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How to Conduct Effective Interviews

In this step, Daniel Vacassin discusses the importance of conducting structured interviews. He also describes how the move to online can potentially impact the validity of the assessment and the candidate experience.

In this step, Daniel Vacassin discusses the importance of conducting structured interviews. He also describes how the move to online can potentially impact the validity of the assessment and the candidate experience.

Dan Daniel Vacassin is an occupational psychologist and founding Director of management consultancy Indigogold.

How do we ensure the interviews are designed to make sure that we can compare candidates?

Well, first of all, I think it’s important that you structure interviews. In structured interviews, the questions that are asked are consistent so each candidate is asked the same thing. The questions themselves are also based on an analysis of the job. So you analyse the job and the skills and experience that might be important for someone to perform well in it. And then you ask questions that will give you some information around those particular criteria.

The interviewer takes detailed notes through the interview in a structured interview process. And then when they evaluate the interview in a structured way. There may be a scoring system about certain answers and they aggregate that score to give an overall sense of how the candidates performed on the interview.

Interview structuring is important for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s a better way of predicting job performance. If we look at data that looks at what we call the predictive validity of structured interviews and unstructured interviews, it’s very clear from a number of meta-analyses that structured interviewing is much higher in terms of its predictive validity than non-structured interviews. And so performance in a structured interview will give you a much better prediction of performance in an unstructured conversation.
  2. It’s replicable and consistent. Replicability and consistency are important because it makes the interview process fairer and less open to bias. If what you’re doing is having an unstructured conversation with someone, you’re following your instinct, you’re allowing your unconscious processes, some of which are biassed, to inform, not only how you conduct the interview, but also how you evaluate the person’s performance in the interview. That might feel quite comfortable because it’s conversational, but you might be doing two things. One is you might be being unfair in the process and opening yourself up to bias. And the second is, you might be doing a less good job of predicting performance when that person is actually enrolled.

So, how does moving the interview online change the picture?

I think the short answer to that question is, in some ways very little. You could argue that the interaction is different in the sense that the bits that happen before the meeting, and after the meeting, that short walk from the lift or the reception into the meeting room, is not there. And many people would argue you learn important things about people in those processes. But I think that in many ways, those parts of an interview are also parts of the process that are the least structured, so for many people, I think they would argue that moving the interview online perhaps means that they are fairer, it perhaps means that it forces you to structure things a bit. And that’s a good thing.

I think the question around online interviews is really about people’s levels of comfortability, with the technology itself. So ONS data suggests that 50% of adults make calls over the internet on a relatively regular basis. Now that data is from 2018. And I suspect that that number is much higher now we’ve been through the lockdown process, but it still tells us that there were half of the population that is not used to making internet calls.

And the mode through which the interview is conducted might create some nervousness. People might be as preoccupied about the fact that they are having a conversation, regardless of the fact that it’s an interview online, than they would be about the contents of what they’re saying. I think it probably means that interviewers have to cut themselves and the interviewee some slack, concentrate on the content of what’s being said, rather than on things that are less tangible, like rapport. I also think that structuring the process is helpful. It gives the interviewer a sense of what’s coming, and also the interviewee.

Finally what can we do to boost confidence on both sides?

The first thing is that structure helps. For interviewers, knowing what’s coming is important and builds confidence from the interviewer’s point of view. They know what they’re going to be doing, and critically, why. What questions am I going to ask and why those questions are important. Explaining that structure to the candidate and letting people know up front that it’s going to be more structured and less conversational helps. That idea of managing expectations up front, I know what’s coming, I think boosts confidence, both ways round.

There’s also a helpful piece of input that the interviewer or the interviewing company can give, and that is some generic hints and tips that you may send in advance to the interviewee that says, if you’re interviewing online, what sort of things might you consider, especially for that 50% of people who are less used to video based conversations. Simple things like ensure you find a quiet space, ensure you have a stable connection, ensure you test the audio and visuals in advance, perhaps give some guidance on what appropriate dress might be. Those small things that are perhaps not part of the interview itself, but will allow the interviewee to feel comfortable in the context and therefore you give their best when they’re in the conversation itself.

Over to you

Think about your own experience of structured interviews. You may have experienced this as a candidate and as an interviewer.
  • If you are an interviewer, how did you prepare?
  • As an interviewer, did this approach reveal anything about the potential performance of the candidate?
  • How might the move to online change the process or outcome of a structured interview?
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