Can Auditions Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

I received an email from a reader today, along with an outline of their hiring process. They spend about 6-8 hours with each candidate, most of which is a series of auditions. They spend maybe an hour with behavior-description questions.

These folks have an atypical problem–they’re hiring for consultants, so they need to know how the consultant will work. What I find fascinating is the response from a candidate, “in NYC people get hired pretty much based on a handshake so why should I bother to do any amount of the work you are asking for.”

Ahem. I have some NYC clients and colleagues, and that is not their experience. And, if a candidate pushes back that much when I’m looking for guaranteed ability to perform a particular job, I’m pretty sure I don’t want that candidate.

On the other hand, there’s not a lot of interaction with a variety of people in the consulting company, and I would change that. 6-8 hours of auditions can look a lot like the interviewer is trying to get the candidate to work for free, something hiring managers want to avoid.The number of and time spent in auditions does depend on what you want. For most organizations, one brief audition before the in-person interview and one 30-45 minute audition during the interview is sufficient. The more strategic the person, (i.e. the higher in management, the more key the position), the more auditions you may need. But don’t neglect the in-person interview. The interview, especially with behavior-description questions will create rapport and start to build a relationship with a candidate, something auditions do not do.

8 Replies to “Can Auditions Be Too Much of a Good Thing?”

  1. I’ve heard of marathon screening processes at JPMorgan Chase. Their rationale is simple: get all the interviews done for all candidates on a single day (or two). At the end of this short process, all the interviewers compare notes and choose the candidates they want to extend offers to.
    The plus: no drawn-out process
    The downside: after a lengthy process, fatigue sets in for both interviewer and interviewee
    There’s something appealing about getting it all out of the way – I’ve been part of multi-month processes, some of which petered out (no one got hired) because they lost funding, hiring got frozen, etc. On the other hand, being “on” for 6-8 hours and being under the microscope with multiple people judging you is a different kind of stressful.
    I guess if I were unemployed, I’d prefer the marathon session. Otherwise, I really prefer being able to prep and be ready for a standard 1-3 hours of interviewing at a sitting.

  2. Though I would like to thank Johanna for “protecting the guilty” by not identifying my name or company in her post, I thought I would step forward to address a couple of matters that apparently weren’t clear in my original email to her.
    – Our Product Manager evaluation process actually includes significant interaction with 4-6 different employees, a group that typically represents a cross-section of the company. Each of the various sessions is led by a different interviewer and there is often a second person that sits in for training purposes as well as to provide another voice/perspective during Q&A.
    – The process is not a single marathon session. Rather, it is comprised of a phone-screen, 2 different at-home exercises, and 2 different in-person interactive sessions that ideally take place over a period of 1-2 weeks. The exercises and sessions are all highly tuned to represent the various aspects of the job we are hiring for and allow us to evaluate the candidate across multiple dimensions. Only the very best candidates actually proceed through all of the steps with the overwhelming majority getting screened out by our initial questionnaire.
    The bottom line for us is that although we realize our process is challenging for both the candidates and our staff, it is one that allows us to best gain a holistic understanding of candidate abilities. We see this as being critical for two reasons:
    – We are a small professional services firm that is only as good as the employees who serve our clients. One bad hire placed at a key client could have a far-reaching negative impact for the company.
    – The position we hire for, Product Manager, is one that requires candidates to have deep skills across a wide variety of functional areas. Trying to gauge analytical strength, writing ability, and elicitation skills (among many other attributes) within the confines of a single 1-2 hour session would not be fair to anyone.
    We know our approach is not perfect and we are always looking to improve which is why we try to tap into the thinking of knowledgeable resources like Johanna. That said, it is a process that has served us and our clients reasonably well through the years. If you are interested in learning more about our approach, and the rationale around the criticality of hiring exceptional Product Managers, there is a blog posting here –
    http://seilevel.blogspot.com/2005/10/want-to-hire-great-product-managers.html
    Thanks

  3. The extended interview time you’re exposing is an implicit indication the candidate is litterally desperate for —a— job.
    I mean, who already has a job and can take a 6-8 hours leave… probably during one of those busy week days?
    You’re either very available (loose school days) or out of work. In both cases, you should still avoid 6-8 hours interviews.
    Non-verbal communication is important but hey, if you can’t get the message through in under an hour, it’s pretty clear the job might not be for you, after all.
    Interviews should be effective and right to the point… of work and hiring matters. Chatter can happen some other day… when you’re hired!

  4. Any company that wants to make interviewing that big of a hassle should warn candidates ahead of time. Unless that position paid a lot more than jobs offered by other companies, I wouldn’t bother with them unless I were unemployed.

  5. One of the best interviews I ever had lasted about an hour and a half. During that time the hiring manager explained what the job was about and then asked a bit about my background and some of the standard questions. About 45 minutes in he took me over to their schematics workstation and told me to play with the schematic capture program for a while. Came back a few minutes later and asked my opinion of the CAD software and I gave him my honest assessment – it had it’s problems. At that point he said something like “my thoughts exactly” and then he took me over to the VP of engineering and after ten minutes or so they asked me “when can you start?”. It’s rare to find interviews like that anymore. Getting an offer during the interview is unheard of these days as well. To some extent I think companies are just being too careful these days. Of course, there’s no shortage of candidates, so they can afford to be. These days I find I just loath interviews and I especially hate the ones that drag on all day (or even most of the day). And because everyone is being so cautious (on both sides) I don’t think there’s a lot of honesty in the process anymore.

  6. Yes, I concur, that in-person interview are crucial, not only for building rapport but to get a senss of what’s top-of-their-mind by the line ofd questions. Notice whne the intensity goes up in the interviewer – either in a negative or positive way. Speak English like it tastes good. Get specific sooner. Use vivid contrasts that show you can paint a picutre in which others will want to participate. It’s always a thrill for a technically-trained person to be more frequently-quoted than the sales and marketing types, eh? Kare at sayitbetter.com

  7. We need more auditioning for positions.
    Having come in part from a classical music background, I have never felt that another person I was noticably better than ‘got the part’ or chair over me. Sometimes you are judged on the same material, other times you pick your most serious work to show off. You do the job, they do the job, and the better person wins.
    Compare that to your average recruiter or hiring manager. Good students are those with high GPA’s, whether it’s by taking Basketweaving 101 style courses at Acme School of College or real work at a top end university. How many of you check transcripts for grade inflation style course selection? There is a reason why people try to get into certain colleges. It’s because that’s where the good students go, and you and the material you are taught won’t be held back by lectures geared toward a lower class of student.
    Experience is measured by seniority. Those who stink at what they do, as long as they have stunk longer than you have shined, are more qualified for a job.
    Worked at a Fortune 3.14159 company? You must be GOOD! Big 6, no.. big 5.. no.. big 4 accounting experience needed. Even if we ate Andersen’s cancer, we’re all still better than you.
    Use Oracle 123.45.67 instead of 123.45.68.. You don’t know Oracle!
    Haven’t worked in before? Well, we’re all really smart, so you can’t, because it would be too tough to teach you what everyone else takes 6 months to learn, even if you could do it in 3 months.
    I applaud those that at least try to make an honest assesment of candidate quality. Sure, 6-8 hours may be too long, but if it’s legitimate competition for a job, I’d love to be in a company where everyone has shown to be more competent than the rest. Too bad there is almost none of that around.

  8. Pardon my formatting, looks like Monster tought I was adding HTML.
    Make that “Haven’t worked in ‘random industry’ before”

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