Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Intimidations & Stress: All in a Day's Interview

Saw an article in a recent issue of the Financial Times in a column called MBA diary. Essentially it was about the stress interviews to which many MBA students are subjected in order to see how they react under pressure.

I had not read about stress interviews for a long time. I guess I was hoping that they really had gone out with high button shoes, hula hoops, and pet rocks. Apparently not, and I think it's too bad.

For sure, we all face pressures in our jobs, and for sure they are of differing degrees, so if the deal here is that they are looking for candidates to man a trading desk, then maybe there is some rationale to it, but even then I am not sure that I am ready to sign up for it as a good indication of what I am getting if I hire the person.

People have been trying to break the code on the making of hiring decisions since as they say in the military, "Christ was a Corporal." No one has done it yet despite the claims one sees on the websites of all sorts of interviewing software. The person who really figures this one out will be the next Velcro-like billionaire.

The interview process itself creates stress, to add artificial stress to it, in my view, simply further distorts the real characteristics and traits that an organization may be attempting to identify in the first place.

Said another way: in my experience, the hires that have not worked out failed not because they were deficient in the technical skills or experience but failed because they were not a good cultural fit. Sometimes that was based on a 1:1 relationship with the boss, sometimes it was broader than that, and the employee's personality just didn't sit well across the organization. Anyone reading this will know exactly what I mean.

The point I am trying to make is simply this: Making a hiring decision that turns out to be a winner is tough enough at best, and since what they call “chemistry” is far more important than anything else to most folks, the more things you can do to discover who the real person is the better off you are. Adding stress that is artificial, I believe, does not give you insights into the real person. It shows you nothing more than how you might behave under the same set of circumstances which are not only not real, but which are not likely to surface in any case.

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