Would you hire someone you’ve never met?

I came across this interesting story recently of Gigwalk, a service which allows companies to hire “ultra-temporary” workers to complete specific tasks, engaging workers without interviews.  In essence, Gigwalk initially assigns simple and time-insensitive tasks to candidates where the consequences of failure are minor. Over time it evaluates a worker’s performance based on criteria such as promptness, thoroughness and efficiency, and then builds a model that allows it to match the right worker to the right job. All this is done without ever meeting the workers.

While perhaps counter-intuitive, I think this is a great approach for the type of work Gigwalk facilitates. When a company is looking for someone to undertake a particular very short-term and defined task, the key predictor of success is how a person has performed this kind of task before (on multiple occasions over a significant period of time).

What it got me thinking about next was the, often misunderstood, role of the interview in the traditional hiring process and whether I could imagine a world where an interview was no longer necessary for any hiring?

Firstly, what is the role of the interview? A good interview should do at least three things:

  1. Confirm and reinforce what you know about the person based on their application, i.e. digging deeper into their stated skills and experiences to ensure the resume was an accurate reflection of the candidate.
  2. Give the candidate a realistic preview of the job in question and set expectations of what will be required of them and what they will get in return.
  3. Establish the level of fit between the candidate and the manager, the team and the company. This should not be “do I like this person?” but rather “will this person be able to perform effectively within the working environment?”

Looking at the three key objectives above, could we make do without the interview? Taking each in turn:

  1. Digging into the resume – Other ways at getting at this information include references, phone interviews and online research. For professional jobs, LinkedIn profiles offer a powerful “authenticity check” with the interplay of network, history and recommendations. What none of these offers, however, is access to the non-verbal cues that we humans rely on in communication. Video interviewing may address some of these limitations and will likely play a role in screening interviews in the future.
  2. Providing realistic job preview – Again, some of this may be achievable without face-to-face communication. As a rule though, it is much easier to show the job activities in situ, rather than try to explain them (obviously the type of role makes a difference here). As an applicant, it would also be rather disconcerting to not visit your work environment before deciding whether to accept a position there.
  3. Assessing fit – This is the deal breaker. We are social beings and for any job with more than a minimal amount of interaction with colleagues or customers we need to explore the chemistry and fit of a new potential team member.

In summary, while data can be used to predict performance, for the majority of hiring an in-person interview is still a vital and valuable step in the process. (In order to be effective an interview should be structured – We’ll be exploring this in more detail in a later post).

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