If you watched the Olympics these last 3 weeks in London, you're probably similar to countless fans around the globe. You probably took on the role of unofficial judge, whether you realized it or not! You may have watched for the same things as the judges and tried to score athletes yourself. Or, you simply may have rooted for hometown heroes or an Olympian with a story that grabbed your heart.
Whatever your style was during the Olympic games, what do you think would be different if you were an Olympic judge? Certainly, you'd be trained on rating scales and rules of the games. You'd be guided on putting personal preferences and all biases aside. You would use the appropriate scoring system based on performance and criteria for your particular sport.
It sounds straightforward. Yet, aside from clear criteria, there is another element that is hard to measure. It's that thing that makes a winner -- that style, that intangible and stellar "above and beyond" spirit and technique that brings crowds to their feet, screaming for the star that performed their best! It's sometimes that rare achievement, like a triple or quadruple feat that's easy to identify. In some events, the difference is how smoothly someone turns on the ice, performs in gymnastics or somehow does a performance that stands out above all others.
If it were easy or 100% scientific, every judge would rate each performer the same. We know that doesn't happen. Scores vary because some things are just hard to measure with scientific precision. There's variation, judgment, discretion --- even in the Olympics where judges are trained on scoring criteria to eliminate biases and make judging fair.
As I consider the Olympics, I cannot help but think of the similarities to interviewing candidates for any position. An interviewer is much like a judge. They have to rate performers on how well they did during that specific event. There may be some easily measurable factors such as education or years of experience. Yet, in typical hiring processes, there's a lot of variation and discretion. For example, it is not unusual in typical interview processes to start with small talk, during which interviewers typically form impressions even before the job-related questions begin. And, there are often variations in the questions asked of candidates, which makes it more difficult to consistently compare performances.
There IS a better way…
Today's progressive employers are adding a new tool to their hiring processes -- digital interviewing. Going digital helps them gain earlier insights better, faster and more consistently. Candidates for a job answer the same questions and in the same order. Video enables them to avoid the small talk and ask the right questions that get to what hiring managers need to know about a candidate's ability to perform the job. They can easily assess candidates for fit based on both technical and soft skills. And, the pressures of judging based upon a single interaction are alleviated, as reviewers can easily fast forward, review and compare specific question responses from various candidates on their own time.
And from the Candidate’s view...Some would say there are differences between what an Olympic athlete has to do during the games and what a candidate has to accomplish during an interview. For example, some would say past performance matters more in an employment scenario. Most of the time, however, your history is just like the Olympic trials. How well you've done before - your past performance - only earns you a chance to compete in the actual games!
And, when you're in front of those judging you at an interview, you have to do your absolute best. With rare exception, those that do the best will win -- whether the prize is an Olympic medal or a great job.
What can job seekers learn from Olympic althletes?How do you prepare for an interview as a candidate? Do you tackle it by training hard and against the criteria you know will be important? Are you preparing only by reviewing what you've done in the past --- or do you take the time to prepare against what you know to be true about that final competition? Do you know enough about the company and the position --- and practice demonstrating you're a fit against what you know will be important to those that will judge you? Do you take the time to perfect that something extra --- that special response or example that will make you stand out as the best?
When athletes compete in the Olympics, it's clear they want to win. Are you clear when it counts? Do you ask for the job and show you want it?
And, as we get back to the experiences of watching the Olympic games....Most of us sit at home or at our favorite viewing spot, shouting for our athletes of choice. We yell at the judges when we don't agree or sing their praises when we do. Yes, everyone is judged in the Olympics -- even the judges! And, like Olympic judges, interviewers are judged as well. At the very least, they will be judged on how well a hire they chose does or does not do the job.
So, if you've ever interviewed candidates the traditional way, you can most likely appreciate the pressure that Olympic judges and interviewers both experience. I'm grateful that digital interviews can provide me and other employers with some relief -- a better, more consistent way to find the best team players and the next champions!