How to Design an Effective Job Interview

There are countless ways to assess whether a candidate is a good fit, yet there are still many benefits to a good ol’ interview. When done correctly, interviews can be great at measuring job knowledge, social skills, values, goals, and more. However, not all interviews are created equal. During virtual times, it’s more important than ever to have a good system to make solid hires. Not only is it more difficult to get to know candidates, but also most of us would rather not spend the extra time and money that comes with not hiring the right person. Below is a breakdown of how to properly design an interview:

Keep it casual or structured?

Before reading on, answer this question in your head: Do you think your intuition would be pretty good at determining if an applicant is going to be successful on the job? If you said yes, you’re not alone. Many of us would like to think that our knowledge and experiences alone could make us expert interviewers, however predicting job performance with the limited data gathered in an interview is nuanced and tricky. Distinguishing a top applicant from a pretty good applicant can be even trickier. Not to mention the bias that can occur from keeping interviews casual. These are just some of the reasons why you should aim to use structured interviews to collect the most job-relevant information and have a point of comparison to distinguish between candidates.


How to structure an interview

Now that you’re sold on using a structured interview, let’s talk about what this structure should look like. One commonly used model, the four-factor model (Chapman & Zweig, 2005), states that these are the essential tenets of a structured interview:


1) Evaluation standardization - Score each item, rely on anchored rating scales

2) Question sophistication - Focus on job-related behaviors, include follow-up probing.

3) Question consistency - Ask all applicants the same questions.

4) Rapport building - Get to know each other through limited small talk at the beginning of the interview. This can lead to interviewees feeling more comfortable disclosing information and increase the likelihood of a candidate accepting the offer. Be careful not to overemphasize this component and make decisions based on the structured questions.


Developing interview questions

So now you understand that interview questions should focus on job-related behaviors, but how exactly do you develop questions that assess this? Usually, this is done through two types of questions: situational and behavior-based questions.


1) Situational questions - Ask applicants what they would do in certain job-related situations. Interviewer is aware of examples of good or poor performance, so they look for specific behaviors within the answer that align with these descriptions of performance.

2) Behavior-based questions - Instead of asking the applicant what they would do, look for examples of their past behavior that align with good performance. Relies on applicants sharing stories about past work or academic experiences. These are the “tell me about a time” type of questions.


Executing an interview

You have your interview questions ready to go, what other steps should you consider before executing an effective interview? Here are some additional steps you should take on the back-end and some things to consider:


1) Restrict the scope - One of the main reasons interviews don’t succeed is because they simply try to measure too many things. If an interviewer is expected to measure every single piece of information that can make an applicant a good fit, they’re bound to accidentally miss something or do a mediocre job at scoring. Instead, try to narrow down the most critical indicators of good job performance and focus on measuring those.

2) Train the interviewers - Even in a structured interview, bias is inevitable. One of the best ways to minimize bias is by providing interviewers with interview training.

3) Take notes - This might go without saying, but don’t try to remember all the answers in your head. Although it’s important to make eye contact and pay attention to the applicant, also make sure to take thorough notes.

4) Rely on multiple interviewers - Another great way to reduce bias is by having multiple interviewers rate the same candidate at different stages. This increases the reliability of the ratings.


Overall, job interviews give hiring managers the opportunity to get to know an applicant and gather information on whether they’d be a good fit. However, with limited time to gather this information, it’s best to plan job-related questions and not waste time on silly questions that don’t really predict future job performance. At the end of the day, it’s important to make sure your interviews give everyone a fair opportunity to succeed and a consistent point-of-reference to compare across applicants.


If you’re interested in improving your interview system, Apex offers a variety of services that can help. We can work with you to create valid and reliable competency-based interview guides. We can also provide training to employees or hiring managers so they have the skills to be high-quality interviewers. Contact us here and we’ll be in touch!


Source: Gatewood, Feild, and Murray (2016)

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