There are plenty of inefficient and ill-conceived business processes. Some of them are worse than the rest. These Business Worst Practices are more than badly-designed and bureaucratic; they’re business practices that take simple human interactions and make them pointlessly stiff, formal and fear-based.
We call them Godzilla Boosters — Godzilla being our symbol for the edifice of crusty process that rules corporate and institutional life, and this being his theme song – because these Worst Practices give power to Godzilla.
Godzilla Boosters are practices that reinforce the notion that there is another way to be with people apart from the way we are at home and at play — a formal, procedural Business Mode that robs human interactions of their power, spontaneity and spark.
The stiff-and-formal business mode is only used at work, where we pretend it’s perfectly normal and useful. The truth is that there is only one way to be with other people, outside of a holy place or a courthouse.
We are human all the time. We are foolish to turn job interviews, such potentially fun and fizzy human processes, into tense and grovelly affairs.
It’s not in our best interests to do that, but we do it anyway, For Such is the Way of Godzilla.
Any time you take an organic human process and turn it into a scripted, formal ritual, you are robbing power from the exchange and from the people involved. Behavioral Interviewing is a perfect example. This is the kind of interviewing where we ask a job-seeker questions like this:
“Tell me about a time when you had to solve a big problem.”
“Tell me about a time when you worked on a team.”
Behavioral interviewing came roaring onto the scene when I had been an HR person for four or five years. I went to a couple of Behavioral Interviewing seminars and ran for the hills, seeing the Behavioral Interviewing approach for the Godzilla Booster it is.
In a job interview, you’ve got two people looking to get a feel for one another. One is a hiring manager who needs to see the job candidate’s brain working in its native mode.
If you’re the manager, how will you two use your time? Will you ask stupid questions like “If you were a can of soup, what kind of soup would you be?”
Of course not — what a trivial question, when there are so many weightier topics to cover!
By the same token, you’re not going to use your interview airtime to ask a job-seeker “So, tell me about a time when you had to think on your feet.”
You’re going to do something far simpler and less insulting, and say “Here’s how our department works. Here’s how this job fits into the department. What are your thoughts?”
As the applicant starts talking, you’ll see his or her brain working. Everything you need to know is there — the way the job-seeker extrapolates what’s important on a job from your description, and the quality of his or her questions.
Behavioral interviewing would never work outside the corporate/institutional walls where Godzilla is so ubiquitous, we seldom notice he’s there.
Imagine you’re calling a plumber because your kid stuck his sock in the bathtub drain. Are you going to say to the plumber, “Tell me about a time when you had to get something out of a tub drain.”?
You’re not. If you did, the plumber would say “Look, buddy, you want me to come over or not?” It’s no different on a job interview.
Instead of using coy ‘tell me about a time when’ questions to probe the applicant’s understanding of your movie, why not lay out the actual situation in your department and let the job-seeker — like a plumber — react to the real facts on the ground?
Behavioral interviewing adds a layer of Godzilla process between the manager’s straightforward need for help (a/k/a Business Pain) and the job-seeker’s viewpoint and career story. We should be talking about those simple topics on a job interview instead of constructing a set of context-free Behavioral Interviewing questions that suck all the power out of a job interview.
Problem-solving, after all, is mostly a matter of context. Any problem that can be solved without context in the moment is more of an algorithm than a real human problem. So why not get all the context you can, by losing the silly Behavioral Questions and merely chatting with each applicant about the actual job?
Job-search advisors like me teach people to construct answers to the standard twenty Behavioral Interviewing questions. Then managers complain that all they hear are scripted answers. Well, duh!
You’ve got an opportunity to have an easy, non-hierarchical conversation that will let everybody say and hear what they came to hear and say, and we have to turn it into a stiff Q & A session more like a citizenship exam than a human conversation.
Behavioral interviews are Godzilla Boosters because they reinforce the talent-repelling power relationship in the room. In a Behavioral Interview, the hiring authority asks questions and the little sheepie job-seeker responds.
That’s a great method for an employer who is concerned more with docility than brainpower or creativity. If you care about talent, you won’t want to interview people from a script. You’ll want to sit down with them next to a whiteboard and brainstorm like crazy. How else will you know whether your energies resonate together?
If you interview job applicants in the conventional way people talk to one another in non-ritualistic situations, you’ll have a better time, learn tons more about each candidate (and yourself) and attract sparkier people. We call the practice Interviewing with a Human Voice, for obvious reasons.
Start with the candidate’s questions, not your own. You’ll learn more listening to the questions a job-seeker brings to the interview than you ever would from his or her answers. The more Godzilla hide we can strip away every day on the job, the better for ourselves and our customers. Shareholders won’t be unhappy either when our organizations become talent magnets.
When Godzilla rules, everybody loses. When we weaken Godzilla by first removing Godzilla Blockers like Behavioral Interviewing, everybody wins!