The Science Of The Interview

Job

Job interviews seem to have evolved into elaborate psychosocial and behavioral tests.


Almost as if there is an exact science behind trying to pick “the winners” from “the losers.” {hate those harsh terms about people]


Many questions look at how quickly the interviewee thinks on their feet, how prepared they are for the interview, and how well they present themselves for the job.


However, my question is whether these things are truly determinant of the fit between the person and the job, the culture, and the supervisor and team, as well as indicative of integrity of the person, their work ethic, or how well they would actually perform in said job. 


The interviewer proudly blurts out from his or her script:


TELL ME ABOUT…


A time that you came from from work and said “I completely nailed it–a home run out of the park!”


Or


–  A time that you came from work and said “Oh shit, I completely screwed everything up.”


Ah, like work–or life for that matter–is generally that black and white.


Are we forgetting about the 99% of the time that people go in the office, put in a solid day’s work for a solid day’s pay–and did a good job, made a decent contribution, and got along with the team. 


Also, let’s face it, the vast majority of people are not the Einsteins or Steve Jobs of this world. 


They don’t come to the interview having invented the driverless car or negotiated the end to World War II.


How about this question…


“Why do you want to work here?”


I heard someone actually asked this question about a job working in mining regulation–yeah right, your and everyone else’s dream job. 


What an incredibly narcissistic question, where the interviewer is looking to hear about how great their organization is or their department is, how superb a leader he/she is known to be, and why the person just will fit in perfectly to a place that alas they probably really know very little about from an insider’s perspective.


Okay, let’s try another one…


“Where do you see yourself in 5-years?”


Let’s see I want to be kissing your ass in 5-years and actually until the day I die or maybe better what your really afraid of hearing is that I’m gunning for your and would like to take your job and show this company what a real XYZ can do to improve things around here. 


Here’s another one a colleague told me about recently…


Pretend your David Ogilvy and sell me on one of your ideas. You have 15-minutes to prepare. 


Ok let’s put the pressure on, because the candidate coming in today for the job interview with a mortgage and two kids at home to feed isn’t enough.  Do these conditions really demonstrate what the person could do with amble time and preparation and for something they really believe in?


Let’s not forget to give an IQ and personality test to the person, so we can peg their intelligence and Myers Briggs or perhaps we should give them some puzzles and let them really sweat with the pieces. 


Let’s face it we’ve all had some people wow on the interview and on paper and turn out to be duds on the specific jobs, and others that you weren’t so sure about that turned out superbly.  


Assessing people is hard and many people are great at the poker game of landing the offer. 


It’s the interviewers job to look beyond the playbook and the acting, and try to see the real person sitting in front of them.


Yes, presentation is important, but even more so can we get down to the work ethic and the integrity of the person?  What they are good at and where do they have weaknesses? Are they able and willing to learn and grow?  What do they like to work on and what do they recoil from?  How do they relate to others and can they get along?  When they face problems, challenges, and conflicts, can they and are they willing to work through it? 


I don’t know any supervisor that hasn’t hit the jackpot on some hires and made mistakes on others…those that claim they’ve made an actual science out of bringing on the absolute talent–I wonder how well they do in their next interview. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why Do People Take The Cheese Off?

Why Do People Take The Cheese Off?

So my question of the day is why do people feel it’s okay to take the cheese off the delicious macaronic AND cheese?

While I understand that it is the best part, isn’t just a little bit of antisocial behavior that would drive people do something like this and leave everyone else with just the noodles underneath…

Anyway on the way back, one of my colleagues stopped me in the street to tell me some philosophy of life about how love makes the world go around, but revenge is the axis it turns on. Ouch@!

Perhaps this is April fools day making people a little snappy today.

One last thought is from episode last week on The Vikings (great show on the History Channel)–excellent battle scene, but also memorable when the one of the characters says “Bad news travels a great deal slower than good news.”

Maybe that’s why no one told me before about the missing cheese on the macaroni today? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Favorite Hypnotist Act

This is my favorite comedy hypnosis show with Marc Savard.

He suggests under hypnosis to this big guy that whenever he hears the Mexican Jumping Beans music, the guy will become active and his shoes will go 100 mph dancing an Irish Jig.

