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Benefit of Using Structured Interviews

Why Recruiters Should Consider Structured Interviews

Your interviews are probably more unstructured than they should be.

Too many recruiters and hiring managers ask interview questions that reflect their biases, increasing the likelihood that they don’t fairly compare candidates.  Even worse, many recruiters just “wing it” when conducting interviews because they claim that’s the best way to, “get a real feel for the candidate.” However, when discussing why Google turned to structured interviews, Google’s VP of People Operations Laszlo Bock made clear his thoughts on “winging it,” stating, “Typical, unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired.”

You may not be so unstructured as to totally wing it in an interview, but think of all the small talk you probably make over the course of interviewing someone. An unstructured interview might lead you into a 10-minute conversation about a shared interest with the candidate, like fishing or the movie you both saw recently, instead of working toward determining the viability of the candidate in fulfilling the duties of the vacant position.

According to internationally known talent management thought leader Dr. John Sullivan, “The selection and hiring of people is fraught with bias and subjectivity… Recruiters need to do everything they can to make objective and unbiased decisions – even though perfect objectivity is never going to be possible.”

Biases prevent employers from hiring people who actually fit the job. Allowing your biases to influence your hiring decision can result in hiring a bunch of people you just, well, like. Structured interviews help keep you from basing your hiring decision on how you “feel” about a candidate, or just because you have something in common with a candidate. It doesn’t matter that you both like fishing or both cried when you saw the movie “Lion.” A structured interview lets you rely on empirical data that you collect from each interview and helps reduce unhelpful biases.

Dr. Sullivan points out that “structured interviews reduce bias by focusing on relevant, job-specific factors and past performance rather than on personal characteristics. Questions focusing on what you expect for accomplishments and on evidence of past performance will reduce bias.” One common example is what psychologists call confirmation bias: we judge the candidate in the first five minutes (or maybe 30 seconds), and spend the rest of the interview selectively hearing only what confirms our preconceived judgement.

A structured interview format is one in which all candidates (no cheating–this means ALL) receive the same questions in the same order, and are evaluated using the same metrics.

Think of it as a science, not an art. You need clear criteria with which you’ll assess each candidate’s responses. Start by identifying or reviewing the competencies of the particular job. What is actually required to succeed in this role? Base your metrics entirely on this question. Be wary of traditional metrics like GPA and school attended.

Dr. Sullivan encourages recruiters to “make sure that your questions are not aimed at bringing out a bias of some sort.  Keep them job-specific and relevant to the work you want the candidate to do.”

Use a rubric that helps interviewers assess each response that candidates give. In addition to avoiding the unstructured whims and common biases, the rubric helps avoid the impact of your team’s varying moods. Even if you’re having a bad day, you can rely on the structured interview to function the same way every time. See? A science.

An additional benefit of using structured interviews is that they are also significantly more defensible in legal situations, largely because they provide more detailed, objective hiring criteria.

A structured interview doesn’t have to be dry or disengaging.

Your hiring team may resist a structured interview, claiming they are boring or overly rigid. These tips can help to get the team on board.

  1. Most importantly, the candidate should have a positive experience during a structured interview. In fact, you will decrease the likelihood that candidates walk away feeling judged unfairly. In the opposite scenario, candidates who don’t seem to relate to their interviewers on a personal level (because they don’t like fishing, for example) will feel disengaged and less impressed with your organization.
  2. If you want the hiring team’s buy-in, you need to involve them from the beginning. Prepare them for the change by explaining the reasoning and science behind structured interviews. Invite them to help create the interview questions. Provide them with the job criteria and prompt them with, “What would be a good question that would allow a candidate to demonstrate that they can perform this function?”
  3. Remind them that the point of the exercise is not in asking cool questions, but in hearing how the candidate answers. It might seem fun to ask someone what they did over the weekend or which famous actor they most resemble, but remind your team that this is not the best way to find a candidate with the right skills for the job.
  4. The hard part is making sure the hiring team sticks to the questions. You might have a rogue interviewer who resists the questions and continues to go off on tangents with the candidate. Show this person the hiring rubric you’ve created with the team, and demonstrate how those unstructured questions cannot be evaluated within the rubric, and thus bring subjectivity into the process.
  5. Here are a couple good interview questions from Google’s Laszlo Bock:
    • Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team. (Follow-ups: What was your primary goal and why? How did your teammates respond? Moving forward, what’s your plan?)
    • Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone (can be a coworker, classmate, client). What made this person difficult to work with for you?

While there is no one way of ensuring your interview process is completely free of bias, determining a universal set of criteria, based on job functions, can help minimize the impact of preconceived notions.

To learn more about how to hire top talent, check out Achievers’ blog post on harnessing culture as a recruitment tool.

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About the Author
Anna Peters
Anna is the Content Manager for College Recruiter, which believes that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. College Recruiter features thousands of articles, blogs, videos, and other content as well as 300,000 internship and entry-level postings for open jobs. Anna and her team of writers produce content for talent acquisition professionals, as well as entry-level job seekers. Her prior experience at nonprofits has made her an expert in directing volunteer recruitment and a champion for diversity and inclusion efforts. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.

