Why Casual Conversations Are Better Than Formal Interviews

November 08, 2017

Have you ever met someone who makes a great impression on an interview but you quickly find out is not the real deal?

There's a name for this type of person — shallow extrovert — and they do great in job interviews. Unfortunately, most traditional interviews are designed to bring out the best in such personalities. But they don't tell you much about how your potential hire will perform as an employee.

A few years ago, I concluded that the traditional way of interviewing — asking formatted questions like "Where do you see yourself in five years?” — was useless. I've since shifted to having real conversations and can boast having an incredibly high success rate with this approach. Here's why you should consider taking this approach to interviewing:

Traditional interviewing is worse than ineffective. In a famous instance in 1979, the University of Texas Medical School in Houston realized it had to admit an extra 50 students late in the season. The school then added 50 students who had flunked their interviews. Surprisingly, all of the students did just as well as those who had aced their interviews by every measure. Other studies have shown that job interviews are not only ineffective, they can cause more harm than good by screening out qualified candidates. Interviewing isn't a one-way process. The traditional job interview is premised on the idea that it's an audition of sorts — the interviewee is trying to impress the interviewer with his or her self-composure and smart answers to questions. In reality, the hirer has to impress the potential employee as well. This is why I often begin interviews by talking about my background and that of my company, GlassView. I find this often loosens up interviewees because it's unexpected. I get fewer pat answers and I get to see what this person is really like rather than see the persona they created for this interview situation. Interviewing should address what the working situation will be like. Sometimes I'll say "You will encounter a situation in which a client will ask you for a smart strategy to distributing their social videos. How do you do that?'' This exchange gives me two insights to the candidate: Their personality (how they handle it) and their background (whether their approach is technical or process-oriented). For me, this is a way to get away from the self-consciousness of job interviewing and get a glimpse of what this person might be like on the job. Ideally this answer comes after we have been conversing for a while and have established that we're talking like two people — not as two people playing the roles of interviewer and interviewee.

Is this method 100% fool-proof? No. Some people are very good at conversation and manage to slip through. But I think it's more effective, though, than going through the motions for what has been a very ineffective process.

Make the hire?

Ideally, after a half hour or so of conversation, both parties have decided whether this job is a good fit. That's a much better outcome than the old way, which merely told you that this person was good at job interviews.