How You Should Be Holding Interviews
If you are in any sort of position of power: in management, starting a company or growing your business beyond the confines of your garage, I expect you will be interviewing someone, at some point.
Even if you work in entirely on Medium and sip away at a vanilla latte while reading this, on a beanbag in your local artisan coffee joint, you probably still need some means of hiring the ‘right’ people to do your online bidding.
It’s a shame then, that interviews even in the mostly-enlightened 21st century, that interviews still seem to want to
It’s a shame then, that as soon as even the most egalitarian companies hold interviews, managers unleash their inner Don Draper with all the nice manners of J. Jonah Jameson.
With maybe a pinch of Patrick Bateman too.
The interview process is dated, flawed and sets people up to fail.
We are all complicit: we accept that formulating shitty convoluted questions, outright prejudice and generally shitty behaviour are all par for the course.
We seem to continually delight in watching other human beings squirm their way through the inherently crappy interview process.
Having been a manager in Education for years, I have seen and participated in my unfair share of the above.
Here are some fairly ambitious ideas then, for how to fix these archaic, pointless and broken practices.
Who’s your tailor?
So many times I have heard managers say:
“I don’t like the cut of his/her jib”
Ok. That’s a lie.
They don’t say it in as few words. But something which effectively means:
“What the fuck is he wearing?” or “dear god, he hasn’t ironed his tie!”
I hope that most Western places of work a least try to be forward-thinking and egalitarian. However, the second some poor bastard walks in for an interview, failing to have dressed like a 19th century barber, the people hiring start to reach titanic levels of snobbery.
I’m talking, full 1st-class, Billy Zane pushing people out of lifeboats and shooting peasants levels of pompousness here.
“Good lord, he wasn’t even wearing a jacket!”
Some managers I have worked with, have even suggested that women wearing trousers looked a little underdressed for interviews!
The whole concept of ‘office dress’ seems perpetually trapped in a Dickensian London mode of thinking. Perhaps we should stop and ask if power suits and three-pieces really made any difference to a candidate’s competence.
Sure, appearances matter. Only up to a point.
So many times I can’t help but wonder if a candidate has bought a lovey smart suit just for the sake of an interview. What a waste of money!
In impending-Brexit UK, the cash would probably be better spent stocking up on tinned food and toilet tissue, as we await the impeding Brexit-fuckma-geddon.
Sure, dress down days widely reported by managers as unproductive. I imagine Friday’s are pretty unproductive regardless, for obvious reasons.
So what can the glorious startups and companies of the future do to fix this unholy mess?
Encourage people to wear clothes (obviously), preferably clean and tidy. Insist people are clean, that’s a given. Who cares if they shave. Does it matter if they have a full sleeve or neck tattoo thrown in to the mix?
How about this crazy concept — judging candidates purely on their answers and the way they interact with other people.
Judge a persons’ personality, their charm, the way they play with others.
Not their ability to wield a clothes iron.
We should give her the job. She's a Doctor, after all…
Don’t get me wrong: well done to any and all of you for your outstanding academic achievements! Simply getting the job done and getting a degree can be a marvellous achievement in and of itself.
Hiring someone though, just because they happen to have studied for longer in some random course (which adds nothing to the interview or the role), is fundamentally fucking stupid.
So what should we doing?
Assume that the folks in front of you are vetted already, so they meet the minimum required qualifications/academic standard.
How about asking the candidates real questions about the usefulness and relevance of their academic learning, to the role they have applied for? How have their experiences at college shaped them into who they are now?
I was once asked in an interview:
“What does good teaching sound like, look like and feel like”
I almost answered:
“Shall I describe to you how it tastes and feels, also?”
Yes, I failed to get the job. Yes, yes, I am still bitter…
To be fair though, I just can’t stand stupid, convoluted, crackpot, fluffy, pointless interview questions.
Whatever happened to plain, short, punchy, meaningful Spartan-like speech?
Sure, failing to answer a question at all or generally being mute in an interview won’t get you a job.
Perhaps though, panels should focus more on the quality of their questions rather than trying to constantly baffle the candidates.
Clear, plain questions would allow the candidate to focus on really answering the question with the interviewer actually finding out what they want to know.
Basically, avoid asking insane, vacuous, nonsense questions.
Admittedly, the pace of change in the world of work is glacial at best: I will likely be long dead before I see these profound shifts in practice.
Even if it is a little too ambitious, surely what I suggest is better than obsessing over crinkled skirts, neck tattoos or the letters after peoples names.
What we should really be obsessing about — getting the best out of the human beings in front of you who are (hopefully) just really keen to be part of your team.
I promise to remember the above, the next time I’m hiring.