Employers, like most people, tend to trust their intuitions. But when employers decide whom to hire, they trust those intuitions far more than they should....The headline way overstates the point in the text, which compares "unstructured interviews" with "specific aptitude tests." But Sunstein enthusiastically presents research that is skeptical of human intuition and sanguine about the objectivity of tests. And he doesn't give any sign of noticing any complexity in the idea of what it means to "succeed."
A lot of evidence suggests that... employers will stubbornly trust their intuitions -- and are badly mistaken to do so. Specific aptitude tests turn out to be highly predictive of performance in sales, and general intelligence tests are almost as good. Interviews are far less useful at telling you who will succeed.
What’s true for sales positions is also true more generally. Unstructured interviews have been found to have surprisingly little value in a variety of areas. For medical school interviews, for example, they appear to have no predictive power at all: in terms of academic or clinical performance, those accepted on the basis of interviews do no better than those who are rejected. In law schools, my own experience is that faculties emphasize how aspiring law professors do in one-on-one interviews -- which usually provide no information at all about how they will do as teachers or researchers....
In fact, some evidence suggests that interviews are far worse than wasteful: By drawing employers' attention to irrelevant information, they can produce inferior decisions. For example, people make better predictions about student performance if they are given access to objective background information, such as grades and test scores -- and prevented from conducting interviews entirely....
Where do we stand these days on the subject of "objective" tests? I've seen them disparaged over the years. Is liberal opinion turning in favor of these these tests? I remember, circa 1990, hearing a very famous law professor denounce the LSAT as evidence of absolutely nothing. I suggested that the LSAT was at least useful in giving those who'd squandered or botched their college education* a chance to show what they're capable of doing now, and she fiercely stood her ground. The LSAT has no value other than its negative value as a vector of discrimination.
But perhaps objective-test meritocracy is on the upswing. I wonder why. What's in the air these days? And can the air be objectively tested?
* I was thinking of myself. I arrived at college in 1969 with a headful of ideas from Bob Dylan, the hippie movement, "The Way of Zen," and the Sermon on the Mount. I exited college with a BFA and a major in painting. But after 5 more years of youthful foolery, I had nailed a 99th percentile on the LSAT. Didn't that mean something? Or was I an inappropriate interloper? A third of a century later, I believe I was.