What Recruiters Look For v/s What They Test For

It would be a reasonable assumption that most recruiters are looking for people who are intelligent and driven. At Aspect Ratio we have a third criterion, ‘fun to be with’.

Some companies look for other skills that are sector specific. Lehman Brothers looked for quantitative skills. Tata Motors at one time would recruit only Mechanical Engineers.

What is interesting however is all of them seem to have a very similar recruitment process. Most companies in the country, most of the world in fact, follow the hackneyed algo of Source CVs, filter CVs, first interview on the telephone, subsequent interviews in person, and finally extension of the job offer. Clearly, companies wish to meet a number of candidates and narrow down to the few that they believe would be a good fit. The process above is efficient from a filtering or funneling perspective; however, I am left wondering about its effectiveness.

After all, companies often hire people who do not end up doing very well at the company.  The only skill that an interview tests for is the ability to do well at interviews. Similarly, the only skill a good CGPA points to is the ability to do well on exams. This last is particularly bothersome in India, where coaching classes help students with the business of passing exams regardless of their understanding of the subject matter.

To compound matters further, the interview stage often devolves into a power game. The panel asks questions to which they know the answer and wish to test if the candidate does too. It is not surprising that under these circumstances the candidates feels tested and therefore stressed. How then, could a company make the interview more valuable for themselves and less stressful for the candidate?

A good starting point would be to ask questions that the panel does not have answers to either, or questions that could have multiple possible correct answers, and see how well the candidate can present his or her case. The interview is then not an examination given by the panel and taken by the candidate. It is a conversation about a topic that is hopefully interesting to both parties.

The next thing that the panel can do to equate the power equation is to let the candidate choose the topic of conversation; let the candidate lead the interview.

If the candidate could be given an opportunity to speak about a topic that s/he cares about, is excited about, then that represents the best chance a candidate can get to play to his or her strengths. If the area of strength presented is of no consequence to the job description at hand, for example if the MBA candidate applying for an analytics job chooses to speak about his interest in medieval folk dancing, the panel would be fair in deciding that there is not a good fit between the skills of the candidate and the job at hand.

If the only skill that an interview tests for is the ability to handle interviews, and the CGPA only points to the ability to do well on exams, then the recruiter would do well to extend this logic and design a recruitment process that tests for the ability to do the job itself. If the job description involves building forecasting models on spreadsheets, the panel could present the candidate with data sets of sales history and ask how many ways could there be to forecast the sales for the near future.

The quality of the conversation, in addition to the ability of the candidate to handle that spreadsheet, is likely to be a much better indicator of performance on the job than any number of unrelated puzzles and questions about economic theory. The quality of the conversation is also a good indicator of that elusive trait of ‘being fun to be with’.

For Shivram’s 5 Part Series on How To Prepare For Placements, click here




Reproduced with permission from Shivram Apte. Originally published at AptReflections.

Shivram is the Founder and CEO of Aspect Ratio. He is an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Aspect Ratio is hiring –Apply here