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Job Interviews - 10 May 2011

Speed dating was started by a Rabbi in the US to help Jewish singles find a partner to marry. Since then, it’s morphed into a global phenomenon where millions of people attend events and undergo a rotation of short dates, all in the hope of meeting The One. It was represented splendidly on the TV show ‘Frasier’ when Frasier Krane went to a speed dating night and described it as "all the stress and humiliation of a blind date, times twelve."

Speed dating works because of the rapidity in which people make decisions about others. For example, the University of Pennsylvania’s research concluded that people make their decision on whether they like someone within the first three seconds of meeting them. Even outside the speed dating world, a study by Ohio State University found that people decide what kind of relationship they’ll have with a new acquaintance within the first few minutes.

Job interviews are a lot like speed dating. Managers meet a succession of candidates, ask a series of questions, and then decide if they want to see any of them again for something a little more serious. Even though managers dedicate an hour to grill a potential employee, many don’t realise they’ve already made their decision subconsciously within the first ten minutes of meeting the candidate, and perhaps even sooner.

The rapidity of the decision-making process means you need to be careful that biases and misperceptions aren’t clouding your judgement. Here are some points to keep in mind:

Don’t be fooled in thinking that job interviews are a good predictor of a candidate’s future success in the job. An interview just tells you whether a candidate is good at being interviewed. That’s about it. A nervous candidate might be disguising a stellar worker, and a confident and charming candidate might be disguising a horror to manage. So, be mindful of the emphasis you place on the interview.

  • Often, managers tend to employ people who are similar to them in personality. Humans have a natural tendency to like people who are like them. Aim to employ the best worker rather than the best friend.
  • The current unemployment rate in Australia is 4.9 per cent, and it’s forecast to get as low as 4.5 per cent. That’s a level exceeding the economic definition of full employment. The result is a surplus of jobs and a deficit of workers, which means you’re being interviewed as much as you’re doing the interviewing.
  • Consider holding job interviews outside of the cold and stale environment of a corporate meeting room. Job interviews in places like cafés create an opportunity for you and the candidate to relax, be yourselves, and build rapport.
  • Decisions on who gets hired should rarely rest with just one individual. Get at least two people to meet the candidates, especially their potential colleagues.

I once heard a parable about a guy who went to his mother for dating advice. “How can I find the right woman for me?” he asked. She replied: “Don’t worry about finding the right woman; concentrate on becoming the right man.”

At work, a similar principle applies. Don’t worry about finding the right employee; concentrate on becoming the right manager.

 

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