Is it time to scrap interviews?
A view from Sue Unerman

Is it time to scrap interviews?

What is the worst thing you've ever done in the office?

How would you feel if a prospective boss asked you that? How honest could you be, and would you expect to be offered the job as a result?

And what is the point to such a question?

Interviews are useless. You would never judge whether an athlete should compete in the Olympics from an interview or two. Football players don't get picked based on answers to questions about what they believe their strengths and weaknesses are. You don't cast a movie on the basis of an actor's response to where they see themselves in five years.

Yet hundreds of job interviews go on every week in our industry and decisions are made on the basis of a few hours' chat and a desultory glance at a polished CV.

The TV show Who’s The Boss? suggests letting the whole team choose a candidate via "collaborative hiring". Nice idea but not always practical.

Interview processes vary from place to place. And some questions can seem weird, irrelevant or even rude. For example: why are manhole covers round? What do you think of lava lamps? What aspect of your personality would your best friend say you needed to work on?

Interviewers can only know so much about candidates' ability from their reputation (which could have been spun and polished) and what they say they have contributed in their current role. Sometimes people who join a business turn out to be a total surprise – and not always in a good way.

Studies show interviews are worthless, Richard Nisbett writes in Wired. The correlation between an interview and long-term success is about 0.01 per cent, so you might as well print out the CVs, make paper airplanes and pick the candidate whose CV flies the furthest. Nisbett argues that a job interview is not representative of anything and employers shouldn't waste time on it.

In fact, it's worse than that. The job interview is all about the interviewer, not the candidate. If, as an employer, you leave the interview with a great impression of the candidate, it may only mean that the candidate has used the highly powerful tactic of asking you more questions than they are answering. Which means you have learnt that they are good at managing upwards but possibly not much more than that. Maybe that's what you need in the team. Or maybe you need different skills and, while the candidate may have those too, you're taking a chance if all they have done is ask you what you think.

We don't make this mistake in sport or acting because there's either a track record with proper stats or an audition of the necessary ability. Can an interviewer audition a candidate in media planning, statistical analysis, buying nous etc in the same way?

An interview represents a tiny sample of behaviour that you want and need in the office. It tends to favour extroverts (and a business built entirely on that just won't work). We don't get to systematically observe the candidate in an interview, we won't have a great enough sample for proper comparison statistically and there's a good deal of bias in how we react to people we don't know well.

So should we scrap interviews entirely? Or at least try to make them unpredictable with quirky questions?

Ask away: what is the worst thing you've ever done in the office?

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom