Whatever Your Process, Interviewing Comes Down to Conversation

RJ Morris Executive Search, Hiring Managers, HR, Outmatch, Recruiting, RJ Morris

Do you know how many bad interviews I have had after almost 20 years in talent selection and evaluation? Man, it’s a lot. The funny thing? Some of those interviews were bad because the process or manager was bad—not the candidate. Process matters.

On the continuum of interview and selection techniques, there are basically two extremes:

Super scripted. Open the interview booklet, read the instructions on page 1, and ask every question as prescribed. When done, tell the candidate they’ll hear from HR about next steps.

Completely unstructured. Random questions from untrained hiring managers. “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?” Total gut reactions, no data.

Most interviews fall somewhere between these two extremes. Typically, HR and Talent folks want more structure, and hiring mangers want freedom to talk. Basically, we all want some structure, but we also know that the best answers come through open dialogue.

Enough theory, R. J., give us some real world. Here you go. A GeekWire piece on how the top dog and CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, hired his Chief Technology Officer. CTO of Uber? That’s a high profile gig, kids. Better get that hire right. Written from the perspective of the candidate (emphasis mine):

I met with him, and that one hour turned into two. …He invited me back for more talks and ended up interviewing me for 30 hours straight, one-on-one, over two weeks…..We’d pick each topic and drill all the way down. One topic could be how to hire and fire people. Another was about project management and engineering management. It was any topic related to engineering, and we’d just pick one and debate it. I had my view and he had his, and because he’s an engineer by training as well, we just jammed like that….

Throughout those 30 hours, it wasn’t about getting hired. I actually forgot it was an interview. It was just like a discussion between two colleagues. I got to know how he thinks, what he cares about, what he’s passionate about, what he hates, etc. Finally during a Sunday morning session, he just stopped — we hadn’t finished all the topics — and said, ‘I’ve had enough. Let’s talk offers.’ 

The CTO of a tech giant described the interview process as “…we just jammed like that.” Uber is a hardcore tech company, and they hire the CTO using…discussion? I would have assumed they had developed an app for that.

Lesson for all of us: Discussion and conversation, wrapped around key topics that are important for the role, will usually yield some pretty good data. In this case, it showed both the candidate and the hiring manger that there was good alignment. 30 hours of one-on-one dialogue between a CEO and a key direct hire? Sounds like a solid process.

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at OutMatch who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our Talent Selection and Employee Development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). 

RJ Morris

I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.