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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.

 

 

Recruit and retain top talent

7 Creative Ways to Attract Top Talent

The goal of every recruiter is to find a candidate that perfectly fits the open position. In fact, perfectly aligning a candidate with a company is the most rewarding experience a recruiter can have. When you hire the right person your company likely will not incur costs such as time lost in further recruitment efforts or in training somebody that might not be a perfect fit. To avoid extra costs, companies large and small alike need to find better ways to identify, attract, and subsequently retain top talent. The million-dollar question is: how?

1. Present good fringe benefits

The most attractive companies take all of the great benefits they offer and then adapt them to the position they are seeking to fill. For example, a senior engineer is likely older and more established compared to a candidate just entering the job market, perhaps emphasizing childcare assistance rather than the Friday night team outing would be more enticing .For an example of how offering great fringe benefits can help attract top talent, look no further than Google.

2. Share your talent transformation plan

Show candidates that you not only have a plan for their immediate future, but also how you plan to provide growth opportunities. Demonstrate knowledge of their current skills to ensure that they are in the right position, then show them the way forward through a clear training and development track.

3. Leverage LinkedIn

Engaging with potential candidates on social networks such as LinkedIn can be useful, even if the candidate isn’t currently interested in the position you’re offering. A good way to approach this is by sending a message to the candidate with a link to your company website. You can also use a tool like SalesWings LinkedIn message tracking to score the level of interest of the lead. Perhaps the lead clicks on the link but doesn’t show any interest at the moment. With message tracking you at least know that they clicked on the link, so you can follow up by providing more information if necessary, hoping that the same lead will one day turn hot. Remember that 75% of professionals are passive candidates – meaning they’re not actively engaged in a job search – so it pays to have any edge in order to grab top talent before your competition does.

 4. Sell the work environment and profile

Showing candidates the great opportunities that come with working for your company can be a fantastic recruitment tool. For instance, giving examples of succession plans or the career progression plan of already hired talent recruited into a similar position can instill a level of confidence in the candidate that their employer will work to further their career.

A company should be up front about what is needed in order to be successful in a new role. If a candidate needs to develop new skills, the company should accordingly have a plan for how to help them develop those skills. Be open about internal and external training, any smart candidate will immediately see the benefits of developing their skills as they will have something to add to their CV.

Finally, talk about your company’s embrace of employee recognition. Employees crave employee recognition, with 93% of employees hoping to be recognized quarterly, if not more frequently. Share your company’s enthusiasm for recognizing great work and how employees are rewarded, whether through monetary rewards or social recognition.

5.  Seek to be acknowledged in a “Best Places to Work” ranking

Top candidates usually target high ranking “Best Places to Work” companies. Everybody loves to work for a company that treats employees well, so it is a good idea to exhibit the qualities the aforementioned high ranking companies do. Even if you don’t get acknowledged for your efforts immediately, you will still have taken important steps to make improvements in this area.

6. Focus on marketing

Integrate every digital marketing tactics into your recruitment efforts so that your talent acquisition team can identify, attract and engage with talent more easily. With this strategy, you can also target potential candidates before they begin their job search in earnest. The day they make their decision to leave their current company, candidates will send applications to a large number of other companies or agencies. With this method you can beat them to the punch, and be the company all other recruiters are competing against.

7. Employer branding

Demonstrating why your company is a great place to work is becoming a critical part of recruitment strategy. The LinkedIn report MENA recruiting trends 2017 reveals that over 81% of leaders in MENA countries need to invest more in employer branding. This is because employer branding has a significant impact on hiring top talent.

Your corporate website and LinkedIn page are great places to build your employer branding. A poor user experience on the career section of your website can negatively impact your brand, meaning you will receive fewer applications in general, let alone those from the top talent in your industry.

A great example of an employer branding strategy comes from Starbucks. In 2015, they used Twitter and Instagram to promote their brand. Potential hires had the opportunity to communicate with current employees by using the hashtag #sbuxjobschat. This allowed them to learn what inspired people in their jobs and what people look for in a company.

To sum up, communication is key to attracting top talents – if you don’t explain why your company is a great place to work, you will not attract the best candidates. Good luck and best wishes for a fruitful and rewarding new year!

If you’re looking to lure top talent, check out the blog post 12 Tips for Writing the Perfect Job Description.

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About the Author

Sara Sayegh-Moccand The author Sara Sayegh-Moccand is a digital marketing specialist at SalesWings, a website tracking and lead scoring add-on. The software identifies your most sales-ready leads based on their website activity. It analyzes your leads’ past and future visits and scores their level of engagement/interest.