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“The Voice” in Interviewing

I keep wondering if interviews using “The Voice” format would result in different candidate selections. The Voice is a singing show where judges listen to the contestants without being able to see them. They turn their chairs when they want the singer to join their team, having chosen them based solely on the voice they heard. The chairs the judges sit in actually say “I Want You.” It should also be noted that for singers to make it to the judging phase, they are screened much like initial phone-screen interviews. Only the best are presented to the judges. If interviews were conducted the same way, with only verbal communications to rely on, we might develop better listening skills. Candidates would need to provide a better description of their attributes through examples and stories. Were they pitchy, pitch-perfect, or did they fall a bit flat? The interviewer would not be distracted by appearance, but would need to look under the skin. Candidates would be forced to “smile” with their voice.

I was working on a project with a client a few months ago and was able to overhear an interview conducted by the owner, office manager and foreman. They were interviewing a person to do manual labor with a particular set of skills. The candidate arrived on time but needed to wait in an open office area until the interviewers could be gathered. They came wandering in one at a time. When they arrived they were handed the candidate’s resume to review. In short, the “judges” were not ready. They did not do their homework to prepare for the interview. They did not have an interviewing plan to select the best candidate for their team. They did not have prepared questions for the specific position. They finally began the interview by introducing themselves, which was good, but it all went downhill from there. They allowed the candidate to answer questions with “yes” and/or “no”. A well-designed question will not allow this to happen. On many questions they asked, the candidate paused to think, which is good, but then one of the interviewers actually answered the question for the candidate and all he needed to do was agree with the answer. It was their voice, not his. He was able to skirt these questions with an easy out and appeared to be an ideal candidate. During the interview, the foreman asked two blatantly illegal and one borderline illegal question, and I don’t believe the other two interviewers detected the problems with the illegal questions. I found out later that this newly hired employee did not have the skills they thought he had and lasted only two weeks.

We should always remember that the company is being evaluated just as much as the candidate. It’s impossible to make a second first impression. The “judges” need to be prepared and know what they are looking for in a candidate. Filling a position begins with a current and accurate job description. Questions should be based on the skills/personality needed for the tasks and responsibilities. All questions need to be legal, job-related and asked of each candidate. Yes, minor clarification questions can be asked but make sure they do not go over the legal boundaries. Appropriate questions might include having the candidate explain gaps in employment or other missing information from the resume. Prepare in advance and be ready for the candidates. Keep in mind that you want to hear the candidate’s “voice” 90% of the time. Did they impress you with what they said? Did they impress you with how they said it? Did they impress you with who they are as a person and not just what they look like? Did they impress you as being a good fit with your team? The appearance of a candidate should only be a factor if their appearance is directly related to the position.

In closing, ask yourself if you would turn your chair without the appearance factor or based on how many of the other judges turned their chairs. I wonder how many winners of “The Voice” were four-chair turns. Maybe it will become common practice for companies to face away from the candidates and only continue the interview if more than one judge turns their chair in the first 90 seconds. Who knows, I may be on to something here!

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