Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Honesty in the Hiring Process

The wonderful, artificial world that is hiring: where interviews consist of the employee trying to be the best candidate they can be, and the employer trying to be the best employer they can be. This is such an artificial construct for both sides, complicated by formulaic questions, elements which must be skirted, and both participants trying to (a) avoid looking bad while (b) trying to find out what the risks of the position/ appointment are.

No one tells the bald, naked truth in interviews. Both participants 'gloss over' the untidier aspects of their relative backgrounds. Neither comes clean about the actual circumstances of the role/experience. Everyone is being Pollyanna (Porter, 1913).

So really, who can be surprised when it all goes wrong? When the job turns out to not be what was expected, and the person turns out not to fit the culture of the organisation? Where everyone is disappointed?

Perhaps we all need to take a leaf out of Ricky Gervaise's world in "The Invention of Lying" (Gervais & Robinson, 2009), where we only tell the truth. Telling the truth in interviews is what Raki and Weiss (12 June 2019) are proposing: "letting job applicants interview them as much as they interview the applicants." A nice idea, but how would it work in practice? They provide a nice analogy: "Do you think that some 40% of U.S. marriages end up in divorce because [partners] intentionally lie to each other? Or is it that most don’t ask themselves enough tough questions about whether they are good long-term fits as spouses?". If we took this fit into the interview process, then employers "can be transparent and [say] that they expect the same candor from employees" and that this will "set the tone for the [employment] relationship". They note that "Research shows that asking direct and blunt questions is the best way to elicit honest answers" (Raki & Weiss, 12 June 2019), but unfortunately they do not cite the actual research.

From the employer's point of view, there is a real economic driver to getting the best candidate. The costs of hiring in New Zealand are clear. Without using a recruitment agency, the cost is almost $14k:
  • Advertising 1 x 3 placements = $ 750.00
  • CV screening 20h x $75/hr = $ 1,500.00
  • Interview cost 20h x $75/hr = $ 1,500.00
  • Psychometrics = $ 400.00
  • Reference checks 2h x $75/hr = $ 150.00
  • Induction 2 people x 20h x $75/hr = $ 6,000.00
  • Productivity loss Operating at 75% for 90 days on a salary of $55k = $ 3,437.50
  • Total cost of a new hire: $ 13,737.50
Anything that can be done to do make the process more honest and less fraught with problems has to be good for the employer. But what about the employee?

The literature tends to be silent on the cost to a candidate who starts work for a company but who doesn't fit the organisational culture. Costs are hard to estimate for depression, anxiety, loss of confidence, impact on their family, failure, career derailment or a damaged reputation.

The writers suggest asking "candidates if they would like to conduct reverse reference checks on him [their prospective manager]. If they accept, he introduces them to two of his past direct reports" (Raki & Weiss, 12 June 2019). That is a great idea: but how much will that really minimise risk for the candidate?  

Honesty in the hiring process sounds like a great idea, but I don't think we are there yet. The power remains on the employer's side, and we still have a very poor understanding of the cost from the candidate's side.

It looks like there might be a research gap!



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