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Staffing Advisors Blog

Is This the End of In-Person Interviews with Executive Search Firms?

Posted by Bob Corlett on April 14, 2020

In-person interviews with executive search consultants are suddenly out of step with the times, but they have been out of step with the research for far longer. Years of research illustrates why this type of interviewing is far more likely to introduce bias than to predict success on the job. (See The Case for Evidence-Based InterviewingTM.)

The public health earthquake left behind a digital divide between people who can do their work remotely and others who cannot. We’re seeing massive unemployment rates for people who need to be somewhere specific to work, and a far smaller employment impact on people who can work from home. It’s likely to be a year or more until we can all go to our offices without periodic disruptions. Consequently, a digital divide is slicing through employers in the workplace--if you can achieve your mission with a predominantly remote workforce, you are far better positioned than a restaurant or retailer who cannot. But it's not always a binary choice. What about business models that blend location-dependent work with virtual work?

Executive search firms are only one example, but a familiar one to both candidates and the client organizations who engage them. The finding of candidates (sourcing and recruiting) has been almost effortlessly virtual for decades. But the interviewing process has remained stubbornly location-dependent for most search firms. Until a month ago, most executive search firms proudly continued a clubby tradition of interviewing candidates face-to-face in posh, expensive offices. This (flawed) approach has deep roots in the industry. And despite mountains of emerging research that the practice is counterproductive, the clients of search firms mostly accepted it as an integral part of the service. (Hint: it's not.) And while employers accepted it, I suspect very few candidates will mourn the end of face-to-face interviewing with search firms. They are notoriously difficult to schedule, rarely enlightening, and can occasionally lapse into the truly superficial.

Of course, face-to-face interviewing during a pandemic is next to impossible to deliver. So search firms who relied on it must reexamine that part of their service offering. Ideally, this change would entail moving away from relying on the personal opinion of the search consultant, and migrating to a more evidence-based approach to interviewing. To place their search firms on a stronger virtual foundation, the value of an in-person interview must be delivered in other ways, and there are far more effective approaches. Organizations with deeper expertise in remote work will simply be more effective now. But that sort of business model innovation is incredibly difficult work in the best of times.

As someone who has spent the better part of two decades reinventing the business model for executive search, I do not envy those who are just beginning the journey. It's difficult to challenge the conventional wisdom in any field of endeavor. It is supremely difficult to rethink the entire basis for how you create value for your clients, and then go on to hire the people, build the process, and implement the technology to support it.

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Video Interviewing Tips

Posted by Brooke Lockhart on March 24, 2020

During this time of social distancing, our clients are conducting video interviews instead of meeting candidates in-person. So here are a few tips for a productive video interview.

If you are an employer scheduling the interview, we recommend planning an extra 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the call to test technology and work out any kinks. You might also want to offer alternate times (i.e., after your kids are asleep).

For candidates, best practices include:

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5 Cognitive Biases That Get in the Way of Hiring

Posted by Mitch Corlett on April 26, 2018

When interviewing candidates for your open job, beware of these 5 nearly universal cognitive biases that may lead you to overestimate someone’s ability to do the job.

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Avoiding GroupThink in the Hiring Process

Posted by Bob Corlett on October 14, 2017

It's common to include a large number of people in a hiring decision. When handled properly, you can reduce your risk of making a hiring mistake by getting valuable input from a variety of perspectives. But when your hiring process is not organized properly, you will only be wasting everyone's time by including more people.

One of the most common dangers in the hiring process is "groupthink" -- where the opinion of one vocal (often powerful) interviewer dominates the narrative about a candidate. When the vocal participant expresses an opinion, everyone with a less firmly-held opinion usually agrees. (The research on groupthink is quite compelling: check out How Certainty Transforms Persuasion in the Harvard Business Review.) 

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The Executive Search and Hiring Process

Posted by Bob Corlett on October 7, 2017

As it turns out, creating the perfect hiring process is fairly difficult. Who knew? Since 2007, we've been on a quest to bring you the most useful tools for every kind of hiring situation, and for every stage of the hiring process (including virtual interviews).

In other posts, we've examined the evolution of the executive search industry, and what services a modern search firm should offer. 

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How to Conduct a Job Interview So Top Performers Actually Want to Take Your Job

Posted by Bob Corlett on October 1, 2017

Whether you are the CEO or a newly promoted manager, the majority of your interview training (if you received any) was probably from legal counsel. Congratulations. Now you know a dozen questions you are not allowed to ask. But how should you conduct the job interview (beyond dodging legal trouble), so that you can be confident you are hiring the best possible candidate for the job?

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The Outsized Effect of Reputation in Hiring

Posted by Bob Corlett on September 14, 2016

Your organization's reputation in hiring not only affects who you can recruit, but also the level of compensation you must offer to land your top candidate. (Highly reputable organizations can typically offer lower salaries.) And for job seekers, the reputation of their current organization is a significant factor in how future employers perceive them.

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Is that Rock Star Employee Getting Credit for Other People's Work?

Posted by Bob Corlett on July 28, 2016

Hiring requires you to make decisions about people you don’t know particularly well. But people-evaluation is prone to pitfalls. Although most people trust their own assessments of candidates, extensive research shows that we’re just not that good at it. We give too much credit to the individual and not enough credit to the work environment. (Pro tip: If you want to get better at hiring, you need to learn from your mistakes and stop blaming the candidate. Most people don’t understand all the factors that led to their success. Every time you hire someone and they disappoint you later, you just might have missed something in the hiring process.)

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5 Simple Ways to Lower Hiring Risk and Hire Better People

Posted by Bob Corlett on June 21, 2016


The hiring process seems familiar to most managers. Everyone has been through the process. It seems like hiring should be simple---everyone involved wants the same thing. Executives want to hire the best people. Candidates want a job where they can be successful. Everyone wants a recruiting process that accurately predicts performance on the job...and yet hiring is often disappointing.

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Shifting Blame And Ducking Hiring Risk

Posted by Bob Corlett on October 29, 2015

Hiring is the single riskiest responsibility for most managers. Like the Kobayashi Maru, hiring appears to be a no-win scenario – the perfect storm of problematic job responsibilities:

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