Might we look back on 2020 as the year when the in-person interview was finally dislodged as the most important stage for assessment in recruiting?

Already under pressure pre-Covid, the wholesale shift to remote working during pandemic for many of the world’s office workers cast the efficacy of the job interview in new light. Were they really that useful? Did we really need do so many? What if we did none at all?

For organisations that continued hire in remote mode this year, the experience often proved revelatory. No in person interviews? Time to hire cut in half. Greater accessibility for many more candidates. Better experience for those candidates. Much better experience for hiring managers. And no need to book the damn meeting room so amazingly better for us recruiters and recruitment co-ordinators.

Three body problem

Turns out, doing interviews from remote proved significantly more efficient in terms of interview logistics. No more three body problem – just a shared calendar, synched up to the availability of all the participants and have the candidate then pick the time.

A further factor: the shift to remote interviewing was also a shift to the digitisation of previously analogue process. Potentially critically important information never previously recorded – now, could be. The digital output of remote interviewing – recorded video interviews, recruitment meta data of those interviews – now provides employers with rich possibilities for more effective bias mitigation strategies after the fact.

Human touch

The absence of the human touch was missed though, and it caused a confidence crisis so we shifted the decision making load to other stages in the hiring funnel – greater emphasis on background checking, greater focus on candidate self selection out, greater reliance on assessment tooling of all types – as employers shore up their risk mitigation by leaning on the remaining data available points for the remote only hiring experience.

We see it in buoyant reports from assessment technology firms who report increased demo requests, increased sales, increased revenue targets, as employers phase shifted to remote working – and to hiring remotely. It didn’t matter what type of assessment firm you were – psychometrics, game based, asynch video interviewing, functional testing – so long as you were in the business of assessing candidates via digital means, Covid-19 was a wave of casting your business onto friendly shores.

When TA teams throw cash at remote friendly assessment software, we are not only investing in cool new tech but investing in change – new process, new mindset – along with the new tools. These changes if they run for longer than just-experimenting-boss time frame and don’t prove to be an outright disaster, have a good chance to be persistent. And even if we do see the return to the office, we can expect the in person interview to have perhaps less weight than it did before, and potentially even transform in purpose from being an assessment first exercise for the employer, to becoming the first step of the onboarding process for the candidate.

A quick search on the Brainfood Larder Assessment page tells us that critiquing the interview as a viable method of talent assessment was a big part of 2020. No doubt a great deal of this was Hung Lee’s personal bias but I guess that’s fitting given bias is what I’ve been complaining about in this review post. Let’s agree to call it a meta bias and move on 👇

Top Brainfood Posts in 2020

Some things to think about if the interview comes back

  • The Software Industry’s Greatest Sin: Hiring, by Neil Sainsbury, a wonderful post on the reductionist nature of the interview, skewing the picture of the whole human being who might be joining your team
  • Tech Sector Job Interviews Assess for Anxiety, by Chris Parnin and Matt Shipman, an abstract of research conducted by North Carolina State University and Microsoft found that all interviews did was sort out those people who better handled the anxiety of the interview
  • That Co-worker Who Never Stops Refactoring, by Mike Crittenden. Drawing again from the world of software engineering, this funny and familiar post on the predictable behaviour of some co-workers is really about how to best make uses of your colleagues habits, but the lesson we can take from it is how often fundamental and recurring behaviours might be missed when using time boxed assessment methods. Are interviews really the best way to surface up signals as to how a person behaves at work, in a team?
  • The Problem of Overfitting in Tech Hiring, by Andrew Savchyn. On the surface a critique of ‘laundry listing’ requirements in job adverts, upon deeper examination reveals interesting thinking on whether over-specificity is a more fundamental problem in hiring. We need to hire for potential for growth, not for precise fit
  • How You’re Heart Influences What You Perceive and Fear, by Jordana Cepelewicz. Fantastic long read reminding us that we are biological entities, subject to the most primal of rhythm of living beings – the heartbeat. Now you have to wonder when you’re making the Y/N decision on a job candidate whether you heard that answer in a diastolic or systolic state.

Hiring nihilism?

Maybe in the end, we’re going to give up on assessment altogether and recognise it’s all just a roll of the dice. Some companies are already doing it. A lot of remote companies kind of do it. And Malcolm Gladwell entertainingly does it

If you read one thing about Assessment for 2020:

If you follow one brainfooder about Assessment for 2021: Bas van de Haterd

Bookmark one website on Assessment for 2021: Brainfood Larder Assessment