A bit from Bob Sutton’s Weird Ideas That Work (pp. 59–60) that caught my eye:
People sometimes get annoyed when I say job interviews are a weak, often useless, way to select new employees. I’ve had executives, middle managers, engineers, scientists, lawyers, a fire chief, and a minister respond with anecdotes that “prove” how skilled they are at using interviews to pick which job candidates will succeed and which will fail, even if others are lousy interviewers. Their confidence clashes with literally hundreds of studies, going back to before World War I, showing that there is rarely much agreement about who should be hired or who will perform best (and worst) when several interviewers talk to the same job candidate. These studies conclude that the typical “selection interview” is a bad method for deciding which employees to hire. A much better way to pick good employees is to just see if they can do the job, or at least crucial parts of the job – to give them “job sample tests.”
Most companies interview candidates something like this: An untrained interviewer leads a job candidate through an unstructured, unplanned conversation. No record is kept of what questions were asked or answered, and the person who ultimately makes the decision to hire the person – or not – sometimes has only a dim understanding of the job skills needed. Despite these flaws, the interviewer has great confidence that he or she can distinguish between good and bad candidates. Unfortunately, research shows that job interviewing is a lot like driving, where 90 percent of adult drivers report that they have “above average” skills. The truth is that the typical interviewer learns little useful information for predicting job performance beyond what is available no the applicant’s job application and resume.
Another reminder of how much I doubtless have to learn about hiring. (And a reminder that there might be much for me to learn from empirical studies about this and other managerial topics.)
Despite which I insist on continuing to try to hire. Here are my current open reqs. (The reqs should basically be identical; I only link to both of them because I might fill one of them one of these days, at which point that link will go stale.) If you know anybody who lives in the Bay Area or is planning to move here, who has good OO programming skills, and who likes the idea of streaming out 320Gbps of data, please send them my way. Consider this an open invitation: I expect to be hiring off and on for the indefinite future.
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