Job interviewers look for faces that fit

May 15 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employers are looking to recruit people they like rather than the people with the best skills for the job, a Recruitment Confidence Index special report has found.

The research into selection interviewing techniques among 1200 employers found that more than one in five still use gut reaction as the basis for their selection decisions.

It also found that more than one in three employers offer no formal training for selection interviewers.

"It's called the 'I know one when I see one' approach to job interviewing," said Colin Mercer, director of assessment and development with human resources consultancy Wickland Westcott, who sponsored the research.

"It leads to decisions based on personal bias or erroneous ideas about how people will perform in a role. There are a few rare people who are good at intuitive interviewing, but mostly it leads to expensive mistakes."

The Recruitment Confidence Index is a quarterly survey of UK directors' and managers' expectations of changes in recruitment activity and business conditions. It is produced by Cranfield School of Management and the Daily Telegraph.

Each quarter the RCI analyses a recruitment issue in more detail. This quarter's special has focused on selection interviewing for managers. The RCI asked employers about their approach to interviewing, selection tools they used, the length of time it took them to interview and recruit senior staff and the training they gave interviewers.

Commenting on the findings Shaun Tyson, professor of Human Resources at Cranfield School of Management said: "People tend to underestimate the difficulty of undertaking a good selection interview and the need for training or specialist input is often not appreciated.

"This is especially so for more senior staff who often believe these skills are automatically given to them. They think of selection interviewing as a low-level skill for which they don't need any training.

"But interviewing is just like playing tennis. Everyone needs some regular coaching and plenty of practice."

Stephanie Richards, recruitment research manager at the Daily Telegraph said: "The message seems clear: being liked by an interviewer and having a face that fits could well be more important than your skills matching the requirements of the job.

"It reinforces the idea that it's not what you know but who you know that counts. It would be interesting to find out how these decisions are affecting firms' productivity and efficiency."

Other findings include:

  • More than half of employers believe their selection interviewing is of a high quality. And only one in 20 rates it as poor.
  • Nearly one in three employers still use unstructured interviews to select or promote staff to senior jobs. But nearly two in three now use competency based interviews to assess a candidate's ability.
  • It takes an average of eight-and-a-half weeks to recruit senior managers from placing an advertisement to taking a decision. The average senior management interview takes two hours and 40 minutes.
  • More than four in 10 still believe that technical knowledge is more important than leadership skills when recruiting senior managers
  • Getting on for half of employers say it has become harder to recruit to senior jobs over the past five years.