A Closer Look at Face-to-Face Interviews

Wanted: Physically attractive candidate who can make a positive first subjective impression on interviewer. Short, handicapped or mentally weak candidates will probably be rejected. Females should be young and good looking in order to secure future promotions. Overweight, unpleasant, or unattractive people are not welcome. Sloppy dressers need not apply. No objective evidence of skills required, just a reasonably persuasive resume and a short list of personal references willing to say nice things about you. Nice ad, huh? Does it seem unfair? Raise your blood pressure? If you tried to print this kind of ad, people would be all over your case complaining about unfair practices, discrimination and a host of other criticisms. It might even cost you your job. But, guess what? These comments did not come from a written ad, they came from legal cases cited in an article written by attorney Lewis Owen Amack on the Discriminatory Effects of the Face to Face Selection Interview. Yes, the same face to face interview used by the vast majority of recruiters throughout the employment world ? the one you are probably using right now. For a moment, forget that these practices are illegal in the US. Just look at the broader picture ? poor selection practices directly affect organizational performance. I?ll paraphrase what attorney Amack has to say about face to face interviewing: ?The traditional face to face interview is vulnerable to legal challenges because it frequently: (1) does not significantly enhance the predictability of performance beyond more objective criteria; (2) does not measure bona fide educational or occupational qualifications; (3) lacks business necessity; (4) discriminates against minorities.? With the exception of discrimination, these objections could apply to people in every country. I don?t mean to keep ?hammering? on professionalism and legal threats as incentive to update and upgrade selection practices, it is just that organizations are only as strong as their weakest links. And, those links are directly affected by the use of outdated and ineffective selection tools. Mr. Amack continues to argue that the only venue where face to face interviewing is appropriate is occupations where extraordinary interpersonal or elocutionary skills are important to the job, such as dramatic arts, high level management, and public relations. These are the types of occupations where the interview technique represents the content requirements of the job. Otherwise, he argues, interview results tend to be capricious, vary from interviewer to interviewer, leave no audit trail, and have little to do with actual job performance. He suggests using ?naturalistic? performance simulations to overcome face to face interviewing bias. Otherwise, only when communication skills are primary to performance, he suggests using telephonic, standardized, or blind interviews. His final comments include that while the face to face interview is widely used as an employment tool the results do not accurately predict job performance, it is unsystematically used by untrained evaluators, it is highly subjective to personal bias, and it discriminates against virtually every minority. In short, although the traditional face to face interview is used almost everywhere, it is highly subjective, has little relationship to job performance, tends to screen out job-qualified candidates, and, in the US, at least, rampantly discriminates against qualified minorities. Anybody for improving occupational professionalism by using job analysis and validated selection tools? (You can read all of Mr. Amack?s comments at lawinfo.com/forum/face-to-face.html).

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