Hiring for the Best:
The Value of a Well-Conducted Interview
Glenda Owen, PHR
Why is Interviewing so Crucial?
Both the organization and the
candidate have a lot to lose if an
interview leads to an improper
Salary and Training Cost
Spent on Unsuccessful
(1/3 of Cost of Recruiting New Hires
employee) Costs of Training and
Inefficiency of New Employee
Worker and Workplace
Author, Leigh Branham,
“The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”
3. The job or workplace was not as expected.
4. Mismatch between job and person.
5. Too little coaching and feedback given.
6. Too few growth and advancement opportunities.
7. Feeling devalued and unrecognized.
8. Stress from overwork and work-life balance.
9. Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.
“After the fact” evidence of an
How & Why Interviews Go Wrong
• Interviews that are not based on a proper job
analysis won’t elicit meaningful information.
• Subjection to personal bias and other sources of
• Some candidates are very practiced at
• Interview questions may reveal too much about
• Interview questions may be too closed-ended.
• Poor listening skills.
A Great Hire?
• Performs effectively.
• Stays beyond the average employee tenure.
• Demonstrates a commitment to your organization
and its mission.
• Accepts, supports, and contributes to your
Put it simply, a great hire meets ALL of your
needs and expectations.
Make Better Interviews
• Make them structured.
– Eliminates haphazard interviewing.
– Standardization allows you to compare apples
– Decreases legal liability
• Aids in documentation
• Provides equal treatment to all candidates
• Make them competency based.
• Make them behaviorally focused.
Steps to the Process
• Know what you want.
– Best hiring practice you’ll ever need! What 10
qualities you want the top 10% to possess?
• Design for consistency.
– Design your interviewing process. It is a critical
step that often interviewers have no or little
training in doing.
Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection
Procedures (1978) and Principles for the
Validation and Use of Personnel Selection
Procedures (1987) consider employment
interviews to be a selection device just as a
written test is a selection device.
Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) should be
covered in the structured interview questions.
The interview should have a direct link to the
critical and necessary-at-entry KSAs required in
the job. This establishes content validity.
The Job Description
• Start with an accurate and up-to-date job
– Need help in writing?
– Determine essential functions necessary in
performing the position.
– Establish the qualifications and experience
necessary for entry-level employee to perform
– Define the reporting structure and hours.
• Use a formal, up-to-date job description.
• Ask supervisors, peers, and subordinates for input
for characteristics of an ideal candidate.
• Customers and vendors
• Assess organizational culture.
– Feel of the organization? Resemble extended
family, watch out for each other? Structured
and controlled environment—do things by the
book? Results focused or process driven?
• Can be done by having job profiled through profiling
software such as WorkKeys® or JobFit®
• Can involve meeting with subject matter experts
(incumbent workers) share critical incidents they’ve
witnessed that showed necessary knowledge, skill or
ability that an incumbent needs for the job.
• Using standardized data collection
• Download in English & Spanish
• Can be customized for your use.
• Your incumbent workers supply data for the
• Provided by U.S. Department of Labor (public
• Is there an expectation that the worker is a “self-
– Does the individual require a lot of guidance
• Does organization make continual, rapid changes
and pride itself on flexibility?
– Does the individual work best in calm and
• Is this a competitive environment with an
expectation of “do whatever it takes”?
– Does the individual have a young family and
desires a work-life balance?
Candidate Profile: Capability
– Technical Knowledge & Skills Needed
Factors to Consider:
– Skills proficiency & level of experience
– Relevancy of knowledge & subject matter
– Education, training, & certification
– Demonstrated ability to learn, adapt & grow.
Communication & Organizational Skills
Bread-n-butter of hiring
Candidate Profile: Commitment
– Personal Attitude & Motivation Needed
Factors and Attributes for success include such as:
– Initiative and self-motivation
– Cooperation and teamwork
– Results orientation and focus
– Strong work ethic
Requires little direction
Candidate Profile: Chemistry
– Key Values & Work Style Needed
They must also have the chemistry that ensures a
good fit with the organization—the way you
manage and do business.
Collaborative; team player
The Interview Itself
• Which type of interview will you use to select the
One size doesn’t fit all!
Prepare for the Interview
• Determine the order in which questions will be
• Review candidate applications and resumes.
• Prepare the interview room.
– Schedule adequate time without interruptions
and private setting.
– Encourage relaxed and open conversation by
sitting next to or facing the candidate—without
a desk or table in between you.
Conducting the Interview
• Set the Stage
– Ensure that the candidate is expected and
given a warm welcome—making them feel
important and comfortable.
– Maintain eye contact and give the candidate
your total attention.
– Inform the candidate that notes will be taken
during the interview.
– Reduce the person’s stress so they will open
up and give you reliable information.
– Be sure and let candidate know he/she will
have an opportunity to ask question near the
close of the session.
Characteristics of Questions
• To the point, brief and unambiguous
• Complex enough to allow adequate demonstration
of the ability being rated.
• Formulated at the language level of the candidate,
not laced with jargon.
• Tried out on job incumbents to check for clarity,
precision of wording and appropriateness.
• Not dependent upon skills or policy that will be
learned on the job.
