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Tips on How to Design the Right Interview

Allie Kelly

You’ve identified the candidates that deserve a closer look. You’re ready to get a better sense of their KSAs and if they’re the right fit for your organization. It’s time to begin the interview process. But the first question you ask shouldn’t be to the person you’re hoping will take your company to the next level. It should be to yourself and the hiring manager.

Which type of interview should I use?

1. Structured vs. Unstructured.
Most studies suggest structured interviews are better at finding the right employee for any given role. They’re less prone to bias, and by asking each candidate the same questions, you’re standardizing the approach and can get an apples-to-apples comparison. Science has shown that unstructured interviews are barely better than flipping a coin on a candidate. With no set questions, the information collected doesn’t always provide value since the conversation tends to digress. It puts pressure on the interviewer to form a gut reaction, and there’s no evidence that a knee-jerk opinion based on experience leads to better results.

Pro tip: Structured interviews help to ensure an interview is legally sound and fair to all candidates. They measure job-specific competencies that are vital for the role since they are tied to the KSAs you identified in your job analysis and job description. Each question should be tied to a metric to help with ranking the candidate, much like we talked about earlier with pre-employment tests. This quantitative component will assist in comparing the answers of each candidate against one another. Creating ranking scales that determine the unacceptable, desired, and highly desired outcomes of potential responses should help in the creation of the anchors for each competency that will be tied to each question.

The verdict: Trust the data. Always use structured interviews.

2. Behavioral vs. Situational.
Past performance is the best predictor of future success. That’s the theory behind a behavioral interview, where you’re asking a candidate to “Tell me about a time when…” Those KSAs you defined in the job analysis phase? They’ll be critical in a behavioral setting. The competencies you determined as must-haves when first designing the job description will be prescriptive in deciding the behavioral tendencies you want to uncover. Those same KSAs will apply to situational interviews, which bring the hypothetical into the equation. Instead of looking back at past performance, you ask the candidate how they would deal with a theoretical situation in the future. But it’s not just “How would you deal with an angry customer?” You can address real pain points within your own organization here. “What changes would you make if you ran our website?” might be a good question for a designer. “How would you pitch our product to the consumer?” could be the perfect question to ask a marketer.

Pro tip: For a long period of time, researchers thought behavioral interviews were the most effective window into how a candidate would handle future outcomes by leaning on past behaviors. Recent, interview-specific research shows the opposite. Situational interviews require quick and effective problem-solving from the candidate that tends to be a better predictor of future success. It’s still possible for an interviewee to leverage past experiences in situational interviews, but the thinking-on-your-feet requirement gives a better window into the future.

The verdict. Don’t associate behavioral as a bad technique, but situational wins the day.

Download our latest eBook with Wonderlic now to learn more about how to choose which type of interviews to conduct based on your role and candidates.

Allie Kelly


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