 

 

Creative ideas to draw in top talent

18 Ways: How to Find your Dream Candidate for 2017

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

You’re looking to expand your team. Congratulations on your company’s growth spurt! Now you want to find candidates that fit your company culture and bring the right expertise to the job. While you could just post to one of the huge job sites like Craigslist or Indeed, there are a number of other unique and creative ways to grab the attention of your future colleague, and here are a few…

Offer Rewards:  Offer a financial incentive to your current employees to assist with finding their new office buddy who will go the distance. Your staff know best what your company is all about and what success in the job entails. Set them on a mission to find the perfect candidate and reward them accordingly if they succeed.

Turn to your Network: Ask connections on your social networks to recommend people they think might be the right fit for your business. When candidates apply for the job you can see if you have any mutual connections and then reach out to those connections for “insider” information about the candidate.

Hangout: If you want to find the best talent in this hugely competitive market, go to where they are! Attend user’s groups, peruse online forums and read influential blogs; but don’t just lurk, comment and interact so they become familiar with you and your employer brand. Learn how to communicate authentically with the audience you are hoping to attract and you may be rewarded by finding a candidate you never even knew was in the market.

Niche Job Boards: Instead of putting your job listing into the mix of the huge job sites, you can target ideal candidates by using smaller, niche job boards that service specific business sectors  and categories such as creative, media, nonprofit, start up, technology, etc.

Go Local: There are local chapters of associations for every possible business field on the planet. By attending association meetings, you might find the right employee with just the right skill set for your company.

Hire Inside: Perhaps the candidate you are looking for already resides within your company. Keep an eye out for existing employees who are up for new challenges and encourage their growth and development by applying for a job outside their prescribed career path.

Heads up for the Boomerang: Don’t forget those great people you’ve previously worked with at different companies or those who worked at your current organization before and might be excited to come back. Either way, reaching out to former colleagues can be an invaluable enterprise when looking to fill a job opening. As an added bonus, you won’t have to time upfront getting to know them – your shared history makes it so you can get down to business.

Eyes Wide Open: Quite often the best candidates already have jobs, so be on the lookout for exceptional customer service and transferable skills, even from people in roles that don’t exactly match your current job opening. The right candidate rarely just falls from the sky, sometimes you have to headhunt and poach.

Cold Emailing: Emailing is still the most effective marketing tool out there. If you craft a personalized, specific email with engaging content for the potential candidate you will probably receive a thoughtful response. Recruiting emails often command more respect and consideration than other forms of less personal approaches.

Alumni trawling: Target the alumni networks of colleges and other learning institutions in line with your job requirement. At a minimum, you’ll know you’re getting a candidate with a strong educational background.

Paid Internships: What? Actually pay an intern? For a nominal fee you can put your intern through a rigorous program to gauge their skills and see if they are a fit for your organization. If they excel, hire them permanently.

Buddy system: What about hiring a trusted, personal friend? You’ll be spending loads of time together and you already have an established level of trust and rapport with each other. Win-win! Be careful though, as this strategy does come with some risks. Make sure your friend is a good fit for your company – and vice versa – or you could be risking more than just losing a new employee!

Virtual “Help Wanted” Sign: Have a permanent “we are looking to hire” button on your website so you can collect resumes from visitors. If individuals are being proactive by searching a company’s website, you’ve already found a candidate who is willing to do some research.

Tried and tested: You can always use a recruitment agency. They are financially motivated to find you the right candidate and they can save you from wading through thousands of resumes.

Fair Trade: While seemingly antiquated, a good old fashioned career fair could be where you meet the perfect candidate. If you prefer to not leave the comfort of your home or office, a virtual one works just as well.

Community Outreach: Approach a nonprofit organization for assistance with sourcing candidates. They are always looking to place their clients in opportunities where they can succeed, and they have usually done all of the necessary background checks for you.

Resume Redux: Keep the top candidates from the last time you hired on file. When a new job opening comes up – go through these files; perhaps you already have the candidate you are looking for right under your nose.

Use Facebook ads: Target your ideal candidate with a targeted ad. This can help separate the wheat from the chaff, and likely cut down candidates that express only a cursory interest.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” — Aristotle

Remember that wherever you choose to list your job opening, make sure you have crafted a clearly defined job description. You don’t want to receive a ton of applications from unsuitable candidates. When crafting your description you should illustrate to potential candidates the benefits of working for your company along with a clear description of the job expectations. Keep in mind that it’s crucial that your company culture is also attractive to the candidate. After all, these days companies are judged on more than just the financial compensation given.

Let your job listing speak to potential new hires as if they are a customer or prospect. Really sell them on the promise of your company and its unique mission and values. Go to company review sites to find out the perceived negatives of your particular industry and counteract that with a job offer that addresses job issues head on.

Individuals might look great on paper but can they actually do the job? Trust your instincts and don’t be scared to go after passive candidates (those who already have a job and might not be looking for a new one).

In the end, don’t settle, be patient. Hiring the wrong candidate can drastically affect your business and spark another prolonged hiring search.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. Red Adair

About the Author

Randi ShermanRandi Sherman is a content writer providing all your literary needs and actionable insights to drive new business and improve your bottom line with The Social Calling.