Article (February-2019)


Recruiting Trends - The more things change the more they remain the same

Hari Parmeshwar

Designation : -   HR Consultant, Visiting Faculty

Organization : -  IIM (Indore) & MDI, New Delhi


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"Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies." - Lawrence Bossidy, Former COO of General Electric
LINKEDIN has released a report titled "Global Recruiting Trends 2018" in which it has surveyed 9000 talent leaders and hiring managers to ascertain the new techniques adopted by them to acquire talent.

The traditional job interview in its various formats namely Structured Interview, Behavioural Interview, Phone, Interview Panel and Case Study/Assignment have been found to be equivalent to flipping a coin as soft skills cannot be assessed and interviewer bias affects selection besides weaknesses of candidates are difficult to determine while the process itself takes long and the interviewer may not be asking the correct questions.

The survey finds that talent leaders are thus adopting new selection techniques like
  • Online soft skills assessment such as teamwork and curiosity.
  • Job auditions where the interviewers watch the prospective candidates on the job to observe skills in action.
  • Casual Interviews over a meal often help provide deeper insight into the candidate.
  • Virtual Reality assessments where the candidates are immersed in 3 D simulated environments to test their skills in a standardized way.
  • Video Interviews could be online or recorded where the candidates can from their respective locations answer relevant questions posed to them.
While it cannot be denied that innovation and creative ways to do one's work is always important it does not necessarily imply that it will be correct. For example all the criticisms levelled against the traditional form of interview can be levelled against these methods. Can soft skills be assessed online and interviewer bias can creep in Job auditions as well as casual interviews and in the video interviews as well as Virtual Reality assessments. The report also does not mention whether these 3 D simulations or online soft skills test job audition situations have been tested for reliability and validity. Simply because a large number of people endorse such methods does not make it valid. We know for example that Performance Management Systems and Bell curve appraisals and 360 degree performance appraisals were introduced similarly with great fan fare only to find years later that some of these have been counterproductive and replaced.

Human Resources by its very nature defy a "standard fit for all" model. That is the first important rule to remember. The second important rule to accept is that every human interaction is a dynamic situation where a continuous loop feeds within itself to determine the outcome. I recall a situation where Professors of the topmost level management institute asking an (IIT (Madras) plus 1 year Deutsche Bank current experience) candidate what metallurgical engineering he was doing in Deutsche Bank. The question is absurd at one level because we all know that Banking pays well and Deutsche is a reputed brand to work for. Yet the question was valid in order to determine how the candidate deals with the inherent paradox in the question. Surely he should have anticipated such a question or at least asked himself at some stage unless he is simply going through his career by confirming to the expectations of family and society. One out of the two choices he made in his career is definitely wrong and wrong people do not get selected. So how does he deal with it? The candidate answered that he is doing quantitative work in his job thus reducing his entire B.Tech (Metallurgy) to Quantitative Techniques or Mathematics. It is a lame, defensive and evasive answer and does not deal with the paradox.

I advised the person that his answer while being true had to deal with the subtext of the question which is the paradox itself. So, if I were he, I would have answered that as a person I like challenges. Writing JEE was one challenge. Doing well at IIT getting an 8.6 percentile was another. I could have always worked in a Metallurgical company and still can and can always come back to it but the challenge was whether I could work and prove myself in a different domain altogether such as banking and that is why I took up the job offer from Deutsche. Writing and clearing CAT was another challenge.

I would have ended that reply with a soft acknowledgement that of course Deutsche paid very well and was the top company at that time.

Answer tackles paradox and is true in its sincerity.

At one level this is impression management and really does not tell how much of a good management student I would make. At another level it is the articulation of one's self concept and with IIT plus Deutsche plus a good on the spot presence of clarity and mind I am a good bet which is what a selection of a human being can best  provide. One can reinforce the original opinion with a few more questions to ascertain whether the answer is a flash in the pan or consistent before choosing to select.

Interviewing is an art and requires an interested and invested person doing it.