Interviewing skills to improve selection decisions

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Interviewing skills to improve selection decisions

scorecard interview

Sometimes job interviews can be conducted poorly because of untrained interviewers; they can stick rigidly to a set of questions or they can be not clear about why they are interviewing the people in front of them. As a result of this the data collected from interviews is not too robust to enable employers to select the right people. Not capturing the data accurately makes it difficult to compare candidates. One the greatest concern is about the traditional, unstructured interview. Research has shown that this type of interview produces weaker evidence of future job-related success than more structured interviewing techniques. There are ways to improve the traditional, unstructured interviews, for example:

>Training interviewers in interviewing techniques and helping them to become aware of their own personal biases.

>Probing candidates´immediate responses to questions in order to collect evidence of their past achievements.

>Taking notes-something that even some reasonably experienced interviewers fail to do, although a study by Allen Huffcutt and David Woeh, published in 1999, found that note-taking significantly increases interview validity.

>Using structured rating scale with descriptions of behaviours representing strong, acceptable and poor levels of performance.

>Making decisions after the interview, rather than while it is taking place. One of the most widely quoted findings from interview research is that untrained interviewers make decisions within the first four minutes of meeting a candidate ( Spirngbett 1958)


Professionals have focused on the following; structured competency interviews, extended interviews based on career history, pseudo-clinical psychology interviews and conversational interviews. We will review the competency and conversational interview due to the expansion of these two techniques in a diversity of countries.

The structured competency interview is widely used in the UK, typically used to select candidates for entry-level through to middle-management roles, and to lesser extent, for roles at more senior levels.

Structured competency interviews require interviewers to follow a series of set questions focused on target competencies, capabilities or behaviours. They are effective if interviewers understand the criteria used to assess candidates and are able to tailor their questions to each individual. To do so, interviewers need to prepare for interviews by considering background information supplied by candidates on their CVs or application forms. This allows them to go beyond the superficial question that most guides to this type of interview provide “Please give me an example of X”.

Although interview guides are useful, thorough training of would-be interviewers is advised, following guides rigidly and not giving candidates to share relevant information can also leave organisations exposed to claims of unfair discrimination. Another issue that many practitioners identify with this type of interview is that it can feel clunky, with competency questions not flowing. Also following the practice of asking precisely the same questions without taking in consideration candidates different experiences can lead to poor results.

Despite all the pitfalls mentioned I feel that a competency interview lead by trained interviewers can lead to much better results than unstructured ones, even in less experienced interviewers. If you are able to prove and tailor your questions then they become very effective.

The conversational interview is increasingly being adopted by organisations that have a good track record of using structured competency interviews but want to deploy a more subtle approach, especially when selecting candidates for senior roles.

The conversational interview focus on key criteria, it puts candidates at ease and therefore reinforces apositive employer brand. It can be conducted in a short space of time and the it requires the interviewer to adopt they style of a peer who is taking an interest in the candidate´s role and aspirations.

This type of interview makes the candidate to feel more empowered during the interview and allow the conversation to flow in a more natural way. Interviewers using this approach must be able to hold the assessment criteria in mind while asking questions, writing notes and guiding the conversation in the direction most likely to produce relevant data. They also need to be used to interviewing at the level of the target role in order to draw fine distinctions between high-performing senior managers and those who are merely good.

In conclusion this type of interview can produce recent and job relevant data that enables employers to decide. However it cannot be used effectively by people who are new to interviewing or have received minimal training. It requires interviewers who are already trained and experienced in the use ofstructured interviewing and may be looking to move their skills up to the next level.

It has to be highlighted that all interviews are essentially backward looking; they can show you anindividual´s past potential and whether this has been realized but to find how much more potential the individual has left, you need to use aptitude tests, measures of learning agility and business simulations that really stretch candidates. 

Simon Brittain,by Kiddy& Partners in Interviewing skills: building a solid structure in People Management magazine, April 2012 or

By | 2017-02-09T20:48:59+00:00 October 15th, 2012|Categories: Interview Tips, Recruitment and Selection|Tags: , |0 Comments

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