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Consider This: Interviews are Rituals and Interviewees are Neophytes

May 8, 2012
Full Moon Ritual

Full Moon Ritual, by Greenhem

“Consider this” is a phrase I like to use during key learning discussions. It is the perfect phrase to lead into a conversation in which I will push for well-constructed arguments and defensible rationales. Students seem to like the thrill of the quest, once they lose the fear…

Early in the quarter I challenged students in my Interviewing & Staffing class by stating:

“Consider this: I’ve often said that the way employers treat candidates on the way in (i.e. during the recruitment process) is how candidates can be expected to be treated once hired. Thoughts?”

Responses ranged from experiences relating to apathetic and disorganized interviewers to illegal interview questions. Many reported they felt like an annoyance rather than a source of potential talent. Some stated they were rudely dismissed without having been heard. A few discouraged job seekers stated they recognized the organization was searching for a “warm body” to fill the position.

Wow! I wondered how long it had been since the interviewers of these organizations had been on the other side of an interview. It should not be an ego trip, but rather a fact-finding mission that could cost the organization loads of cash if botched. (What is the cost of turnover? Anybody? Anybody?)

Here’s the catch – there’s always a catch: interviewers are so focused upon the analysis of interviewees that they often forget to tend to their own behavior. While interviewers are preoccupied with analyzing the person who is consuming the next several minutes of their time, interviewees sometimes observe some odd behaviors in those who should know the rules for acceptable behavior!

The fact is that interviews are rituals for which only the initiated know the rules. The analysis of every gesture, every facial expression, and every word exchanged is based upon seemingly secret metrics. Like many rituals, the neophytes – the interviewees – are not bestowed with knowledge of the metrics upon which they are being judged. Not entirely anyway. The neophyte thinks they want “in” and the initiated seem to protect the magic formula for success.

Somehow, the lack of welcome and/or professionalism always seem to come as a shock for the neophyte. After all, a representative of the organization who act as a human “front door” should be professional and polished, right?

Apparently, not so much.

OK, so how is this version of a botched ritual avoided? Using the criteria of what some of my students reported, consider this:

  • How many interviewees leave interviews feeling as though they were an inconvenience or a pesky interruption of the potential employer’s day?
  • How many interviewees continue through the recruitment process – despite their feelings of reluctance – only to find that their “gut feeling” of doom and gloom was spot on?
  • How many new hires find the same apathetic welcome during their on boarding process, if there is one?
  • How many employees leave the organization within 30, 60, or 90 days because their job roles and responsibilities were poorly designed and/or communicated?
  • Finally, what would happen if the recruiting process was morphed from a pure analysis and assessment secret ritual (that is not always well-executed) to a process that educated potential new hires about what the organization values and needs?

Pull back the curtain and outwardly model high expectations, however, don’t reduce the candidate to outsider-status, or worse yet, inhuman status. Unfortunately, a byproduct of technological advancement in the way potential talent is screened already accomplishes that. Instead, measure what can be measured and don’t practice amateur psychoanalysis for the rest. [Please don’t do that!!] Portray the organization as one that is rewarding to be a part of – and if it’s not, find another job because life is short.

Keep the ritual intact each time it is performed, but don’t intentionally disorient the neophytes. The recruitment process is difficult from both the potential employer side and the candidate side. Despite the complexities, the process doesn’t have to be soul-draining as well.

There are many outstanding candidates on the job market who have tremendous experience and knowledge. Don’t prejudge. You run the risk of turning off a strong candidate’s interest by not representing yourself and the organization well. After all, nobody wants to join an organization who sees everyone not currently employed as outsiders or intruders. The job market is tight, but job seekers have choices too.

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