Several years ago a friend of mine was interviewing for a job. She was actually interviewing at a hospital to work as a doctor in the emergency room. She was seated in a large room on one side of a table with a group of people that faced her on the other side. The room was hot and the interview seemed more like an interrogation rather than an interview. She was uncomfortable and became frustrated because while she understood there were pressures in the ER, the pressures that they were trying to make her face in the interview were nothing like what she would experience on the job.
As the room became more and more stifling and uncomfortable it seemed that the interviewers were uncomfortable as well. At one point during the interview they asked her if she would open the window. She walked over to the window and tried to open it. She was unable to. She continued to try making every effort possible, struggling to open the window and to cool the room. At this point she was getting angry and beginning to lose her patience. She happened to glance down at the windowsill and what she saw was the last straw. She noticed some of the paint on the windowsill had chipped off and as she looked more closely she saw the head of a nail. It was clear that opening the window was actually part of the interview process. It was a test. They had purposely nailed the window shut, raised the temperature in the room and asked her to open the window in order to see how she would deal with stress under difficult circumstances. Now she was irritated, livid, and disillusioned in the actions that this employer was taking in the interview process. So she walked over to a chair, picked it up, lifted it over her head, aimed it towards the window and asked, “How badly do you want this window opened?” Needless to say, she did not take that job and she didn’t care whether she got the job or not. In her mind the interview process was stupid, silly and made no sense.
In selection circles, professionals call that face validity. Essentially face validity means, does the process make sense to the candidate. Too many times we build selection procedures that make no sense to our candidates. We ask them questions that are ridiculous, inane, and have no right answer. We make them jump through hoops that have nothing to do with the skills of the job. We play junior psychologist even though we are not educated in psychology. When we make candidates respond to questions and tests that have no face validity in their minds and make no sense to them, we only hurt ourselves, as employers. Typically, asking questions and behaving in this manner creates four obstacles in the selection process:
1. We lower our offer acceptance rates. Candidates typically tell us no, I don’t want this job. I don’t want to work for you.
2. We don’t hire the best people. We make offers to those people that make us happy. They figure out what makes us tick or are lucky enough to give us the answer that we like. But, we really don’t know if they will be good at the job. We are flipping a coin when it comes to hiring the individuals in this manner.
3. We create discomfort and confusion in candidates. The candidates don’t understand the reasoning behind the questions, and wonder why we behave the way we do in the interview and selection process. That doesn’t breed confidence or goodwill. It actually does the opposite.
4. We put ourselves and our business at risk when the selection process and questions we ask do not make sense to candidates. It creates doubt in those candidate’s minds about whether they were treated fairly. It raises our chances of being sued because people don’t feel like they were treated fairly and equitably.
So, if you want people to work for you, you want to get the very best candidates out there, you want your selection process to breed goodwill with those that you hire and with those that you don’t, and most importantly you want to stay legal…the next time you think about interviewing or hiring someone, ask yourself, “Will this make sense to the candidate?”