And sure enough, this guy dances away…and he does it well.

The music stops and the guy settles down.

Marc Savard scolds him that he is interrupting the show with his wild dancing.

The big guy is embarrassed, says “really sorry,” and that “it won’t happen again.”

But it does!

Savard threatens to have the troublemakers escorted out by security.

The big guy says “don’t do that.”

Savard says, I’m watching you.

Each time the music comes on and the big guy can’t control himself and starts dancing, and when the music stops and he realizes what he’s doing, he is visibly exasperated with himself.

It’s also funny, when Savard goes “you wouldn’t go to the Blue Man Group (another competing act in Vegas) and do that Sh*t!”

I am a skeptic when it comes to hypnosis, but overall, this act gets an A+. 😉

Genius Consultants–Yes or No?

Genius Consultants--Yes or No?

A lot of people think that the McKinsey’s of this world are the business geniuses.

You hire McKinsey, Bain, or The Boston Consulting Group when you need to address big organizational problems–frequently those that involve broad reorganizations, massive cutbacks, reformulation of strategy, and culture makeovers.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek in a book review of The Firm, the notion is that these consulting big boys come in to “teach you how to do whatever you do better than you do it–and certainly better than your competition does it.”

The question is can consultants really do it better than those who do it everyday, or perhaps an objective 3rd party is exactly what is needed to break broken paradigms and set things straight.

These global consultants are usually generalists–who specialize in “rational thinking and blunt talk.”

It’s like going to an organizational shrink to have someone listen to your crazy sh*t and tell it back to you the way it out to be–and then guide you with some behavioral interventions (i.e. the recommendations).

What’s interesting also is that these consulting firms hire the “A” kids right out of school–so they are inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready with their idealistic thinking to tell you how things ought to be done–the question is do they have enough fundamentals under their belts and genuine solid thinking in a real setting to make sense to your business.

Probably the best thing is that these graduates can think out of the box and for an organization that needs to make a leap forward, these newbies can cut through the clutter and give your organizational a fresh start.

One of the problems pointed out is that with these consultant companies, it’s heads they win and tails you lose–if their ideas pan out, it’s to their credit–and if it doesn’t, well you implemented poorly.

Basically consultants are not magicians, but they do listen to your organizations tales of woes, put the pieces together, and tell you what you told them…many times, it’s basically validation of what people already know–but now it’s coming from “the experts”–so it must be true.

Another problem of course is whether their recommendations become more shelfware, collecting dust, or whether the organization can actually make the difficult choices and changes…or perhaps, there is another consulting firm that assists with that? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Throw Out The Pre-Crime With the Bathwater

Terrorist_screening

The Atlantic (17 April 2012) has an article this week called ” Homeland Security’s ‘Pre-Crime’ Screening Will Never Work.”

The Atlantic mocks the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) for attempting to screen terrorists based on physiological and behavioral cues to analyze and detect people demonstrating abnormal or dangerous indicators.

The article calls this “pre-crime detection” similar to that in Tom Cruise’s movie Minority Report, and labels it a  “super creepy invasion of privacy” and of “little to no marginal security” benefit.

They base this on a 70% success rate in “first round of field tests” and the “false-positive paradox,” whereby there would be a large number of innocent false positives and that distinguishing these would be a “non-trivial and invasive task.”

However, I do not agree that they are correct for a number of reasons:

1) Accuracy Rates Will Improve–the current accuracy rate is no predictor of future accuracy rates. With additional research and development and testing, there is no reason to believe that over time we cannot significantly improve the accuracy rates to screen for such common things as “elevated heart rate, eye movement, body temperature, facial patterns, and body language” to help us weed out friend from foe.

2) False-Positives Can Be Managed–Just as in disease detection and medical diagnosis, there can be false-positives, and we manage these by validating the results through repeating the tests or performing additional corroborating tests; so too with pre-crime screening, false-positives can be managed with validation testing, such as through interviews, matching against terrorist watch lists, biometric screening tools, scans and searches, and more. In other words, pre-crime detection through observable cues are only a single layer of a comprehensive, multilayer screening strategy.

