The Bagg Group on how to interview amid digital distractions


It’s not easy to focus in a world where we are bombarded by demands for our attention. And it’s not going to get better.

Consider this: Between 2003 and 2010, the world created five exabytes of digital data every two days. One exabyte equals one billion gigabytes.

By next year, we will produce five exabytes every 10 minutes. That’s according to this year’s New York Times bestseller, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kottler.

More and more, companies now are thinking not only about how to attract and retain talent, but also how to keep the attention of talent focused on tasks – amid the daily assault on our already info overloaded brains.

Coming to the rescue are books such as Sleeping with your Smartphone? by Leslie Perlow. The Harvard professor took on the Herculean task of designing a detox program for the manager’s common addiction – not coffee, but round-the-clock email, texting, etc.

No one is immune to the addiction, not even hiring managers. According to neuroscientists, the reason we find it hard to resist the ping of an email — even when conducting an interview — is chemical. Science shows we get a small surge of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with pleasure, when we get a text or email.

But with a high comes a low. Studies show our decision-making can be compromised as a result of our impulse to react every time an email drops into our box. The train of thought we had going before the interruption is derailed, and an instant response may not be as thoughtful as it could be.

Still, there’s no turning back the clock on technology. But professor Perlow suggests that one way to adapt to the fact that the world now expects quick replies is to have colleagues collaborate more – and spell each other off.

Her study, using management consultants, found that team-tagging worked for clients (with a reported satisfaction rate of 95%), and for staff. How it works is when one person has a meeting or needs a time-out, a colleague monitors their calls and inbox.

About 54% of the consulting staff reported being happier with their work/life balance (up from 38%) thanks to team-tagging. As well, 58%, up from 40%, said they were more likely to stay with the firm.

At The Bagg Group, our expert recruiters spend much of their time meeting with clients and interviewing candidates.

We recognize that it’s vital to give both clients and the candidates our undivided attention so that we can offer the right solution, and make the right match. It’s how we’ve placed more than 58,000 people successfully in full-time positions, contract work and part-time placements over the decades.

Of course, there are times when everyone has to take an urgent call or respond to an email. But experts at The Bagg Group offer these tried-and-true tips to decrease interruptions, or the impact of them, during interviews.

  • If you know you’ll have to take a call or respond to an email, let the candidate know at the start of the interview. If you prepare the interviewee, you avoid having candidates imagine that you’re interrupting the session because you’ve lost interest in them.
    When we feel someone is no longer committed to interviewing us, typically we either respond by detaching as well, or upping the game to try to regain favour. Either way, this can colour the exchange and move you away from getting a genuine sense of the candidate.
  • Role modelling starts in an interview: Just as you get a first impression of the candidate, the candidate gets a first impression of your corporate culture at the interview. A hiring manager who is so digitally tuned that they can’t stay focused on a person sitting in front of them can subtlety portray an organization that doesn’t put its people first. It can be the subtle messages that can be hardest to shake.
  • Best practices that work: If you forward your calls to colleagues while conducting interviews you can relax knowing someone will alert you to an urgent call, or it will be handled. And/or update your voice messages to let people know the time your meetings will end. This way, so you don’t have to conduct your interviews while anxious that key people may be calling and will be growing more irritated with every minute that you don’t call back.

Our digital interactions may continue to increase rapidly, but the more things change, the more some things stay the same –like the need to connect face-to-face without being “pinged” every two minutes.

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