In 1897, American author and humorist made his famous remark, “The report of my death was an exaggeration,” after a reporter was sent to investigate rumors Twain had passed. For some time we have been hearing about the death of the job interview, but I think that sentiment is similarly exaggerated, if not completely erroneous.
What prompted my thinking is this video I watched on Forbes.com entitled CMO As A Talent Agent.
It features a bunch of senior corporate marketing types sitting around a table after lunch discussing the challenges they have in finding the right talent for today’s lean and rapidly evolving workplace.
The question the video poses, which never quite gets answered directly by anyone, is can a chief marketing officer also act as an effective recruiter for their organization?
You can sift through all 13 minutes of the video if you like. But I want to pick out something in particular that Mary Beth Barron, Global Vice President Marketing, Leadership and Talent Consulting, Korn/Ferry International said.
She was describing the recent hiring of a senior brand manager, and I quote.
“The poor thing, I’m glad she accepted the job. But I put her through 16 interviews. I had her meet with the IP team, I had her meet with the IT team, and the sales team and every team that she would be interfacing with. Because she was interviewing us as much as we were interviewing her. I wanted her to know exactly what she was getting into. What kind of culture we had. The kind of people she would be interfacing with. It took a long time.”
“I put her through 16 interviews. I had her meet with the IP team, I had her meet with the IT team, and the sales team and every team that she would be interfacing with. Because she was interviewing us as much as we were interviewing her.”
Sixteen interviews!? Yes, I believe Barron’s closing statement that “it took a long time” is a bit of an understatement.
Now journalists get accused – and sometimes rightfully so – of taking things out of context.
And I want to make mention of the fact this was just a snippet of a much larger conversation, and the conversation really wasn’t about hiring per se.
But let’s drill down for a moment on that soundbite. What purpose does 16 interviews serve?
If a couple of interviews are good, are 16 just that many times better?
I would love to get some comments on that question alone.
Maybe it’s just the traditional interview questions that need to go away, and not the traditional interview itself.
Even a company as quirky and sought after as Google, who reportedly receives 1,000 unsolicited resumes every day, recently reviewed their horribly hard candidate questions, according to a new article in Business Insider.
A former Google recruiter named Gayle Laakman McDowell says the company has finally “banned” most of these awful hiring practices.
The brain teasers included “How many balls can fit in a school bus?” “How much would you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” “Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco” and the proverbial question on everyone’s mind, “Why are manhole covers round?”
Want more? Seattle job coach Lewis Lin put together a list of 140 questions his clients were asked by Google.
Staying on the subject of Google, even though other Silicon Valley companies have significantly streamlined their hiring process, Google still hires by committee. The following paragraph is taken from their website.
Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least four interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone’s opinion counts, ensuring our hiring process is fair while maintaining high standards as we grow. Yes, it takes longer, but we believe it’s worth it. If you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring process, you’ll get more great people. We started building this positive feedback loop when the company was founded, and it has had a huge payoff.
“Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least four interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone’s opinion counts, ensuring our hiring process is fair while maintaining high standards as we grow.”
And then there is this as well…
Nearly every employee at Google has recruiting, interviewing, and hiring as part of their job responsibilities. It is part of the job, and it is measured. Employees get bonuses for referrals that get hired. Most employees do several interviews each month, and all are required to submit written feedback based on standard categories and criteria. The hiring committee looks at every piece of feedback during the decision process.
Of course, the process doesn’t always work. Ever. Anywhere. I found this post from a former Google staffer named “Juliette” who was part of a group of ex-Googlers who were asked by HR why they left. Michael Arrington and Tech Crunch published their threads here.
Google was my first job out of college. I was an English major at a prestigious college and was hired to work in HR. That is one of the problems I had with Google right there – is it really necessary to hire Ivy League graduates to process paperwork? I went from reading Derrida to processing “Status Change Request Forms” for X employees to go on paid leave.
Besides feeling underutilized and having to deal with “nightmare managers,” Juliette thought the hiring process itself left room for improvement and offered this suggestion.
Give a more accurate representation of Google to potential employees BEFORE you hire them. All I knew before starting at Google was ‘#1 Place to Work According to Forbes’ and ‘Free Gourmet Food’ and ‘Unlimited Sick Days’ and ‘We Want You to Be Googley!’ My 22-two year old greedy magpie self was wholly drawn in by the idea of having sashimi anytime I wanted without paying a dime. But as nice as it is having a cushy 401K and unlimited sick days, I was not willing to sacrifice my personal happiness and career fulfillment, not even for all the free kombucha I could drink.
My intention with this post is not to pick on Google, or any one particular company for that matter, regarding their interview and hiring process.
I think a critical examination of the traditional interview is worth thinking about though.
Does it – and should it – take 16 interviews to get to know a candidate and have them get to know you?
Is hiring by committee better than having it done by a single hiring manager?
We all agree that to get the best answers we need to ask the best questions.
Are traditional interviews the best avenue for that?
Because the quality of the candidate is in direct relation and proportion to the quality of the interview.
And be sure to stay tuned for my next post on a new book about finding exceptional talent called The Rare Find by George Anders.
It may help answer some of these questions.