How might we re-think the recruiting process to align the needs of employers with potential employees' talents?
THE PRE-INTERVIEW - A NEW STAGE TO EMPLOYMENT
A Three Step Pre-Interview Process
For the candidate the steps are:
Observation - Collaboration - Reflection
For the employer the steps are:
Observation - Review - Assess
Process For Employers
1) After screening CVs invite selected candidates in as groups.
2) Prepare to have the candidates observe the work environment in some capacity. Examples - Have them attend a meeting. Have them observe a sales team. Alternatively have them watch a video of a work situation.
3) Present the group with a scenario based on the work situation they have been observing. Ask them to collaborate around a specific question as it relates to their observations.
4) Observe the group interaction. What role does each candidate play? What can we learn about each applicant as they interact with their peers?
Process For Applicants
1) Arrive at the appointed time to the potential employer's work site.
2) Be put into groups with other applicants, or perhaps current employees.
3) Observe current staff doing their jobs either in real time or on a video.
4) As a group collaborate around a specific question or problem posed, as it relates to what you have just observed.
5) Reflect on the experience as a whole. Create a narrative focusing on whatever aspect of the experience you choose. There are many possibilities including observations of employee interactions, applicant interactions/collaborative exercise, and reflection on the problem presented are just a few. The exercise will be merely to "reflect on your experience here." (The exercise is meant to be a reflection and not an evaluation of one's writing skills.)
6) The day ends here. The next step will be a call back for an interview.
Brainstorming with a friend we had a lively discussion about the recruiting and interviewing process for young people in the current employment market. I suggested observing youth candidates as a group working around problem solving. My friend opined that this would be limiting for youth that are introverted and uncomfortable jumping into group discussions, particularly with strangers. She was adamant that there will be many good applicants that may be pushed aside in these situations.
She proceeded to share a story with me of a young college student who shadowed her in her medical/surgical practice briefly last year. The girl's mother is one of her patients. She and her husband were at an appointment and they proudly told the doctor that their daughter is pre-med. The physician offered to host their daughter in her office for a few weeks, giving her the opportunity to shadow and get some real world experience. The young woman jumped at the chance.
The young woman came to several office sessions. The physician and her medical assistant introduced her to their patients and explained the basic workings of the office. She observed doctor/patient interactions. The physician noted her to be quiet. She did not ask questions, was not proactive and when prompted to do a task was slow in doing so. The doctor and the medical assistant wondered to themselves if this young woman was choosing the correct career path as she seemed passive, the opposite of engaged and energetic. At the end of the experience the student asked the physician for a letter of recommendation for medical school. Not having much to go on the doctor asked her "to write the letter herself describing what her experience was like and some of the things she got out of it." She would then use this to compose a letter.
She received the write up a few days later. She was surprised at what she read. "She had been observing all along the human interactions, the subleties, how I explained things at the patient's level, what the set up was in the office, the doctor's ability to communicate effectively with patients." The letter was "observant and well written."
"She was much more aware than we gave her credit for." Upon reflection the physician recalled that this young woman was raised in a strict religious family. She wondered if within this culture young women were not encouraged to step in and ask questions. "I learned from that experience. She was amazing as far as what she observed about me and I was amazed at what she observed about the process." In retrospect the physician remarked, "I might have been giving her tasks at a higher level than she was at. She did not speak up."
This young woman observed in detail interactions the MD had with her patients. She described their communication noting how the physician was able to convey complex medical information in a way that was straightforward and simple so that an ill patient could understand it. She described with empathy how patients received difficult news. She clearly was present and not distracted. She saw and heard everything that transpired in that room capturing it in her writing with great sensitivity. The issues here were - she was young, inexperienced, uncomfortable as an "intruder" in a very personal space. Cultural issues may have been at play. For her level of education she was completely on target. Her focus was on the interpersonal aspect of medicine. That is what she was able to understand and she reflected on it beautifully.
This story reminded me of a meeting I had with a young woman who also had plans to study medicine. In this case I was interviewing her for admission to medical school. On her application she noted, amongst the many activities she participated in, that she had shadowed a family practitioner in her local community for a few sessions. I asked her to reflect on her experience in the office. What did you see? learn?
"Nothing really. Just checking throats...." She told me she plans to become and obstetrician and that she really learned very little in the doctor's office. This young woman did not exhibit the same skill set as the one in the story above, at least at that point in time.
From our discussion we came up with an idea to add to the observation step and subsequent collaborative exercise, a reflective exercise in which youth write about this experience. Using this approach there are multiple ways for an applicant to express oneself and therefore different opportunities for the employer to observe and assess.
Going one step further, what does this community think about including a lunch in this process? Will this add an opportunity for applicants to get a better look at the culture of the work site, as they interact with employees less formally? It can also be an opportunity for employers and their teams to further observe applicants.
Medical residency interviewing is a full day process. There are educational sessions with faculty, lunch and tours of hospital facilities with resident physicians, and several formal interviews. As an applicant in this process I found it exhausting, at times anxiety provoking, sometimes educational, and upon occasion exciting to connect or reconnect with peers. In restrospect the process was an important opportunity for both applicant and future employer to look, see, observe in a variety of settings over the course of a day. It helps both. If feasible it might be a good idea to borrow some of this structure in other recruiting settings. One part of this process that stood out for me was that our personal statements were reviewed and considered by the department. Personal experience: On one interview day I was surprised when the Dept. Chair greeted and welcomed me by name as he entered grand rounds first thing in the morning. (We had never met. All the applications had attached photos.) That afternoon I had a personal interview with him. He let me know that I had written something in my personal statement that caught his attention. As a young person I found this experience extremely validating.
How can we create opportunities for youth to express themselves in ways that stand out to potential employers? Is the Pre Interview Stage such an opportunity?
Reflecting on one's experience, sharing it with potential employers, creates opportunities for employers to "see" applicants in ways that the current recruiting process does not. Experiencing a work site creates opportunities for applicants to gain knowledge about a possible job.
Interview User Experiences
A conversation with a 30 year old about his interview experience for his present job lead to interesting insights on different approaches to interview processes that he experienced overtime.
He describes himself as an introvert.
Descriptions of two interview processes he has experienced and his reflections on them.
Current position in human resources at a community health center.
1 - Applied online.
2 - Received a group of questions by email to answer in response to his application.
3 - Called in to interview
4 - Interviewed in person with a group of 3 manager level staff.
5 - Interviewed in a second stage by the organization's CEO.
He described the experience as "okay - a bit nerve wracking." "Answering questions online first was a good start to the process."
Earlier on his employment trajectory -
23 year old college student looking for part time work.
Applied for a position to work in guest services at a tourist destination site in NYC.
The interview was in a group.
A facilitator was present.
He had the group introduce themselves to each other.
He asked questions of the group which were answered individually by raising one's hand.
Interaction and discussion within the group was also encouraged.
"I liked that the focus of the interview was not completely on me 100% of the time during the interview process."
"I liked that I could pick and choose which questions to answer and to participate as much or as little as I wanted to."
"I hate interviews. This was one of the better ones."
The group interview was followed by individual interviews. He landed the job!
Good user experience!
(I wonder if this company used a group format here because their industry is tourism, and therefore they wanted to observe candidates in a setting where they interact with others.)