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Soup-er weird: Why strange job interview tasks live on, and how hiring Ai fixes them

BY Team PredictiveHire

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It is widely thought that Thomas Edison invented the concept of the job interview back in the early 1900s. To screen candidates, he would ask them to join him at a restaurant and eat a bowl of soup while he watched. He could pick out the losing candidates by their tendency to season their soup before eating it. According to Edison, premature salt-and-peppering speaks to a person’s over-reliance on assumptions. If you’re a true visionary, he posited, you leap into your soup face-first.

The soup test is definitely out there. And, given what we now know about psychology and candidate experience, it is not, strictly speaking, scientifically valid. But this exercise was first tested more than 100 years ago, so maybe we can forgive Edison for filling the holes in his data with social experiments. 

Funnily enough, though, things haven’t changed much since Edison souped up his hiring game. Initial face-to-face job interviews remain the predominant tool of hiring managers. There are benefits to in-person interviews, but the deficits certainly outweigh the benefits. Simply put, the practice is infused with all manner of biases, unfairnesses, inefficiencies, and oddities. In the early 1900s, we had soup – now we have inscrutable corporate-isms, and bizarre group tasks with arbitrary scoring criteria.

We’re naming names: The ‘pen-drop’ test

Let’s say you’re looking to fill a position where quick thinking and adaptability are the two most important skills. You want your candidates to think fast, and think smart, especially when faced with sudden adversity. How do you find these people?

There is no perfect answer. People are people, after all. But there are far better ways to find out than dropping a pen in the middle of an interview to see whether or not a candidate picks it up for you. The ‘pen-drop’ test assumes that the quickest candidates are the most adaptable, and are the highest in empathy. But we have more reliable predictors for these, predictors subject to far fewer variables. The quickest pen picker-upper on a given day may not be the best lateral thinker, or the most open – they may have merely been the shortest candidate, or the most flexible candidate, or the candidate closest to the pen. Because you don’t have a control, or any way to account for variables such as these, can you really trust the findings?

Yes, the pen-drop test is an extreme example of a screening exercise that is only tenuously related to its desired outcome. But we have all, at some point in our working lives, participated in strange tasks and odd jobs during interviews. The greater point is this: Even the best-planned exercises are not a viable substitute for sound scientific measurement. 

The fairest way to conduct job interviews AND get candidate data you can trust

The HEXACO personality inventory has at least three major dimensions relating to the test of a quick-thinking, empathic person: Extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. If you can assess a candidate using the HEXACO inventory, you might learn that the candidate is:

  1. High in trait extraversion, which makes them more likely to take the lead in social situations, and interpret social cues
  2. Low in trait conscientiousness, which makes them more likely to go with the flow, and adapt to unexpected situations
  3. High in trait agreeableness, which suggests they are more ‘willing to compromise and cooperate with others’.

And that’s only the start of what you might learn. By using an Ai-based recruitment or hiring tool, with a HEXACO personality modelling function, you have a simple, trustworthy, accurate, and fair way to sort your quick thinkers from your leaders, your leaders from your long-term planners, and so on. 

That’s the essence of what a smart interviewer can do, and why we developed the world’s first smart interviewer. You no longer need to think up some strange post-interview exercise where you pull unsuspecting candidates into an impromptu indoor hockey game. You can simply:

  • Entrust your first interviews to Phai, our quick-learning Ai smart interviewer
  • Receive a full report on each candidate, including their responses and where they sit on the HEXACO personality scale
  • Instantly match candidates against the values you desire most (for example, ‘quick-thinking’ or ‘adaptable’.)

(We’re not the fun police, of course. If your approach to offering first-rate candidate experience involves a blind-folded three-legged race, count us in. Just make sure you have a smart interview waiting at the finish line. Fun, then statistical validity. Best of both worlds.)

We all want a world filled with better, fairer, simpler interviews. How will you go about it? Data, or gut-feel? Soup, or science?

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