Job Interviews Don’t Work. So What Do We Do Instead?

Job interviews as we know them aren’t working. The structure we’re using, the questions we’re asking and first impressions we’re relying on aren’t leading to the best person being hired for the job. So much so, that The New York Times has called interviews “utterly useless”. Ouch.

So, what’s the alternative? We only have a limited amount of time to meet someone and we have to make that time count. To start, we can take away the things that are hindering the process. Stuff like confirmation bias and white lies crop up far too more than they should in a interview situation. Giving the format a shake up is of benefit to everybody.

So we spoke to the companies who are doing the shaking up from both sides of the process. Dr Amantha Imber from Inventium and Nick La of Weploy are helping candidates and companies cut through the crap to find their perfect fit.

Strengths and weaknesses


A good way to stop interviews from becoming a waste of time is to understand what makes them like that in the first place. There are two types, structured and unstructured, and both have some glaring weaknesses.

In the Times article, writer Jason Dana admits that unstructured interviews reveal more about the interviewer than the interviewee, citing an example of a friend who was hired solely on the basis that her personality appeared to be one way, when in actual fact she was the opposite.  “Employers like to use free-form, unstructured interviews in an attempt to “get to know” a job candidate… interviewers typically form strong but unwarranted impressions about interviewees, often revealing more about themselves than the candidates.”

Similarly, structured interviews leave a lot of gaps in judgement. Dr Imber thinks that they leave more room for white lies and moulding yourself to fit into a box, “More structured interviews are also poor predictors of future on the job performance, because as we all know, most people lie, or at least stretch the truth, in job interviews.”

In other words, no interview style is safe.

Books, covers, etc

And of course, there’s the devastating reality that some people are judged not by their qualifications or experience, but because of their name or appearance.

From a psychological point of view, Dr Imber strongly suggests moving away from any situation that welcomes bias. “All types of interviews are heavily influenced by biases, such as Confirmation Bias. We can’t help but form quick impressions of candidates, and as soon as these impressions are formed, we unconsciously seek out information that confirms our view, and ignore information to the contrary. This can lead to a very poor and inaccurate assessment of potential candidates.”

Nick La of Weploy has noticed this too, noting that it’s unfortunate, but “recruitment often involves a lot of bias, both conscious and unconscious.” In fact, tackling stigma is one of the reasons Nick decided to create his business in the first place.

Boo. No, we don’t want this. Dr Imber suggests conducting an interview that is as close to the actual job as possible. More like an audition than a sit down chat, “Just like an actor auditions for a role by reading lines that they would recite if they got the role, a job audition involves candidates “doing” elements of the role in front of the recruiters.”

Nick La’s Weploy does exactly that, “We test our Weployees on a range of things such as their problem solving abilities and as well as specific skills tests surrounding systems such as Excel. Based on the data we collect, we can match them to roles that best suit their capabilities.”

“Entry level, with 2 years experience”

The other problem with the interview process? Requirements. We all know that frustrating feeling when we see an entry level job advertised with a minimum of two years experience in the industry. It provokes the question – often asked through gritted teeth – “How can I get experience without having experience?”

Do entry level jobs even exist anymore? Are we all doomed to work part time after uni?

Well, no. Not if you’re smart about working as much as you can. Nick La reckons it’s best to kick a well-crafted CV to the curb and focus instead on how to fill it with actual stuff. Weploy offers short term employment options to employees so that they can prove themselves on the job, rather than having to rely on a CV.

Dr Imber says the best approach for jobseekers is to be honest about what you’re capable of. “Make sure you feel confident with the skills required to perform the jobs you interview for.”

Phew. It’s a lot to take in. Let’s just hope that more companies adopt this approach too. And soon.