The “pointing and calling” method is a safety protocol used by the Japanese railway system to reduce the risk of human error and ensure the trains operate safely.
The method involves train drivers and station staff verbally confirming the position of signals, doors, and other critical components before departure. This helps to ensure that everyone is aware of the train’s status and prevents accidents caused by miscommunication. The “pointing and calling” method is recognized widely as a key factor in the Japanese railway system’s high level of safety and efficiency, influencing other countries and industries to adopt the method.
Here is an example of how the method looks like in practice:
- A train driver approaches a signal and stops the train.
- The driver physically points to the signal and confirms its status with the conductor or other train personnel.
- The conductor or other personnel affirms the signal status by repeating it back to the driver and physically pointing to the signal.
- The driver then acknowledges the confirmation and continues with the next step, which could be opening or closing doors, checking the train’s brakes, etc.
How Is the “Pointing and Calling” Method Related to Job Interviews?
In an interview, our “safety hazards” are our unconscious biases that often cause us to make inaccurate and unfair decisions.
There are many unrelated factors, conscious and unconscious, that affect our judgments during an interview, such as our mood, the time of day (there is a research by Dan Simon from the University of Southern California showing that supreme court judges give harsher verdicts before they go on a lunch break!), our energy level, irrelevant information mentioned by the candidate, and many more.
Utilizing “Pointing and Calling” in Interviews
Here is how you can use the “pointing and calling” method in an interview context. If you are interviewing by yourself, you can “point and call” yourself by taking mental and written notes. If you are interviewing with others, you can “point and call” each other.
Acknowledge your state and ask yourself:
- What is my mood? (Am I happier/sadder/more agitated than usual?)
- Is there a physical trigger affecting my concentration? (am I tired? hungry?)
In most cases, you won’t be able to reschedule an interview because you are tired or hungry, but what you can do is acknowledge you are not at your best and that this can affect your judgment. This will immediately make you more alert to these possible effects.
In addition to acknowledging your mental and physical state, ask yourself questions about your pre-conceptions of the candidate:
- Am I coming into the interview with a firm opinion about the candidate?
- Am I really open to changing my mind about the candidate or am I just looking to confirm my current observations?
If you are coming to the interview with established opinions about the candidate, make sure you write them down and collect both confirming and refuting information.
During the interview itself, there might be different triggers for bias to creep in. Ask yourself:
- What is my first impression with the candidate? First impressions tend to stick with us and have a disproportionate effect on our final decision. Make sure you write down your first impression with the candidate during the interview’s first three minutes. At the end of the interview, check your notes to see if you were able to change, refine, or adjust your impression of the candidate based on the additional information you collected during the interview. We do not recommend sharing your first impression with your co-interviewers in order not to bias them.
- What is the similarity level between me and the candidate? We tend to like and hire people who are similar to us. Pointing to yourself that you like a candidate because they remind you of yourself can help you manage your feelings and assign less weight to them.
- Am I affected by my co-interviewers? While interviewing together, interviewers tend to share their impression of the candidate (either verbally or non-verbally by eye rolling, kicking each other under the table, smiling etc.).
When the interview is completed, it is usually the time for you to decide whether to move forward with the candidate. Ask yourself:
- Am I integrating all of the info I acquired during the interview to make an informed decision or am I deciding based on my gut?
- Is there a specific skill or impression I assigned more weight to than I should? For instance, I might appreciate highly articulate people, but it is not a must-have skill for the position I am interviewing this candidate for.
- Am I affected by my co-interviewers? When interviewing with others it is common to exchange impressions with other interviewers as soon as the interview ends. This often results in groupthink and in biasing each other. It is important to have a discussion to reach a common decision, but this should be based on each interviewer’s individual and independent recommendation which they wrote down beforehand.
By adopting even one of these “pointing and calling” techniques you will improve the accuracy and fairness of your decisions during an interview.
Shiran is an IO psychologist with an expertise in employee selection and a PhD in people analytics. Informed Decisions is her 2nd HR-Tech startup focused on tracking and disrupting bias for better, more equitable, hiring decisions. She is highly passionate about creating work environments where people decisions are made based on data. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Shiran is devoting her career to building teams, products, and supporting companies to make data-driven talent decisions. She also serves as an advisor for other HR-Tech startups.
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