The New York Times recently published an article on the uselessness of job interviews. As stated in the article, researchers have known for many decades that interviews aren’t an accurate assessment of one’s abilities.
One reason interviews aren’t useful is that traits noticed during an interview can overshadow more important, objective factors. The New York Times article mentioned a woman who was hired her solely for her composure after she arrived late for the interview. However, she had been told the wrong time and did not know she was late, so the basis for hiring was completely off target.
The woman’s experience is a good example of how interviewers can often let one action or answer to a question be the determining factor in who gets a job or a spot in a lucrative academic program. An individual’s actions or answers while interviewing may not be consistent with their normal actions. It’s much better to look at several objective factors in order find the best fit for a position.
Interviews are a waste of time, particularly for job seekers who often go through multiple interviews with the same company. Sometimes a candidate has been chosen before the interviews even start and the interviews are simply a show to “prove” the hiring process was fair. And often candidates who are better at feigning enthusiasm are given a job over more reserved candidates who may be better suited to the position.
Have you ever been asked an illegal or just plain stupid question during an interview? Most people probably have, and these terrible interview questions show how pointless interviews are for job seekers. Sometimes these questions are solely to embarrass candidates or to make them uncomfortable. Interviewers may also have a misguided idea that strange questions can provide insight into one’s personality. In any case, most common interview questions aren’t helpful in determining an individual’s potential success.
One of the worst things about job interviews is that they make discrimination easier. Not just discriminating based on race or gender, but on looks, age, religion and lifestyle factors. Although it may be illegal to ask certain questions, most job seekers will feel pressure to answer every question for fear of seeming uncooperative. And interviewers can be sneaky in finding out information, taking on a friendlier tone in hopes a candidate will let his or her guard down.
Job interviews are not logical, objective or fair. So why do companies and institutions still use them? Possibly because it’s always been done. Maybe hiring managers like the power they hold over job seekers during an interview. And most disturbingly, they can provide a way to discriminate based on a variety of factors.