Why You Probably Suck At Interviewing


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Most of us think of interviewing as an art – and we think we’ve perfected our technique. Managers who’ve been hiring people for years think that we have improved our decision-making with time and experience. We’re confident that we make solid judgements about experience, intelligence, and values.

We’re wrong.

Research reveals a number of fallacies in the interview-as-art way of thinking. For instance:

  • There is no evidence that interviewers improve with time and experience. Inexperienced interviewers and seasoned interviewers have comparable success rates. (Gehrlein, Dipboye, & Shahani, 1993)
  • Intelligence, not conscientiousness or values, is the highest predictor of job performance. (Schmidt & Hunter, 2004)
  • The average manager does no better than random chance when hiring. (Rynes et al, 2004)

What we don’t realize is that our “art” focuses on intangibles and data points that have no bearing on success. We’re unconsciously influenced by similarity, confirmation, negative information, attractiveness, and early information biases. Without realizing it, interviewers ask leading questions to get the answers we want to hear. Just like art, our interviewing becomes subjective.

Additionally, success becomes less predictable when multiple interviewers enter the picture. Individuals contribute spotty, varied feedback. We’re inconsistent in what we ask and how we evaluate responses.

The Wharton School of Business’ answer is the structured interview. Rather than art, it proposes a logical, scientific approach. We implemented it three years ago at Jun Group, and it’s significantly improved our hiring success rate.

A structured interview takes a research-tested, analytical approach. There are four simple steps:

  1. Figure out what success looks like. Hiring managers and senior leaders collaborate on a vision for the role, and the skills someone needs to excel in that role.
  2. Identify the right questions. Once we know what we’re looking for, we develop a list of questions designed to identify those skills. Some are about experience, some about behavior, and all of the questions tie back to the profiler success we built in step one.
  3. Everyone asks the same questions: Candidates still meet with multiple members of the team, and they’re all asked the same questions. This eliminates the variance between different interviewers and ensures everyone focuses on the needs of the role.
  4. Grade the candidates and compare scores. Every interviewer rates the candidates’ answers on a numerical scale, and we complete individual write-ups with scores. The interviewers come together, compare reviews, and make decisions based on the best score.

It’s not a perfect process. It does, however, systematically reduce biases, sharpen the focus of the discussion, and align the data to ensure consistent evaluation. Since we’ve implemented the structured interview at Jun Group, we’ve reduced our involuntary turnover and seen our average retention increase significantly.

The hiring process is fraught with risk; the stakes and the costs of hiring are higher than ever—and so are the costs of mistakes. There will always be an emotional, gut-instinct component to interviewing; to the extent we can reduce it, we win.

 Image credit: CC by Matthew Hurst

About the author: Mitchell Reichgut

Mitchell Reichgut is CEO of Jun Group. “Jun” means truth. The company’s advertising platform is the honest, efficient way to get millions of people to engage with video and branded content across devices.

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