Why Structured is Better When It Comes to Interviews

By Plum

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Interview Assessment Tools and Psychometric Tests can Provide the Structure You Need to Eliminate Bias and Risk


Interviews are a necessary part of the hiring process, and provide a vital human, face-to-face portion of the hiring process that previous steps (like resume screening) simply lack.

But trying to determine how you’ll gauge on-the-job performance in a one hour time slot can be frustrating. Not to mention playing that classic guessing game what criteria will other people on the hiring team use to determine who they pass on and who they hire?

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Making sure you’re aligned with the rest of the hiring team becomes increasingly difficult as your team grows and different managers become involved in the hiring process. And a lot of hiring managers treat interviewing like an art with time, they have the experience and judgement (a “gut feel” if you will) that leads them to select the right candidate. When in reality, the art of the interview process is a science.

During the interview, more often than not, different candidates are asked different questions, and very few notes are taken. What’s more, bias is everywhere, and we often don’t even notice that it slipped in. This is called confirmation bias, and studies around confirmation bias found that the outcome of an interview could be predicted by judgements made within the first 10 seconds of interaction. Basically, hiring managers may subconsciously make snap judgements of a candidate right off the bat, and spend the rest of their time together seeking new information to confirm this impression. With no structured set of questions and minimal note-taking, confirmation bias can only escalate.

Not only do unstructured interviews perpetuate bias, but they’re just plain unpredictive. The research definitively proves that unstructured interviews do not provide the best results in selecting the candidate that is right for the job. Questions are not consistent across candidates and can change given how the conversation flows with different people, making it harder to draw comparisons.

Structured interviews  and, more specifically, structured interviews that focus on talents, rather than skills and knowledge  are simply better. Here’s why:

  1. They’re more objective. Each candidate is asked the same questions based on what is required for the role. This provides candidates with the equal opportunity to showcase their abilities. If there are several managers involved in the interview process, then each manager’s detailed notes help to reach agreement in who to select.
  2. They’re more predictive. Research shows that structured interviews are up to twice as effective at predicting job performance than unstructured ones. Especially with talent-based structured interviews, the questions more accurately draw out the behaviors needed on the job and the candidate’s responses indicate how they will perform once in the role.
  3. They’re more legally compliant. Ok, this one is less exciting, but you can get in a lot of trouble for hiring someone for reasons other than proving future on-the-job success in other words, hiring based on confirmation bias. 100% of legal challenges against structured interviews were successfully defended. That’s because the courts looked at the consistency of the interview across applicants, the job relatedness of the questions, and the extent that the interview was designed to be objective.

Talent-focused structured interviews shine a light on a candidate’s innate abilities such as teamwork, embracing diversity, leadership, and adaptation. If you’re attempting to gauge a candidate’s execution ability, for instance, a good structured interview question would be “Describe a time when you had to go above and beyond what is expected of you to complete a project or task” or “Has there been a time when you did something that you thought was not your best work?” “Where did you go to school” or “what kind of sports do you play” do not correlate to talents, and open up the door again for bias. Asking talent-based questions, and ensuring that you follow a consistent rating system (i.e. ranking each response on a scale of 1 to 3) as well as taking detailed notes, will keep your structured interview predictive and objective.

When trying to identify the right candidate for the role, structured interviews allow for a level playing field, help reduce bias, and are just overall less of a legal risk to your organization. And if your team develops a competency model and gives candidates the opportunity to complete a psychometric assessment at the top of your hiring funnel, then you have the data you need to seamlessly select structured talent interview questions that are job relevant and thus, more predictive, objective, and legally compliant.