One thing that happens in running a business, of any sort, is that you, hopefully, learn new “tricks” along the way. Some are strokes of genius, but more often, they are things learned the hard way. I wish I could say the trick I’m about to report was a moment of genius, but it happened due to a lack of time. However, it has worked out in a genius fashion. Specifically, when we have an open employment position, we advertise in various places. We received faxed resumes in the old days and now receive them via email. We get so many unqualified that sorting through them all is time consuming. When we get someone who meets the minimum criteria I used to conduct a preliminary telephone interview of 20+ questions. For many years, I engaged in this time consuming process. In recent years, I found the time requirements for this procedure too challenging. Setting up a time to talk and then talking, and then getting through the questions, was onerous. As a result, I had the idea to convert most of these 20 questions to written form and send them via email to applicants. This gave the applicants time to consider their answers and respond thoughtfully. It also gave me a writing sample and an indication of how they would work with us as bosses and with their co-workers. Interestingly to me, many people never respond to the questions – they self select out, which is a good thing. If there is a reason a person would not be a good fit, it is fine with me to have him/her end the application process rather than waste my time on a telephone interview. So, getting more thoughtful, or insightful (to me) answers and reducing the number of candidates who were not good candidates are benefits. My subsequent phone interview, which I still conduct, is now more efficient and targeted.
David has spent an inordinate amount of time interviewing job candidates, most of whom never make it to the in person interview by me. In that the vast majority of people whom David has interviewed over the years have not been hired by our company, Magnus, a lot of productive time has been wasted. For example, during the time David spends conducting telephone interviews, he could be marketing our services to new clients, following up case leads with current clients, or doing any of a number of meaningful things. Thus, when David suggested re-formatting most of his telephone interview questions into a written protocol, I wholeheartedly supported this innovation. The written interview questions have been interesting in revealing many things about job candidates: (1) many people disqualify themselves by never sending us their answers; (2) some people answer the questions with a tone of superiority that connotes they will not be hard workers; (3) some people cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence; (4) some people’s salary requirements, when expressed in writing, are enormously disproportionate to their low level of experience; (5) some people refuse to provide their transcripts, leading me to know, instantly, why they have refused (an overall GPA of 2.5 is never going to impress me!); and (6) both David and I are thrilled to never meet some people in person. The telephone interview process has become more streamlined as a result of the written interview questions, such that the small percentage of candidates who participate in the in person interviews can be interviewed in a more targeted fashion. One thing that has not been possible, however, with any of the interviewing techniques we have employed, is finding the “perfect” employee and, just as important, identifying people who will lie, steal, and cheat their way through the job. I’m always on the lookout for accurate predictors of job success, but until I find them, David’s methods are the best we have available.