You could be the most qualified candidate with the best resume and tons of references singing your praises and still not get the job because of a less-than-stellar job interview.
But how useful is a job interview for an employer trying to find the best fit for a position?
Well, according to a column by Jason Dana, an assistant professor of management and marketing at the Yale School of Management in The New York Times, not useful at all.
Dana explains that the "free-form, unstructured interviews" employers tend to favor to "get to know" a candidate don't actually give interviewers a real impression of their interviewees. In fact, these interviews "often [reveal] more about [the interviewer] than the candidates."
Dana even goes as far as to say face-to-face interviews "can be harmful, undercutting the impact of other, more valuable information about interviewees."
He explains this by citing an experiment he and some colleagues conducted in which they had students interview other students and then predict their grade-point average from the previous semester.
The interviewers were told to base their prediction on the interview, the student's course schedule and his or her past G.P.A.—and were specifically told that the past G.P.A. was the best predictor of their future G.P.A.
They were also asked to predict the G.P.A. of students of they did not interview based solely on their G.P.A.s
Take a guess as to which group—between those who had an interview and those that did not—was more accurate.
And it gets worse.
Of the interviewers, some were told they could ask any question they wanted, while others were instructed to only ask "yes/no" or "this/that" questions.
Unbeknownst to that group, researchers instructed half of the interviewees to respond honestly and the others to answer randomly.
Amazingly, not one of the interviewers noticed they were conducting a completely random interview.
In fact, the interviewers rated the degree to which they "got to know" the interviewee in these interviews higher on average than those who conducted interviews with "honest" students.
"The key psychological insight here is that people have no trouble turning any information into a coherent narrative," writes Dana.
All of that being said, Dana thinks the face-to-face interview isn't going anywhere. Because despite research and data showing otherwise, people still think they can glean something valuable from a face-to-face conversation.
So he suggests that instead of unstructured interviews, employers opt for a more structured format in which candidates receive the same questions—it's been proven to work.
He also suggests interviews be used to test job-related skills instead of being used to for small talk and personal questions.
At the very least, Dana suggests employers become more "humble" about the reliability of the impressions of a candidate's future performance they can glean from an interview.
And a little humility never goes astray, for any of us.
H/t: The New York Times