Contrary to what The Atlantic states that pre-crime screening is “doomed from the word go by a preponderance of false-positives,” terrorist screening is actually is vital and necessary part of a defense-in-depth strategy and is based on risk management principles. To secure the homeland with finite resources, we must continuously narrow in on the terrorist target by screening and refining results through validation testing, so that we can safeguard the nation as well as protect privacy and civil liberties of those who are not a threat to others.

Additionally, The Atlantic questions whether subjects used in experimental screening will be able to accurately mimic the cues that real terrorist would have in the field. However, with the wealth of surveillance that we have gathered of terrorists planning or conducting attacks, especially in the last decade in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as with reams of scientific study of the mind and body, we should be able to distinguish the difference between someone about to commit mass murder from someone simply visiting their grandmother in Miami.

The Atlantic’s position is that  terrorist screening’s “(possible) gain is not worth the cost”; However, this is ridiculous since the only alternative to pre-crime detection is post-crime analysis–where rather than try and prevent terrorist attacks, we let the terrorists commit their deadly deeds–and clean up the mess afterwards.

In an age, when terrorists will stop at nothing to hit their target and hit it hard and shoe and underwear bombs are serious issues and not late night comedy, we must invest in the technology tools like pre-crime screening to help us identify those who would do us harm, and continuously work to filter them out before they attack.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Dan and Eric Sweeney)

>Meet ATLAS

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Atlas

This is amazing (watch the whole thing)!

Meet the latest and greatest military humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics–Atlas (aka PETMAN).

(Boston Dynamics is the same company that makes BigDog, the 4 legged, ground transport robot, that looks like a mule–called the Legged Squad Support System, LS3)

Watch the movement of the Atlas robot–it is JUST like a person: heel to toe walking.

See what happens when you push it–Atlas reacts/recovers like a human would.

The built up version has hands that help it balance and squeeze through tight spaces.

BusinessWeek (March 7-13, 2011) explains that this robot will be used initially for surveillance and emergency rescue missions.
I’m thinking Atlas should be pronounced like “at last” to recognize the amazing leap forward in robotics.

This is great stuff–and it demonstrates our growing understanding of not only computers and robotics, but also of the physical and behavioral sciences.

>Raising the Bar By Aligning Expectations and Personality

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I always love on the court television show Judge Hatchett, when she tells people: “I expect great things from you!”

The Pygmalion Effect says that when we have high expectations of performance for people, they perform better.

In other words, how you see others is how they perform.

While behavior is driven by a host of motivational factors (recognition, rewards, and so on), behavior and ultimately performance is impacted by genetic and environmental factors—“nature and nurture”—and the nurture aspect includes people’s expectations of us.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, people live up or down to expectations.

For example, studies by Rosenthal and Jacobson showed that if teachers expected enhanced performance from selected children, those children performed better.

When people have high or low expectations for others, they treat them differently—consciously or unconsciously—they tip off what they believe the others are capable of and will ultimately deliver. In the video, The Pygmalion Effect: Managing the power of Expectation, these show up in the following ways:

  • Climate: The social and emotional mood we create, such as tone, eye contact, facial expression, body language, etc.
  • Inputs: The amount and quality of instruction, assistance, or input we provide.
  • Outputs: The opportunities to do the type of work that best aligns with the employee and produce that we provide.
  • Feedback: The strength and duration of the feedback we provide.

In business, expect great things from people and set them to succeed by providing the following to meet those expectations:

  • Inspiration
  • Teaching
  • Opportunity
  • Encouragement

Additionally, treat others in the style that is consistent with the way that they see themselves, so that there is underlying alignment between the workplace (i.e. how we treat the employee) and who the employee fundamentally is.

Normally people think that setting high expectations means creating a situation where the individual’s high performance will take extra effort – both on their part and on the part of the manager.

However, this is not necessarily the case at all. All we have to do is align organizational expectations with the inherent knowledge, skills, and abilities of the employee, and their individual aspirations for development.

The point is we need to play to people’s strengths and help them work on their weaknesses. This, along with ongoing encouragement, can make our goals a reality, and enable the organization to set the bar meaningfully high for each and every one of us.