What’s your Candidate Evaluation Style?  American Idol or The Voice?

The regular and frequent promotion of The Voice during Sunday’s Super Bowl made me think about the process of candidate interviewing and evaluation in the hiring world.  And, without too great a reach, I think several parallels can drawn between these talent competitions and employee hiring.

In the event you have been living in some remote corner of the globe without television, internet and/or smartphone and have not heard of The Voice or its biggest competitor American Idol, here’s the casual viewer's take on what they are about.  They are basically amateur singing talent competitions where relative unknowns are offered their shot at stardom from a panel of fairly well-known, successful-in-their-own-right, stars from the music industry.

American Idol holds open auditions across the country, guaranteeing some cringe-inducing moments when the clearly untalented are allowed to grace the stage.  The Voice offers its auditions by invitation only, ostensibly to ensure only talented (some marginally) performers make it to broadcast.  But that’s not the only significant difference between the two shows.

American Idol contestants demonstrate their skills in full view of the celebrity judges where their appearance, posture, and body language can be evaluated in addition to their singing skills.  The judges of The Voice, on the other hand, have their backs turned to the performers while seated in state-of-the-art, Captain Kirk style chairs.  When a judge hears a performance worthy of a look at the performer, he or she hits the red button and is spun around to gaze at the singer who might become his or her protégé.  The differences in how aspiring entertainers are presented and evaluated by the judges made me think about the differences styles of evaluating job candidates.

For some positions, such as corporate and sales executives, senior leaders, and some high-profile customer-facing jobs, an American Idol-style, in-person interview might be preferable.  The “judges” in the form of hiring managers, selected peers and the recruiter can evaluate the candidate based not only on his or her communication skills, but also on his or her non-verbal cues.  It’s rare that a candidate “performs” for all the judges at once, but it’s common for them all to compare notes afterwards and make the final, “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” decision.  Virtual interviewing technology, especially in the form of remote video interviewing, can help reduce the cost of an in-person evaluation while preserving many of the benefits of laying eyes on a candidate.

For other positions, especially those in high-volume customer service environments, such as call centers, retail, hospitality, and food service, a candidate’s communication, language and verbal skills can be more important than his or her physical appearance.  In fact, many companies fill these positions largely sight-unseen – The Voice style, if you will.  Virtual interviewing technology plays a role here, too.  Through the use of web and interactive voice response technologies, candidates can complete an interview that captures their voice, style, and communication skills.  These recordings can be shared with other stakeholders – judges to continue with the talent contest analogy – to identify the superstars from the wannabes.

As recruiters look to evaluate candidates, it's important to decide which style - American Idol or The Voice - best fits the positions to be filled. 

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