Bringing Theatre Into Recruitment

Day 2 of the Human Resources Summit & Expo Hong Kong proved to be an exciting and thought-provoking event. I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Norton (Senior Executive Coach, StarMaker) and Sam Bobertz (Trainer & Consultant, StarMaker) discuss the ways in which they coach the medium of theatre as an alternative method for recruitment.

They explained how whilst the traditional interview does have its merits, it is very outdated and is an unreliable way to determine the best candidate. According to the duo, interviews are largely ineffective due to candidates twisting the truth and saying what interviewers want to hear. In fact, a study by the University of Massachusetts found that 81% of people outright lie in interviews.

Setting the Stage

With this in mind, Teresa and Sam have suggested using improvisational games that take you back to school drama class: role play, story telling, and musical chairs to name a few. They explain how these kind of spontaneous activities force candidates to think on their feet, thereby showing their true colours. Are you looking for someone who takes initiative, is a cooperative team member, is a good listener and has an open mind? The use of theatre can help you see candidates display these types of traits in action, giving you a peace of mind that the candidate really is who they say they are.

Teresa and Sam further criticised interviews based on how they are inherently biased toward candidates’ appearances – It’s human nature to judge people based on first impressions. For example, a University of St Andrews study found that people with tattoos have a lower chance of being hired due to negative and taboo perceptions. The same goes for piercings, which a Utah State University study suggests reduce both the credibility and hirability of candidates.

Tackling Recruitment Biases

To tackle this appearance bias in the recruitment process, the StarMaker team made a case for throwing out conventional face-to-face interviews, and instead bringing in blind ‘auditions’. Much like the TV show ‘The Voice’, they suggested candidates be hidden from sight behind a curtain, and for the room to be carpeted to prevent interviewers from hearing whether a candidate is wearing high heels. Additionally, they argued that an audition style interview panel who are prevented from deliberating until they have scored each candidate allows for more informed decisions through reducing social desirability bias.

I think that the StarMaker team made an excellent case for bringing theatre into a recruitment strategy. It undoubtedly allows for organisations to make more informed and less biased decisions based on the true colours of candidates, regardless of appearances. However, I believe that having blind interviews may not be appropriate for all industries or positions, particularly customer facing roles where at the end of the day, appearances do matter.

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