People shaking hands over table

How important are traditional interviews?

I recently attended an interesting breakfast seminar on the cost of making a bad hire and the impact it has on a company. While the stats and data may have been startling the general topic was of no surprise to me. I speak to clients frequently about attrition rates – it’s an ongoing issue at worst or a consideration at best for all companies. What really surprised me is that we don't seem to be making any breakthroughs in improving our hiring decisions. The outstanding takeaway from the session for me was the low success rates of informal interviews in making a ‘successful hire’ and yet interviews are still the stalwart element of the recruitment process for many of our clients.

Addressing the issue

Why are we so loyal to a process that has such a high degree of failure? How can we change or at least amend our recruitment process to improve our attrition rates and the quality of hires that we make?

My colleague Russell Beck (Head of Consulting and Collaboration at Impellam Group) has a compelling seminar that covers this topic. As he says defining the type of person that we are looking for is the first essential part of changing our ways. What do our job specs really tell potential employees? Have we defined what outcomes are expected of our new hires? Do we know what a good employee looks like and have we captured that in our spec or at least given a comprehensive definition to our recruiter?


The objectivity of an interview was the second topic that really resonated with me. We are all familiar with bias be it conscious or unconscious but are we aware of the impact it has on our hiring decisions? At IRC & Guidant IRC we have recently introduced strengths-based interviewing. This style of interview takes much of the bias out of the interview – it’s structured, consistent and to be honest can be a little jarring but the results to date have been impressive and the feedback from interviewees has been great. Rather than focusing on previous experience, education and interests ("oh you play tennis too, great" – you see where I'm going with the bias piece!) it drills down into natural strengths and matches them to our own previously defined company strengths. We are focusing less on proven experience and more on natural ability, this is an easier transition for our internal recruitment roles and I fully concede that technical roles will always require specific experience. As Russell eloquently puts it "I'm glad that the surgeon who performed my spinal surgery had done it at least once before!" But can an interview really tell us how skilled that surgeon is or do we need them to show us (I won't be volunteering as that guinea pig!)? Work sample tests statistically come out highest when analysing the most successful methods of making successful hires.

How important are they?

So as someone who has conducted thousands of interviews over my 20-year career in the recruitment business, this is a pretty scary question – just how important is an interview?

I enjoy interviewing, I see immense value from spending time with someone and really understanding their drivers, talking through their experience, drilling down on their expertise, working through their CV (now that's a whole other topic!) but I am also open to the fact that there is a better way.

If you would like to hear more about how IRC & Guidant IRC are challenging the norms of recruitment and our commitment to finding 'a better way' then please get in touch with me at

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