Interview questions and structured interviewing
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Strengthen the Validity of Your Interviews

Anne Sandberg

Knowing that interviews are notoriously unreliable, subject to gross amounts of human error, and that candidates are becoming more and more sophisticated, coached and slick in terms of telling us what we want to hear, what can we do to make our interviews better and worth the time to conduct them?
* Introduce structure – pre-plan interviews to determine the competencies you want to focus on in the interview itself and have prepared questions available as you conduct your interviews. This way you will focus on the most important factors in the limited time you have available and won’t fall back into asking the same, tired interview questions that everyone else asks and that your candidates have anticipated and have a ready answer for.
* Job-relatedness – make sure you spend time ONLY talking about what matters most in this particular job, NOT areas of joint interest that are unrelated to the job, and not information related to other jobs. Further, research has found that the more that interviews stick to job-related areas of questioning, the less likely you are to be sued for illegal hiring practices later.
* Interviewer training – research also shows that interviewer training DOES make a difference in terms of predictive power. That is, practice interviewing makes you a better interviewer. Just as with many other techniques, interviewing is a specific kind of communication, quite unlike many other methods of communicating and requires practice and patience to master. Like any skill, if “you don’t use it, you lose it” – meaning that if you don’t interview for months at a time, you are likely to “get rusty” and need practice to refresh your skills.
* Standards – Having target behaviours in terms of the kinds of “answers” you hope to obtain from candidates helps the evaluation process. That is, behavioural anchors for candidate responses permit more objective and therefore accurate rating of skill levels, or competency. Otherwise, the rating process is comparing “apple with oranges” and loses meaning and systemisation.
* Rating scales – Use of a rating scale, however crude, can help compare candidates across competencies, and in general, for the role itself. Because interviews involve rating human responses to rather broad questions, these scales need not be complex, but some continuum to help gauge responses is very helpful.
* Use panel or team interviews when you can – The use of multiple interviewers helps reduce individual biases and neutralizes the impact of rating errors. It also makes more efficient use of interviewer time and permits the in-depth collection of information.



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