Do Job Interviews Measure Sight Reading?

How to Interview & Select the Right Candidate

How to Interview & Select the Right Candidate

If you don’t play music you may not know what sight reading is, as I didn’t. Seth Godin wrote a short blog post called Sight Reading, where he relates that when he was young he did not practice his music lessons. He said “I was so good at sight reading that while I was truly mediocre at the clarinet, I was way better than anyone who had never practiced had any right to be.” He thinks that “We often test sight reading skills, particularly in job interviews. In that highly-charged encounter, we test the applicant’s ability to think on her feet.” This made me wonder does interviewing measure sight reading?

Given that over 30 years of HR, with heavy recruitment experience, I have interviewed thousands of applicants. I have also been certified in interview training. So I have sliced and diced the job interview and hiring process. I interview people based upon the skills sets needed for the job. I have particular questions that are generally predetermined prior to the interview. I like to think that I do make someone think on their feet because they are not prepared for my questions. But at the same time I think I can make a determination on whether a skill set exists or not. As a result I can determine if someone is “sight reading.”

Job Seekers Are Trained to Perform During the Interview & Hiring Process

But without that experience, without training in interviewing, an applicant that can “sight read”, that thinks well on their feet, can often convince an inexperienced interviewer that they are the proper candidate. It is important to remember that candidates that have been in the job search for any period of time often have more experience in the interview process. They have practiced their answers and they may be more comfortable in the process. So to keep the applicant from getting the upper hand in the interview process it is important to train your managers.

As Godin says measuring someone’s ability to think on their feet is good, as long as that is something you need for the job, otherwise it is irrelevant. So teach your managers to interview properly, legally and effectively.  (Read his post on Sight Reading.)


Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, writer, speaker and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc.  He has been in the field of HR for 30 years as both practitioner and consultant. He specializes in compliance issues for his small business clients. He is the author of the blog HR Observations which can be found at and he has been writing blog posts on a full spectrum of HR topics for almost seven years. He is an active user of Twitter and can be found at @mikehaberman or @HRComplianceGuy. He has been an instructor in HR for 14 years and has helped many people achieve their PHR or SPHR during that time.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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