Talent Recruitment: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Interviewing

Published: Aug 21, 2017
Modified: May 22, 2020

By Jay Meschke

After devoting 25 years to the field of executive search, I am more convinced than ever that organizations have lost their way by not using a disciplined and multivariable process for interviewing and evaluating candidates. HR researchers are pointing to increased automation and algorithms as the new normal in recruiting, and warnings of the decline of recruitment are clear. (Pieces like that by Oleg Vishnepolsky assert the industry will die by 2018!)

Why are these opinions now prevalent? Hiring entities and managers are seeking the Holy Grail, a quick-and-easy answer to evaluating candidates for jobs at all levels. With business and society moving at the speed of light, we tend to react rather than think. But this is not the answer you seek.

In reality, effective recruiting is a function of many variables—credentials and smarts, of course, but also time, place, size and scope, growth situations, turnarounds, market dynamics, and culture. It’s never a one-size-fits-all world.

I’m a big believer that the “human element” cannot and should not be replaced when it comes to recruiting talent. The best and most sustainable organizations of the future will train their employee populace in the art and science of interviewing. They will collaborate with internal interview teams to honestly debate the merits of a given candidate in an open forum. They will not fall prey to relying upon one data point that is a litmus test or “score” as a foolproof measure of a candidate’s worth or value to the hiring enterprise.

The art and science of interviewing

Many HR professionals tout the use of behavioral interviewing techniques combined with psychological assessment data as a precursor for interview success. This tactic has its virtues, but it should not be the only answer. Organizations must combine the art and science of interviewing to make the best decisions.

I recommend exploring certain key qualities of a candidate during the interview process. The first is attitude. As highlighted in his book Hiring for Attitude, Mark Murphy asserts that attitude overcomes many shortcomings in an employee’s overall skill set. Most of us would agree.

Next, work ethic should be considered. It is difficult to assess a person’s work ethic until he or she is on the job. However, a skilled interviewer should be able to uncover examples of a quality work ethic within a person’s background. Simple questions about going above and beyond the call of duty should suffice.

Another often overlooked quality is attention to detail. Insist on obtaining writing samples, require candidates to make formal presentations, and don’t overlook simple typos and spelling errors in resumes.

Finally, look for signs of what I call the “guilt gene.” It’s a nebulous quality, but we all know it when we see it. Certain people possess a success orientation that is fueled by this trait. It is an innate desire to put forth the effort to finish a project, doing whatever it takes in an ethical and proactive way to get things done.

Aside from training hiring decision makers to identify the above qualities, you can uncover these traits in a consistent manner by learning a candidate’s story. I learned this from a chief HR officer of a highly successful, multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company. Discover how and why prospective employees made life-changing decisions with questions like:

  • Why did they choose a certain college or elect a major?
  • How/why did they join their first employer after college?
  • Why did they leave a certain employer, and how/why did they get to the next stop in their career?
  • What are their achievements during each chapter of their employment journey?
  • What is their sincere interest in the job at hand and/or leaving their existing employer?

In a nutshell, the secret to finding top performers is learning the nuances of a person’s decision-making continuum. To explore those nuances, we need to rediscover the lost art of interviewing.

About The Author

Jay Meschke is president of CBIZ Talent and Compensation Solutions. He oversees a business unit that provides retained executive search, compensation consulting, HR consulting and career transition services. He is a sought-after subject matter expert on issues related to executive search and talent management. For additional insights, visit the CBIZ blog and follow him on Twitter at @jay_meschke.