The Manager Selection Interview – A “Perfect Storm” of Cognitive Biases
Decisions to hire and promote are among the most important ones which an organization can make in relation to its human capital. Interviews are a key part of business life. In fact, it would seem somewhat counter-intuitive if anyone decided to hire without conducting at least a single interview. Furthermore, managers are frequently called upon to assess their in-house employees’ potential by means of an interview.
How effective interviews are in predicting future performance has been a subject of in-depth research conducted by organizational psychologists. Even though interviews have gained certain recognition of late (Schmidt, 2016), they are still associated with a number of problems and shortcomings which are not observed in other assessment tools. There is a body of evidence that shows that in the past, interviews were — and it is safe to assume will continue to be — prejudiced against ethnic minorities, women, and the elderly (Cook, 2004). The reason for this is that managers have not been trained and that the assessment tool lacks clear structure (i.e. what we are assessing, why and how we are assessing it, etc.).
Then why do people still put so much trust in job interviews? Managers’ strong trust in the value of interviews results from a “perfect storm” of cognitive biases. In my experience, I have found that three of them are the most common ones and they often lie hidden in the phrase, which I suppose you have heard numerous times: “I will know one when I see one.”
Few companies take pains to conduct an in-depth Job Analysis and to collect useful data about the attributes which employees need to be successful in a particular position or in the organization. As a result, managers must rely on their intuition and conjectures to determine whether a job candidate has what it takes to be successful in a given position.
2. Affect Heuristic
People tend to judge quickly if they like somebody or not. Often, this is based on the person’s superficial traits such as physical attractiveness, mannerisms or likeness to oneself (Ambady, Krabbenoft, and Hogan, 2006; Postuma and others, 2002), none of which are a relevant predictor of future performance. Dougherty at al (1994) did research into the long-lasting impact of this heuristic. They point out that interviewers seldom review their first impressions of candidates in the course of the interview and even though they claim it is the interview that enables them to assess the candidate’s potential, their assessment is usually not based on a systematic measurement of the candidate’s qualities and has more to do with the manager’s intuitive and emotional response.
This same intuition is what makes managers believe that if one can talk clearly and logically about their goals, the organization or their position, they will perform well at their job. As you can imagine, for most positions, performance at an interview is only loosely related to actual performance at the job. Traditionally, extroverted, gregarious, tall, attractive, and courteous people often make a more positive impression at interviews than others. However, these characteristics are less critical to job performance than other less noticeable ones, such as conscientiousness and cognitive ability (Bazerman and Moore, 2009).
What’s the alternative?
With that said, you may be wondering what would be an alternative to interviews for hiring and promotion. The answer? Assessment Centers. Assessment centers can contribute valuable information to a large number of functions that are carried out by any HR management system in an organization. They’re are also fair to individuals from racial, gender, and age groups and thus are useful in advancing diversity goals of organizations dealing with a changing workforce (Thornton and Rupp, 2005).
More specifically, Pinisight’s Virtual Assessment Center, is an extremely efficient and cost-effective methodology which incorporates a number of tools (live simulations, cognitive tests and personality questionnaire) and gives a detailed picture of the strengths and development needs of a person and thus create an accurate prediction of readiness and potential for leadership roles.
Ambady, N., Krabbenhoft, M. A., & Hogan, D. (2006). The 30-Sec Sale: Using Thin-Slice Judgments to Evaluate Sales Effectiveness. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 16(1), 4–13.
Bazerman, Max, and Don A. Moore (2013). Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, Wiley & Sons.
Dougherty, Thomas & Turban, Daniel & Callender, John. (1994). Confirming First Impressions in the Employment Interview. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(5):659-665.
Huffcutt, Allen & Arthur, Jr, Winfred . (1994). Hunter and Hunter (1984) Revisited: Interview Validity for Entry-Level Jobs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(2):184-190 .
Mark Cook. (2004). Personnel Selection: Adding Value Through People, John Wiley & Sons.
Max H. Bazerman, Don A. Moore.(2009). Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, John Wiley & Sons.
Posthuma, Richard & Morgeson, Frederick & Campion, Michael. (2002). Beyond employment interview validity: A comprehensive narrative review of recent research and trends over time. Personnel Psychology, 55(1):1 – 81.
Schmidt, Frank. (2016). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings, Working Paper.
Thornton, George & Rupp, Deborah. (2005). Assessment centers in human resource management: Strategies for prediction, diagnosis, and development, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.‹ Previous PostNext Post ›