June 4, 2021

What’s Wrong with the Traditional Interview?


The Managers’ Corner:

If you read May 28th’s blog Selecting the Best Applicant:  Are Interviews and References Sufficient?you’ll know that Bendel Services is not a fan of the interview as the sole method for selecting staff, particularly staff in management positions.  This goes, as well, for the standard reference check.  It’s important to be able to chat with references but, if your experience mirrors ours, you’ll agree that the standard reference check really is not that reliable.

Bendel Services believes that an effective selection process includes a well-structured set of interview questions, a clear and concise set of indicators for the questions AND one other data source that looks at a candidate through a whole different lens.  It also involves the presence and use of an up-to-date job description as a basis for all questions and activities, a process of data triangulation and a very conscious effort to use the silo approach in evaluating a candidate as a member of a selection team.

So, what’s wrong with just using the traditional interview?

Suppose Candidate #1 presents in a very effective way in a standard interview while Candidate #2 does not.  Is Candidate #1 a first-rate choice, or just a splendid interviewee who can carry the game as much with style as with substance?  By including additional information gathering-techniques into your selection process to measure each candidate’s past performance and potential, you could have a great deal more data with which to make an informed decision.

So, as assessors, how do you make that informed decision?  

Typically, the assessment team tries to identify, as a group, who the best candidate is.  But there is always the possibility that the group decision may be too heavily influenced by one person who is either the most loquacious or the most assertive or who holds the highest position in the hierarchy in the organization.  That single individual’s choice may not be the best one.  

Bendel Services suggests a “silo approach” in which each member of a selection team makes her/his judgment independently before a discussion takes place – and supports that judgment with text and a numerical rating.  Then all the facts are put on the table and the group discussion begins.  In the end, the person noted above may still have undue influence, but that full discussion based on individual perception and data assessment initially and independently might well mitigate this issue.

But if you really want to rule out bias, there’s another step you can take.  

Consider using two teams, one for the interview and one for the information gathering.  That candidate who performed badly on the interview will “have a fresh start” with no pre-judgment affecting the second phase.  Once these two data sources are put together, a much more objective portrayal is usually the result.  In addition, the time spent by any one individual is lessened – and the professional development is spread around the organization as a kind of informal leadership training.

These three considerations:  multiple techniques for information-gathering, siloing, and the use of different assessors could build greater objectivity and defensibility into your selection process. 

Over the next few weeks, we shall be posting blogs on possible additional selection techniques including:

  • the standard interview
  • the use of case studies
  • the in-basket exercise
  • self-assessment
  • the form and substance of third-party interviews
  • virtual (and actual) site visits
  • the 360-degree feedback technique
  • the professional portfolio
  • essential task observation 
  • the assessment centre

We hope you will be able to avail yourself of these blog entries and, perhaps consider working with us to put some of them into place for your organization.

Dr. Dan

Need more information?  Check out our Management Group Webinars or Individualized Coaching for selection techniques (customizable to reflect your particular needs and conditions).