Research going as far back as 1998 reveals that ‘unstructured interviews’ are a pretty poor indicator of how a candidate will subsequently perform in a job role. Indeed, the analysis by Frank Schmidt and John Hunter,’ put unstructured interviews ninth out of nineteen in a list of the employee selection methods that are the best and worst as predictors of job performance. Work sample and general mental agility tests were the top two indicators; with structured interviews coming third.
Most companies use a combination of selection methods, of course, but almost all view the interview as a key element in deciding which candidate to appoint. However, many of the job interviews that take place are effectively unstructured; with the person conducting them spending little time preparing, thinking about the questions that will be asked or working out the criteria for assessment.
Here are five ideas of how to improve the effectiveness of candidate interviews:
- Used structured interviews. This means that the questions that will be asked and judgement criteria are clear and aligned to job requirements or the competencies the person needs to have. Make sure all people conducting the interviews are trained in the approach and that templates are used to consistently record and score answers. This way there will be consistency between interviewers.
- By all means use job competencies to assess the candidate against, but take care not to go too far. For example, I was part of an interview panel making an appointment to a senior role in the UK public sector. The process judged candidates against 15 job competencies. The task became a confusing paper filling exercise. So, keep competencies simple and precise and only use those that are important for the role. The competencies for a first line leader role might be: leadership, teamwork, decision making, communication and self-management.
- Behavioural and situational questions tend to work best. Behavioural questions are those that seek to bring out evidence based on past experience that show how the candidate will perform in the job role. For example, ‘tell me about a time you have had to meet a tight deadline to produce high quality work. How did you plan the tasks and what would you do differently next time?’ Situational questions put the candidate into a hypothetical situation in a future role; for example, ‘what would you do if your project is behind deadline and is in danger of not meeting client requirements?’
- Don’t judge a candidate on the first few minutes of the meeting; make a judgement only when the whole interview process is complete. We have all come across interviewers who say have that their ‘gut feel is always right’ or ‘they knew the moment the person walked in the door what their view was.’ However, the research shows that people who approach interviews in this way spend most of the time looking for and prioritising evidence that confirms their initial judgement.
- Don’t forget to test for ‘cultural fit.’ The candidate might look ideal from their skills and experience but there will be trouble ahead if they struggle to work in the corporate culture. In ‘Work Rules,’ Laszlo Bock (Senior Vice President of People Operations) says that Google test for attributes like ‘enjoying fun, being comfortable with ambiguity and courageousness.’ If the company has strong values in the work place, it’s really important to find out if they align with the values the candidate has.