Your "Fun" Interviews are Terrible

You know what most people hate? Job interviews. Why? Well, they’re a weird, manufactured thing where people sit in a room and one is trying to prove they’re the best and the others are trying to prove their workplace is cool. Awkward all around, right? Naturally, the instinct on the part of HR and hiring managers is to relieve the awkwardness and make the experience as pleasant as possible.

News Alert: Candidates who have fun during interviews are more likely to say those interviews were fun.

News Alert: Candidates who have fun during interviews are more likely to say those interviews were fun.

A woman in my network on LinkedIn recently posted poll results that said that 96% of job candidates would prefer “organic conversation” job interviews over those in which the questions are structured and consistent. Well, no shit. Of course people want to feel like they’ve just had a friendly conversation rather than a structured interview. Interviews are horrible!

Want to know what’s more horrible than structured, “boring” interviews? Spending years doing “fun” interviews only to find that one day, your workplace is filled with people who think like you, look like you, live like you, and experience life with the same privilege you do. THAT’s what happens when your interview goal is to have fun and get to know people through organic conversation.

This was my comment on that LinkedIn post:

The candidates who benefit most from “organic conversation” interviews are the ones who are most like the dominant culture at the organization. Conversations wherein everyone gets to find out how much they [like each other/have in common/see the world the same way] lead to decisions that perpetuate racial and other disparities in hiring. As using HR processes to dismantle oppression at work is my top priority, I’ll continue avoiding organic conversation interviews, even if the majority finds them to be much more fun.

So, how SHOULD you handle interviews? Here’s a quick-start guide:

  1. Make sure everyone agrees on the criteria for a good candidate. Hopefully you did this when you crafted the job posting, but you need to get on the same page with everyone who will be in the room.

  2. Have everyone contribute questions for the interviews and compile them into a form that is used for every candidate. Include a question to assess each candidate’s fluency with EDI concepts. Shoot me an email if you need ideas.

  3. Have someone who has experience with equity in hiring review the questions for bias and the potential for disparate impact. (Let me know if I can help with that.)

  4. Ask every candidate the same questions, and take notes on the content of their answers.

  5. Use the first few minutes and the last few minutes to set the friendly tone you’re going for. Don’t spend the meat of the interview going off on a tangent because you’ve discovered you’re both Portland Timbers fans.

Of course, there’s more to it—especially when it comes time to evaluate how the interviews went and to make an offer—but revamping your interview process is one of the quickest things you can do to move toward equity in the workplace. You can (and should) tinker with it forever—there’s always room for improvement—but you can start right now!

Questions? You can share them in the comments or shoot me an email at Caitlin@GoAskHR.com. Happy hiring!