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Updated 29 Sep 2020

Perfecting interview techniques

Assessments a vital cog in interview success.

Entrepreneur Magazine, 02 April 2012  Share  0 comments  Print

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Statistics show that only 10% - 40% of interviews are successful. Despite their poor predictive value, they are still used by many organisations as the only method to identify suitable candidates for specific jobs.

Poor hiring decisions can have a particularly negative impact on an organisation's staff morale and motivation, not to mention the disruptive effect on productivity and significant cost and time wasted on recruiting, training and managing performance of unproductive employees.

Getting it right

So what goes wrong? According to Liesl Cloete and Inge Trümpelmann, directors of Equip Assessment & Development Services, a specialist assessment and staff development consultancy, one of the most common mistakes made is the 'mirror effect'. "People tend to hire in their own image and often relate to people who are similar to themselves, either in background, personality or attitude.

They also tend to give undue influence to some positive or negative expectations they have of a candidate, based on their CVs or application forms. This is known as the expectancy effect," explains Cloete.

Cloete says first impressions of 'good' or 'bad' often lead interviewers to ask questions that serve to confirm their biases across the board, resulting in the 'halo and horns' effect.

In this case, the negative or positive perception is generalised to other aspects of a person, making the candidate 'all good' or 'all bad'.

Projecting expectations

Trümpelmann adds that even regardless of these job-related factors, managers may already have set ideas about the 'right' person for the job.

"We call it the box effect where interviewers are focused on finding that specific personality type that they believe will perfectly fit the position.

However, as we all know, people are more complex than any one personality type or description and there is no perfect fit.

When this approach fails employers often move to the opposite side of the spectrum - moving from box to rebound. In other words, they start overcompensating by choosing the opposite personality type next time round," says Trümpelmann.

In Equip's experience, desperation to fill a position is probably one of the biggest culprits when it comes to poor hiring decisions.  After interviewing several unsuitable candidates, employers actually reduce their selection criteria in order to make a quick appointment.

Access to information

Increased access to information via the Internet is also changing the face of interviewing. Cloete says today's applicants are far more savvy than they were ten years ago and can easily access a host of useful information on the net on 'Interview techniques'. 

The result is that the interviewee can often present the 'ideal corporate face', and interviewers, unless they are highly trained will be hard pressed to break through the facade.

This increasingly results in a poor 'person-job fit and may account for the fact that as many as 69% of employees in the US have been found to be disengaged from their work in a recent Gallup survey.

"We believe the percentage is similar in SA. When people are not engaged with what they do, we usually see low motivation, decreased productivity, increased emotional responsiveness and / or inconsistent performance.

On an individual level, those employees who feel unsupported in terms of their personal values, goals or work styles, are likely to experience a lack of achievement and lower confidence, which over time, impacts on their coping and general sense of well-being," says Cloete.

Regardless of where the selection process goes wrong, hiring a less suitable candidate can have significant costs in terms of lost opportunities and the emotional stress of subsequent terminations, both for the organisation and the individual.

Cloete and Trümpelmann believe in order to counteract or minimise the typical shortcomings associated with job interviews, organisations need to institute 'best practice' measures.

Appropriate tests

Studies indicate that as the degree of structure in job interviews increases, so too does the likelihood of predicting job success improve significantly.

Thus, a well-structured interview focused on measuring specific job-relevant constructs can certainly help to narrow down suitable candidates. Combining this with the use of appropriate psychometric assessments, increases the predictive validity of interviews by up to 65%.

Personality testing can then be used to provide relevant behavioural evidence and other information to confirm or refute the assessment findings.

In summary, a well-designed holistic selection process, coupled with structured, behavioural interviews, conducted by trained interviewers will contribute towards a more efficient selection process and significantly improve hiring decisions.

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