by Bill, Management

Why We Suck at Job Interviews

1 Comment 29 May 2009

In a recent Fast Company piece, Why It May Be Wiser To Hire People Without Meeting Them, authors Dan and Chip Heath (Made to Stick)  essentially suggest that, since work samples, employment tests, and references are a better barometer of future job success than a job interview carried out by an untrained/unskilled interviewer, we might as well dispense with the interview.

“When the economy finally turns around, you’ll start hiring people again. You’ll sift through dozens of impressive-sounding résumés — who knew there were so many VPs in the world? — and bring in the standouts for the critical final stage: the interview. You’ll size them up, test the “culture fit,” and peer into their souls. Then you’ll make your decision. This is the Official Hiring Process of America. And it ignores, almost completely, what decades of research tell us about how to pick good employees.

According to the pair, “Here’s the reality: Interviews are less predictive of job performance than work samples, job-knowledge tests, and peer ratings of past job performance. Even a simple intelligence test is dramatically more useful.” They go on to point out that one of the central flaws might be that we (hiring managers) persist with interviews, “because we all think we’re good at it.”

Whoaa! Full Stop! The major premise seems to be that interviews shouldn’t be used because most hiring managers lack interviewing skills (true). Most people, even most MD’s lack surgical skills, too, so…

Work samples, valid tests, and references should all be part of the mix, but let’s not kick interviews out of bed because absent training/practice they make us uncomfortable and we’re not very good at doing them.

I continue to be amazed that, while maintaining that hiring decisions are the most critical decision any manager makes, most organizations send those same managers out to conduct employment interviews without the benefit of any training, other than a few purely prophylactic EEO admonishments. It’s a little like turning a six year-old loose on a construction site with a D9 wheel loader!

Here are two not so humble suggestions from one who has been involved with the recruitment of tens of thousands of people over the course of his career:

1. For the very same reason that Tiger Woods employs a golf coach, get some training on how to conduct effective, behaviorally anchored job interviews. Come on folks, this isn’t hard!

2. Practice. The very best way to work on your interviewing skills AND recruit some great people is to continue doing it every day. Don’t wait for the economy to pick up, when your skills are even rustier and everyone is fishing in the same pond!

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at, or follow him on Twitter at



- who has written 227 posts on Contented Cows.

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1 comment

  1. Bernie Dyme says:

    You are absolutely correct. Like everything else, training is key. And there is no place where this is more important. One other point, the interview should be a process. A well planned process with a pre-determined set of criteria agreed upon by the interviewers. That’s right, the interviewers. There should always be more than one interviewer and more than one one interview. This allows for more “eyes” and gives the opportunity to see the interviewee over the course of time.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.



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