How to conduct a more effective interview?

In practice, some employers are quite successful without structured interviews. For example, the Container Store (which often tops the lists of best employers to work for) requires each applicant to have two to three screening interviews, each of which lasts two to three hours. As one Container Store human resource manager puts it they are often more like non interview discussions, so that our interviews do not put people off guard. They put people at ease.

You may not have the time or inclination to create actual structured situational interviews. However, there is still a lot you can do to make your interviews more effective. Suggestions include:

Structure your interview: There are several things you can do to help the interviewer ask more consistent and job relevant questions, without actually creating a structured situational interview. They include:

1. Base questions on actual job duties. This will minimize irrelevant questions. It may also reduce the likelihood of bias, because there’s less opportunity to read things into the answer.
2. Use job knowledge situational or behavioral questions, and objective criteria to evaluate the interviewee’s responses. Questions that simply ask for opinions and attitudes, goals and aspirations and self descriptions and self evaluation allow candidates to present themselves in an overly favorable manner or avoid revealing weakness. Structured interview questions can reduce subjectivity and therefore the chance for inaccurate conclusions and bias.
3. Train interviewers: It is necessary to train interviewers so that they can ask relevant questions to elicit the required information. Interviewer training is also done to ensure legal compliance and avoid potentially embarrassing situations.
4. Use the same questions with all candidates. When it comes to asking questions, the prescription seems to be the more standardized the better. Using the same questions with all candidates improves reliability and can also reduce bias because of the obvious fairness of giving all the candidates the exact same opportunity.
5. Use descriptive rating scales (excellent, fair, poor) to rate answers. For each question, if possible, provide several possible ideal answers and a score for each. Then you can rate each candidate’s answer against this scale. This ensures that all interviewers are using the same standards.
6. Use multiple interviewers or panel interviewers. Doing so can reduce bias by diminishing the importance of one interviewer’s idiosyncratic opinions, and by bringing in more points of view.
7. If possible, use a standardized interview from. Interviews based on structured guides like the one usually result in better interviews.
8. Control the interview: Techniques here include, limit the interviewers’ follow up questions (to ensure all interviewees get the same questions), use a larger number of questions, and prohibit questions from candidates until after the interview.
9. Take brief, unobtrusive notes during the interview. Doing so may help overcome the recency effect (putting too much weight on last few minutes of the interview). It may also help avoid making a snap decision based on inadequate information early in the interview, and may also help jog your memory once the interview is complete. (A study did confirm that note taking helped interviewers recall the interviewee’s behavior. However, at least in this study those who did take notes were no more accurate in sizing up interviewees than those who did not. The bottom line seems to be take notes, but not copious ones, instead noting just the key points of what the interviewee says).

Does it make sense for employers to ask applicants about their extracurricular activities? In one study, researchers had 618 college students complete online surveys assessing their extracurricular activities. The researchers then had the students participate in an assessment center. Here they evaluated the students in terms of four dimensions — communication, initiative, decisions making and teamwork. The results revealed that extracurricular activities are significantly associated with each of the four interpersonal skill dimensions.

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