Everyone knows the drill: A potential employer brings in candidates and peppers them with questions about their lives. These interviews often go a long way toward determining who gets hired, but the problem is, they're not just a waste of time—they may actually do more harm than good, writes a Yale professor in the New York Times. Jason Dana cites several experiments to prove his point, including one in which college students were asked to predict the GPAs of test subjects based on the subjects' previous grades, class schedule, and personal interviews. They also predicted the grades of students they didn't meet, and they fared much better with this group. In other words, the interviews actually skewed their assessments, undercutting the value of more concrete clues such as previous GPAs.
"This is a widespread problem," writes Dana. "Employers like to use free-form, unstructured interviews in an attempt to 'get to know' a job candidate," but the questions usually end up revealing more about the interviewer than the interviewee. People tend to vastly overestimate their ability to size people up for a job based on these back-and-forths. Dana acknowledges that such interviews are so common they're not going away anytime soon. The first step is for interviewers to acknowledge the limitations of such questions as predictors of job performance. Beyond that, one solution is to give candidates the same questions and to focus on job-related skills instead of idle chitchat. Click to read the full column. (Read more job interviews stories.)