Interview questions and structured interviewing
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Interviews: Common Weaknesses

Anne Sandberg

Interviews tend to have the following weaknesses:

Validity of the interview is relatively low – validity in this context refers to the extent to which the interview measures what it purports to measure. Let’s use an example to illustrate this point about validity. Suppose that we did a job analysis and wrote up a good job description for a Customer Service Supervisor position. Suppose that one of the factors we found to be critical to success on the job was the ability to be firm but fair with direct reports in correcting their performance if that performance were to become substandard. In the interview, we ask the candidate about an experience she had correcting someone’s performance. The candidate replied by describing a situation in which she successfully coached an employee who had previously had an attendance problem, and we like her answer as the interviewer. We give her a high score in this area (correcting others’ performance), but is this rating valid? That is, are we really measuring the candidate’s competence, or skill, in directing and correcting subordinates, or is that judgment contaminated by other factors, such as the ability to communicate well, problem-solving ability, tact and diplomacy, coaching skill, or even rapport-building? Validity of linking a rating to a competency is often shaky, at best.

Reliability of the interview is also low – reliability in this context refers to the accurate repeatability of the outcome. That is, if I interview Candidate X for the Customer Service Supervisor job and arrive at a judgment and score, or recommendation for hire, and then Bob in the next department interviews Candidate X for the same job, how likely is it that his evaluation will be similar to mine?

Stereotyping by interviewers, in general, is very common and may lead to adverse impact against minorities. This is often not conscious, but occurs at a subconscious level. We all have biases that impact our judgment, even if we are aware of these and attempt to control them.

The subjective nature of an interview may allow bias such as favouritism and politics to enter into the selection process. A very common bias is called “similar-to-me” bias, which is the tendency to prefer people who have my values, attitudes and even appearance. This subtle preference operates in interviews all the time and is hard to recognize, much less control.

Interviews are hard to standardize. Even with structured rating sheets, rating scales and standard questions, no two interviews are alike and a large degree of subjectivity is inherent in the process.

Not useful when large numbers of applicants must be evaluated and/or selected. Unlike standardised testing, interview scores tend to be grouped close together when a large group of people have been interviewed for a job. Making fine distinctions between people is hard to do with interviews, and testing is probably a better alternative.


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