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Will Analytics Render Old-Fashioned Job Interviews Obsolete?

Gamification. Web scraping. Behavioral analytics. A recent article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) outlines three methods that may be poised to compete with good old hiring tactics. Does the traditional face-to-face interview even stand a chance against algorithms that turn your prospective employee's online activity into a quantitative estimate of job potential or fit?

These assessment tools promise to be everything that any human interaction is not: clear cut and devoid of emotion. They deliver graphs, percentages, and probabilities. But are they accurate? Do they help your organization identify and acquire the right talent?

As someone who makes frequent hiring decisions, my focus is always on talent acquisition. The past does not matter as much as what the applicant will be able to deliver in the future. I check LinkedIn, talk to references, and conduct phone and in-person interviews. Taken together, they provide an on-target guess whether the applicant will excel in the new position. But wouldn't we all want a fool-proof assessment tool, something that eliminates all question marks and ambiguities in favor of a resounding “yes” or “no” to the hiring dilemma?

Web scraping – scouring candidates' digital footprint in order to produce an estimate of their IQ and personality – apparently only gets the answer right 50% of the time compared to scientifically valid tests.  It begs the question why bother or as one commenter observes: “The last time I was a student, 50% t was an 'F'. This is not a tool I would want a potential employer to use to vet my desirability as a potential employee.”

That is not to say such assessment tools are altogether useless. Some organizations have successfully applied behavioral analytics to create profiles of their most productive employees and monitor and measure their day-to-day activity in an effort to establish benchmarks for outsiders, HBR reports. But as a replacement for conventional methods such interviews and reference checks, behavioral analytics has, like web scraping, yet to make a mark.

In the absence of scientific evidence, we may be complicating the decision to hire by using sophisticated tools that in the end only adds confusion rather than clarity. Sometimes not even traditional methods that have received the seal of the scientific community gets it right. I specifically recall an applicant who failed a personality test only to go on to become one of the organization's best hires (my gut told me this was a strong candidate regardless of the failed test).

I tend to agree with another entry in the comment section: “Used with appropriate caution, [technology] can be a wonderful extension of our cognitive abilities or at the very least a helpful instrument to understand our environment. At the other end of the spectrum, used as an overarching guide to decision making, it has the potential to throw us completely off-track.”

For now, the face-to-face interview still rules.

What do you think is the most effective way to evaluate candidates?

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