Why job interviews are totally useless

 

In 1979, the Medical School of the University of Texas at Houston was required by the state legislature to increase the size of its incoming class by 50 students. Those students that the university took in late in the season had been initially admitted, but hadn’t made the cut after their interviews.

Those late comers, in the end, turned out to be as good as the select batch the university had admitted preferentially. The interview had distorted results.

In a piece for the New York Times, Jason Dana, an assistant professor of management and marketing at the Yale School of Management, exposes how utterly irrelevant this type of interviews are. Most definitely, they are not predictive of future outcome.

Lots of things may influence a job interview. Imagine you get in late because of unexpected commute problems. Or you’ve really got the right set of skills to do the job but you are shy. Or the interviewers are in a bad mood for whatever reasons.

Research that Dana and his colleagues did definitely buried the myth that interviews matter. A group of students were asked to predict their peers’ performance for the following semester based on an interview, course schedule and previous grades. Another group was asked to make its estimate based only on the students’ grades, with no interview. The latter set of forecasters made more accurate predictions.

As Dana says it, it was even worse. The interviewers were free to ask random questions and their interviewees had also been required to provide random answers. In other words, they were both free to lie to each other. Yet interviewers bought the lies.

The lessons are three:

  1. We tend to turn “any information into a coherent narrative.”
  2. We are supremely confident in our ability to glean useful information from a conversation.
  3. Both previous premises are not necessarily true. When hiring, trust the candidate’s track record or have faith in them (or not).

In any case, the interview will probably not add any value to the hiring process. At worst, it may considerably contribute to future disappointments.

 

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