From the Archive: Does Interviewing Measure Sight Reading?

Often candidates are better able to control an interview than is the interviewer.
Often candidates are better able to control an interview than is the interviewer.

With today’s emphasis on the importance of proper selection of “talent” it is important to train managers on interviewing skills. This post shows that often interviewees will be more capable in the interview. 
If you don’t play music you may not know what sight reading is, as I didn’t. Seth Godin wrote a short blog post called Sight Reading, where he relates that when he was young he did not practice his music lessons. He said “I was so good at sight reading that while I was truly mediocre at the clarinet, I was way better than anyone who had never practiced had any right to be.” He thinks that “We often test sight reading skills, particularly in job interviews. In that highly-charged encounter, we test the applicant’s ability to think on her feet.” This made me wonder does interviewing measure sight reading?

My Experience

Given that over 30 years of HR, with heavy recruitment experience, I have interviewed thousands of applicants. I have also been certified in interview training. So I have sliced and diced the interview process. I interview people based upon the skills sets needed for the job. I have particular questions that are generally predetermined prior to the interview. I like to think that I do make someone think on their feet because they are not prepared for my questions. But at the same time I think I can make a determination on whether a skill set exists or not. As a result I can determine if someone is “sight reading.”
But without that experience, without training in interviewing, an applicant that can “sight read”, that means they think well on their feet, and can often convince an inexperienced interviewer that they are the proper candidate. It is important to remember that candidates who have been in the job search for any period of time often have more experience in the interview process. They have practiced their answers and they may be more comfortable in the process. So to keep the applicant from getting the upper hand in the interview process it is important to train your managers.
As Godin says measuring someone’s ability to think on their feet is good, as long as that is something you need for the job, otherwise it is irrelevant. So teach your managers to interview properly, legally and effectively.

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