Employers, You Should Not Be Selling the Job in the Interview

There’s only one person who should be doing the hard sell during an interview—and it’s not the employer.

There’s only one person who should be doing the hard sell during an interview—and it’s not the employer.

That’s the finding of a recent paper titled “Do interviewers sell themselves short? The effects of selling orientation on interviewers’ judgments.” Jennifer Marr, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dan M. Cable whose research at the London Business School focuses on cultural fit and career success, conclude:

The more interviewers adopt a selling orientation, the less able they are to make judgments that accurately predict applicants future success as newcomers.

This runs counter to previous research, which has found job candidates like to be sold or pitched to on a job, and interviewers feel they are being effective and landing the candidate. But spending so much time in sales mode often means neglecting to dig into the candidate’s work style or other details that would show if she fits in the job and the corporate culture.

“We can’t be focusing on two or more goals at once,” Marr told Quartz. One of the motivations—selling or seeing whether values and skills match—will dominate the interview. Even very competent interviewers experienced the same difficulty and could not simultaneously evaluate and encourage the candidate to join their organization, Marr says.

In instances where the candidate is highly regarded and the organization is most enthused about them, the interviews are the least effective, she added.

The consequences may be high: A new hire who doesn’t mesh with staff, whose reputation does not meet the organization’s reality, or who leaves the organization quickly, causing lost productivity, staff unrest, plus the cost of recruiting a replacement.

Instead, employers may want either to have two people in the interview—one to pitch the organization and job and one to evaluate the candidate, Marr suggests. They also could  schedule two interviews, one to determine if the person will work and the second to sell her on the job and place. They could push critical thinking as the foundation for interviews, and recruit separately before and afterward.

That sounds smart, though it would mean for hiring managers to slow their decision-making. Half of them said they know within five minutes whether they plan to offer a candidate a job.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here.