The Wall Street Journal has run a number of articles lately on recruiting, interviewing and hiring people. Since people and good fitting people are the key to any business or organization, I found a couple articles most interesting.

One dealt with using video or virtual interviews.Here an applicant logs onto a site or an app and is “asked” questions with fixed prompts and has a limited, preset time to respond. For example, the robot prompt says, “Tell us about a time you had to deal with a conflict.” You then get 3o seconds to five minutes, depending on the question, to respond. Some of these programs even analyze your verbal or facial cues to find a better match.  The companies who sell these programs claim they make hiring fairer since all applicants have to answer the same questions and it eliminates “small talk”.

The results of these computerized interviews are screened and reviewed by, who else, Human Resources. Some HR people claim this is a faster and less costly way to hire.

Many applicants complain that this approach makes them even more upset and uncomfortable than an actual interview. I can see that. I am not sure I personally could answer any question, beyond my name, in 30 seconds! I am also not sure what, if anything, you learn about someone in a rigid, structured robot interview as described.

Before I was hired, at age 26, to become a senior financial person at the private firm, Donn Corp., I had to be interviewed by the Founder and Chairman, Don Brown. Mr. Brown and I talked about the YMCA Indian Guides program since my son Mike was about the age to participate as Don Brown had with his sons. We also spoke about the fact that we each had Shetland Sheepdogs that meant a lot to us. No financial questions. Don Brown tried to get to know me, as a person, because he believed if you hired good people they could become good employees. Would that be considered “small talk” in today’s recruiting world? I proudly worked for the company, and often directly for Don Brown, for a decade and then helped him sell his family business. It was an excellent fit for me and the company.

Computers and technology have changed the way we live and do business, and usually for the better. But, to me, people are still the key to the success of any organization. To really understand the people you interview, you need to spend some time, have some small talk and mostly try to get to know them as a person first.