Interviews are the most commonly used selection tool in the process of hiring new employees. An interview is a meeting (face-to-face, over the phone or virtual) with the candidate to ask questions in order to ascertain their suitability for the role. An interview can take a number of different forms from very structured through to the more informal and unstructured. Multiple interviews may be included in the selection process along with other selection techniques.
An interview provides the employer with the opportunity to gain additional information about the candidate about their suitability for the role through discussion regarding their knowledge, skills and experience. It also provides the opportunity for the employer to assess things not able to be assessed from a curriculum vitae or application form such as behavior, fit for the organisation and personal qualities.
An interview provides an opportunity for the candidate to gain information about the organisation and the role they have applied for.
A structured interview is one organized around specific questions and subject areas. The set questions do not vary between candidates interviewed except in response to candidate answers to the set questions (e.g. to request further information or clarification). Structured interviews are straightforward and seek information to assess the relationship between the applicant’s education, skills and experience and the job specification/description.
A structured interview will generally include an assessment or rating scale for use by the interviewers in quantifying the candidate response to the questions.
The advantage that a directive or structured interview brings is consistency. As all candidates in the process answer the same questions, it enables comparison by the interviewers of the candidates. Structured interviews are also easier to conduct for inexperienced interviewers and can be time effective in keeping to a set number of questions.
Structured interviews can be inflexible though and reduce the opportunity for interviewers to ask questions on areas which, while may not be covered by the interview, could provide invaluable information about the candidate and their ability to be successful in the role. The structured interview can be a less positive experience for the candidate too as it can appear one sided and may result in their reduced interest in the role.
Example questions for a structured interview
Unstructured interviews are largely unplanned and guided by the interviewer based on the material introduced by the interviewee. The applicant tends to do the majority of the talking in an unstructured interview.
Unstructured interviews can mean the applicant is more relaxed and open providing less guarded or prepared responses and showing more of their themselves and their personality than can be achieved during a structured interview.
Unstructured interviews do require a more experienced interviewer in order to achieve what is required out of the interview process and be able to find points of comparison between applicants. Unstructured interviews are less controlled, and it may be more difficult to extract the pertinent evidence the interviewer is looking for to address selection criteria.
Example questions for an unstructured interview
A behavioral interview is based on the competencies and behaviors required to perform the role. Questions tend to delve into specific life history events that give the interviewer insight into how the candidate would perform in the role. Candidates will be asked to give an example of a situation as they have experienced it and questions will be crafted around how the candidate responded in the situation, what the outcomes were and what they learnt from the experience.
Behavioral interviews allow the interviewer to look at the candidates past behavior as a predictor of their future behavior. The interviewer can probe the details of an example shared by the candidate. Behavioral interviews combine structured and unstructured interview techniques and allow the candidate to share examples from a variety of life experiences not just previous roles.
Behavioural interviews rely on the assumption that individuals repeat certain behaviour when faced with certain situations. An inexperienced interviewer may find it difficult to capture the pertinent points of the example the candidate shares and assess objectively.
Example questions for a behavioural interview:
Most often used in larger organisation, panel interviews involve two or more interviewers questioning one candidate. Generally, the panel will include one or more HR representative along with the supervisor or manager of the role and other key stakeholders from the team or broader organisation. It is important that panel interviews are planned well to ensure each panel member understands their role and questions can be allocated accordingly.
Panel interviews can produce more unbiased and reliable outcomes as a consensus from the panel members is required, drawing on multiple opinions rather than just one or two in a standard interview.
A more informed view of the candidate can be gained through a panel interview as panel members can observe the candidate while other panel members are questioning or writing notes.
Panel interviews can be more costly and difficult to arrange with multiple individuals to coordinate times and dates. Panel interviews can also be intimidating to the candidate who may not perform as well as in a more intimate interview situation. It can also be difficult to gain consensus amongst a larger panel and create a situation where no or multiple preferred candidates are identified by the group.
Panel interviews may use structured, unstructured or behavioural interview techniques. Examples of who might comprise a panel interview:
Group interviews are when an individual or panel interview a group of candidates for a role or a group of candidates are brought together and asked to interact while observed. More commonly used for bulk recruitment or graduate recruitment the group interview is used to identify candidates who display competencies such as leadership, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Group interviews often form part of an overall assessment centre to process multiple candidates when larger scale recruitment is required.
Group interviews can be economical and timesaving when selecting from multiple candidates and are an effective way for the interviewer to see how candidates interact with others.
Group interviews can be intimidating for less outgoing individuals and it is only suited to assessing specific interactional and interpersonal type competencies. Interviewers may overlook a strong candidate who does not operate well in such an environment.
Examples of group interview activities and tasks:
The purpose of selection criteria is to assist in making objective decisions about the most suitable candidates for a position. Well thought out and constructed selection criteria can make selection decisions transparent and justifiable.
Selection criteria assists with identifying the factors considered to be essential or desirable to successfully perform the role you are recruiting for. The development of the selection criteria should be closely linked to the job analysis and design process and the position description used in the recruitment process.
In order to develop selection criteria, you will need to ask the following questions:
Tip: When determining if knowledge or skills are essential or desirable, consideration should also be given as to whether the knowledge or skill can be easily learnt on the job. Those skills that can be easily picked up in on the job training or other development activities while still important to the role may be less critical to the selection process as it may not be necessary for the successful candidate to have the skill when they commence the role. This may widen the pool of appropriate candidates to include in the selection process.
The selection criteria can then inform which selection methods are used to identify the best candidate for the role.
DEVELOPING SELECTION CRITERIA
It is important to be clear on your selection criteria when using an external recruitment provider to ensure they understand what you are looking for from the candidates they recruit for you. While a position description is useful, it can be interpreted in different ways. A good recruiter will work with you to identify your selection criteria, so they feel confident in recruiting relevant candidates for your selection process.
The following is an example of selection criteria for a receptionist role
A key requirement of an interview is that questions must be job-related and have a legitimate purpose of discovery. This ensures that information which may cause the candidate to be discriminated against in the selection process is not sought. All questions should be relating to the selection criteria and pertain to the individual’s suitability for the role.
Referee checks are when the recruiter contacts the candidate’s previous employers and asks questions that will assist in determining whether they are the right person for the role based on their performance in previous roles.
Some skepticism exists to the value of reference checks as candidates are able to supply the contacts of previous managers, employers or peers who are most likely to give a favorable report. Good questioning techniques can assist in getting value from a conversation with a previous colleague.
Referee reports and background checks of the preferred candidates should be undertaken before offering the position to a candidate.
When approaching previous employers for information regarding the candidate it is useful to have a short list of questions relating to:
In addition to contacting previous employer contacts provided by the candidate at this stage in the selection process may also include:
These types of checks are more important for some position types than others i.e. accountancy, finance, child care, medical roles, legal roles etc.