Interviews are something that most of us have experienced from both sides. It's easy to find opinions but harder to find best practice, especially supported by evidence.
In this post we'll explain how important structured interviews are for finding the best candidate and how to conduct them through Applied
Casual, unstructured interviews = Bad idea...
How ("NOT") to perform an effective interview:
- Skim-read the CV as you walk to meet the candidate, looking for key words and "critical" details, like university pedigree, big brand employers and what they like to do in their spare time.
- Greet the candidate and offer them a drink.
- Make small talk about how they came in to the office / how terrible the weather is.
- Skim-read the CV one more time to make sure you remember which university they went to / who their previous employer was (and, oh yes, and let's not forget their name).
- Ask them the usual barrage of questions:
- "Tell me a little about yourself."
- "What are your biggest weaknesses / strengths?"
- "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
- "What do you like to do outside of work?"
- "What was your salary in your last job?"
- "Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?"
- Pick a project / achievement from their CV and ask them a question that elicits a canned / preconceived response.
Unfortunately, the current way we perform interviews is failing to help us find the best person for the job. Whether we're conscious of it or not, we often make our mind up about a candidate in the first few seconds of the interview. Research has shown that this intuitive, gut-based assessment of others is subjective, and can come down to a handshake, smile, or what the candidate is wearing.
There are several biases that cloud our ability to judge people accurately and fairly, including, but not limited to:
- Affinity Bias - we favour the familiar - i.e. people most like us
- Confirmation Bias & Halo Effects - we form an opinion early on, then stick to it, no matter what
- Stereotype Bias - we make presumptions about the traits / skills of specific groups
- Groupthink - when our individual opinion is influenced by others within your group
- Comparison Friction - our inability to fairly compare / contrast dissimilar things
Structured Interviews = Good idea!
So what can be done?
There are many elements of an interview that can be structured / controlled to minimise the amount of bias that creeps in:
✓ Define your questions & scoring matrix in advance - stick to it for every candidate.
✓ Use a diverse interview panel of at least 2 people.
✓ Ask questions which are relevant to the skills needed for the role.
✓ Score each interview before discussing with the panel; include notes justifying each score.
✓ Do not discuss scores with panel before submitting them.
✓ Do not read the candidate’s CV.
✓ Remove ambiguity by communicating the format, length, time and location well ahead of the interview.
✘ Don’t add unnecessary pressure if not required for the role.
✘ Don’t just chat about hobbies.
✘ Don’t rely on ‘can I get a beer with this person’.
✘ Don’t ask trick questions or brain teasers.
✘ Don’t rely on gut.
How it works within Applied
1) Plan the interviews
The first and most important step in a structured interview is the planning stage. It's at this point that you decide what skills the role requires and what kind of questions to ask.
Applied helps here by:
- Helping you focus on the skills that you've identified as being most important for this role. It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how often teams end up testing things that they, themselves, didn't consider important.
- Making it easy to re-use questions that worked well before. We help you avoid questions that didn't work well, eg. were too subjective or didn't separate the field.
- Providing a library of questions that you can use or adapt.
2) Run the interviews
This is the step we're all more used to, but Applied helps your team do it better by:
- Providing tools to keep interviewers glued to the interview plan - e.g. each interviewer gets a unique link that details both questions to be asked and an interviewers' guide.
- Steering interviewers away from dependence on CVs, a source of bias triggers.
- We encourage interviewers to mark interviews independently before speaking to each other, avoiding a catalogue of social biases that can add noise to your assessment of ability.
3) Assist the decision
This is usually a hard job, but Applied makes it feel less like a trial and more like a sign-off:
- We present scoring data back to the decision maker immediately, with as many sources of bias removed as possible.
- We allow the hiring manager to easily compare the final few candidates in detail, either by skill or by their individual responses at any stage.
4) Understand the outcome
Most teams skip this step, but it's so important. We report on:
- Which assessments worked, eg. which questions were subjective or failed to separate the field
- Like the rest of your hiring process, we record all the performance characteristics of your interview stage so that you can understand how your interviews impact diversity and can diagnose problems.