In recent years, many organizations have been looking for ways to make their recruiting processes less dependent on the bias and subjectivity of hiring managers, whether by using technology to hold blind interviews, making hiring decisions with pre-hire skills tests, or handing the process over entirely to an algorithm. Udemy leadership coach Lawrence Miller has a different approach, as he explains to Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza, which entails having candidates interview each other rather than be interviewed by a manager:
Miller found the best employees for his Maryland-based management-consulting firm when he turned the interview process upside down, bringing in candidates in small groups, and asking them to interview him and his team and then each other. … When they completed their interviews, Miller gave each person a piece of paper that had these four questions:
- Who would you hire and why?
- Who do you think is most technically competent to do this job?
- Who has the best skills?
- Who would you choose to be stranded with in an airport during a snowstorm?
“The last question was a good indicator of likeability,” says Miller. “We found that question to be the most reliable, because in the kind of consulting we did, it was a really good predictor of who would succeed.”
Other experts Vozza spoke to warned, however, that this process can have drawbacks, such as putting introverts at a disadvantage and making it more difficult for candidates to get a genuine view into the organization. Another major issue with this practice is that having candidates interview each other creates an entirely new opportunity for bias.
In some ways, interviewers can control for bias internally through diversity and bias trainings, having diverse interviewing panels, and removing biased questions. However, you cannot control for bias among candidates. It’s likely that candidates in this situation will recommend that the organization hire their peers who are most like themselves because, after all, they want the company to hire them, too. Additionally, at CEB, now Gartner, we have found that questions such as “Who would you choose to be stranded with in an airport during a snowstorm?” is an indicator of who you like, not how well the candidate will perform.
Ultimately, Miller’s process is an example of the kind of unstructured interview that benefits candidates who are good at influencing others, not those who are right for the job, and opens the way for affinity bias and misjudgment. Perhaps this group process would be more useful as a team-building exercise for existing employees or new hires, where it can serve its purpose without having candidates rate others in the room or “interview” them, and without having unqualified outsiders influence decisions about who gets hired.