Types of Interview Questions
• Job Knowledge
– Demonstrate specific job knowledge or
documentation of job knowledge.
• Past Behavior
– Describe activity of past jobs that relates to the
– Focus on work experience, education and other
qualifications of the candidates.
– Hypothetical situations that may occur on the
job and how candidates respond to situation.
• How many will you need?
– Rule of thumb: 15-20 per one-hour interview.
• One way—construct simple table identifying
factors to be evaluated. Add questions for each
• Develop rating scale and benchmarks for each
– Can be simple as “acceptable” “unacceptable”
– 3, 4, or 5-level point-based scale.
• Seek complete answers. A complete answer
provides the following information:
– Background “What Occurred”
• Circumstances, situation, task, problem,
challenge, obstacle or issue dealt with
– Action “What I Did”
• The specific performance or steps taken by
– Outcome “What Resulted”
• The impact, consequences, or results of the
“Suppose you were going to miss an important business
meeting due to unforeseen circumstances (illness or family
emergency). What would you do?”
I would contact the person in charge of the meeting to
forewarn of my absence, and I would arrange for a
responsible person to attend in my place.
I would send someone in my place.
Afterwards, I would try to find out what went on in the
Controlling the Interview
Accomplished in three ways:
2. Ask follow-up questions to gain more information
or clarify a response.
3. Interrupt a candidate who has gotten off track
and bring him back to relevant topics.
4. Interrupt candidates who have trouble getting to
a point and help them come to a conclusion.
Documenting the Interview Process
• Retain questions, scores & notes taken during the
– Recommended to record and retain:
• Date/time/place/length of the interview.
• Credentials and experience qualifies each
panel member to serve on interview panel.
• Distribution of interview scores among
• Training provided to interviewers as well as
their background in personnel selection
Never ignore a gut feeling, but also never
believe that it’s enough.
Evaluating the Candidate
• The candidate’s match with the capability,
commitment and chemistry needed to succeed.
Use same criteria for all.
• Alignment of the job with the candidate’s
expressed career path and goals.
• Major concerns or red flags that came up in the
interview and how they may impact
ranking/recommendations. This is important in
making final hiring decisions!
• On-boarding considerations: necessary training or
other supplemental steps needed to assimilate the
candidate to the job and/or organization.
The most critical element of the rating scale is not
how many levels it has, but rather how those
levels are defined.
Use a rating scale anchored to benchmarks
(example answers, descriptions, or definitions of
answers). Use Subject Matter Experts to
develop the scale and benchmarks.
Five-level Rating Scale
What would one expect or want an outstanding
candidate to give as the best possible answer?
What is an acceptable answer that one would
expect a qualified candidate to give?
What would one expect as a poor answer from a
candidate who has little or no knowledge or skill
on this job requirement?
Example of Rating Scale:
“Describe some projects or developments that you have been
largely responsible for initiating and/or completing in your
previous work experiences?”
Responsible for initiating AND completing several major projects or
developments. Candidate describes how projects were accomplished
and the results.
Responsible for initiating or completing several major projects or
Worked on projects, but had no part in their initiation or responsibility
for their completion.
Assessing Organizational Fit
Assess a candidate’s organizational fit before
making an offer, preferable in a manner that will
not influence the interviewers’ ratings of the
structured interview questions.
This may be a second interview to assess
organizational fit “hiring interview”.
“I’m continually amazed at the number of
business people I meet who complain about
spending “so much time” selecting a new
employee, yet are often willing to spend twice that
time researching a new copy machine.”
Barbara “BJ” Gallagher
• Average length of training programs for
interviewers is 1-2 days. At minimum, it should be
2-3 hours of training.
• Principles Commonly Taught:
– Background and purpose of the interview.
– How to write interview questions & use
questions already written.
– Job requirements and how questions are
related to the job.
– Rapport-building techniques
– How to ask questions and how to probe
First rule in Interviewing:
“Innocent questions can lead to trouble.”
9 Legal Landmines for Interviewers
(Untrained or Maybe Even Trained)
• Problematic interview questions tend to fall into
– Marital Status
– Family Obligations
– National Origin or race
– Arrest or convictions
– Financial Condition
– Off-duty Activities
Training Prevents Legal Problems
Steps to Take:
2. Educate all interviewers.
3. Don’t get too conversational.
4. Check applicable state laws.
1. You know the federal laws but some states
prohibit employment decisions based on
arrest or conviction records or on applicants’
“off-duty activities”. Know what the state’s
laws are governing these issues.
HR Daily Advisor Newsletter October 2008
• How to evaluate answers and use rating scales.
• How to avoid rating errors.
• The importance of note taking for rating and
• EEO and ADA laws and requirements.
• How to weight questions and use rating or cut-off
– Adapted from Campion, Palmer & Campion
Provide extensive training for interviewers
Effective training for panel members will increase
the validity and reliability of the interview.
Following specific procedures taught in training
will allow the interviewers to evaluate candidates
from a common reference point.
Chief, Workforce Services
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission
PO Box 52003
Oklahoma City, OK 73152-2003
Telephone: (405) 962-4603
Cellular: (405) 203-2727