company and the candidate.
And, yes, it still requires an interview. Or, if you ask my team, a whole series of them.