As HR professionals focus on building more predictive hiring processes, they will need to reevaluate certain conventional hiring methods. For example, a large body of evidence demonstrates that unstructured interviews are poor predictors of performance, yet they remain integral to many companies’ talent acquisition strategies. Research has shown, for example, that almost 30% of interviewers make up their mind on a candidate within the first five minutes, based largely on superficial criteria that are unrelated to job success, such as appearance, social habits, dress, and other factors. Despite the fact that many traditional hiring techniques increase the risk of bias, fail to provide the information hiring managers need to make good decisions, and waste employers’ and candidates’ time, companies persist in using them. Why is this the case, and what can be done to address it?
HR teams should be looking into methods that have a better record of securing solid hires, such as structured interviews, which create a fairer and more systematic hiring process by measuring candidate responses to a consistent series of questions that are directly related to the roles in question. This filters out irrelevant information, minimizes the biases that can creep into interviews, and ultimately helps hiring managers determine which candidates will perform best on the job. It’s no surprise that a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that “structured interviews emerged as the top-ranked selection procedure.”
As the benefits of structured interviews become increasingly clear, many HR professionals are still hesitant to adopt them. This is largely due to a cloud of myths that surround structured interviews, which obscure the benefits they offer. These myths stem from several fundamental misconceptions about how structured interviews operate, as well as antiquated notions about what the hiring process should look like.
1. Structured Interviews Aren’t Worth the Effort
For decades, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that structured interviews are highly effective at predicting candidate success and avoiding the errors that plague other hiring methods. A study in the journal Judgment and Decision Making examined why hiring managers insist on using unstructured interviews, and found that interviewers form confident conclusions about candidates even when their answers are randomly generated nonsense. The researchers also discuss the process of “dilution,” whereby valuable information is concealed amid all the irrelevant information that’s being provided. The authors’ conclusion about unstructured interviews is blunt: “Our simple recommendation for those making screening decisions is not to use them.”
Considering the well-documented benefits of structured interviews and the liabilities of their unstructured counterparts, HR teams have many compelling reasons for using the former and avoiding the latter.
2. HR Teams Lack the Expertise
According to Criteria’s 2022 Hiring Benchmark Report, two-thirds of hiring professionals believe structured interviews lead to better hiring decisions, but less than a quarter say they use “highly structured interviews, with standardized questions and defined rating scales.” One of the reasons HR teams have been slow to adopt fully structured interviews is their misplaced conviction that doing so is too difficult. It’s true that structured interviews require more effort than unstructured interviews – questions have to be crafted in a way that will illuminate role-specific knowledge and skills, adaptability, and any other characteristics the company wants to measure. Then questions and answers have to be properly weighted on the basis of their relevance and predictive value.
However, there are many digital resources and guides that will help HR teams build structured interviews. Once teams have a firm grasp on the concept of structured interviewing, they will be able to develop questions and approaches that suit their hiring needs.
3. Structured Interviews are Robotic and Impersonal
Perhaps the most common complaint about structured interviews is that they’re cold and inhuman, but this is a caricature. There are many ways for hiring managers to make the structured interview process welcoming and less intimidating. First, they can have a normal discussion about the company’s values and culture, as well as the role. Second, they can explain why structured interviews are valuable for the company and the candidate: they give job seekers an opportunity to showcase their abilities on an even playing field. And third, hiring managers can encourage candidates to answer questions naturally and honestly, just as they would in any other interview.
The argument that structured interviews are too mechanical doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Aside from all the ways hiring managers can make the process more organic and comfortable, structured interviews already have an extensive record of success.
4. Candidates Dislike Structured Interviews
The quality of the candidate experience has never been more important. Criteria’s 2022 Candidate Experience Report found that many complaints about the hiring process will cause job seekers to abandon it altogether: almost one-third said they would exit the process if it was taking too long, while 53 percent would do the same if they received poor communication from the company or recruiter. While some hiring managers believe structured interviews will drive candidates away, they’re mistaken. When Google started conducting structured interviews, its hiring team reported an “uptick in candidate satisfaction in feedback scores for structured interview candidates.” Other research has found that candidates regard structured interviews as a fair method of evaluation.
Over three-quarters of employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce is an important factor in deciding where to work. When companies use structured interviews, they will show candidates that they’re taking active steps to minimize bias and discrimination – a key element of a healthy candidate experience.
5. Hiring Managers Will Resist
Criteria’s 2022 Hiring Benchmark Report found that a significant obstacle to conducting structured interviews is “getting hiring managers to comply” (cited by 40 percent of respondents). This expectation is understandable, as hiring managers are often the first to contend that structured interviews are awkward and unnatural. Company leaders and other members of the HR team can address their colleagues’ hesitation by pointing out that structured interviews will help hiring managers make better decisions. Hiring managers should also be involved in the development of rubrics and questions, which will give them a stake in the process.
The top three hurdles to implementing structured interviews are: defining the rubric for evaluating responses (47 percent), creating the interview questions (44 percent), and finding time to develop the process (44 percent). There’s no question that structured interviews require more preparation and analysis than casual conversations, but that’s why they’re far more objective and predictive than those conversations could ever be.
Josh is the Founder and CEO of Criteria. He started the company in 2006 with a vision to create a SaaS-based pre-employment testing service that would make the highest quality employee assessment tools accessible to companies of all sizes. Prior to launching Criteria, Josh cofounded an online test preparation company, Number2.com, which was acquired by Xap Corp of Culver City, CA, in 2002. After the acquisition, Josh served as the President of Xap's test prep division. He has coauthored testing-related articles published in the Journal of Educational Computing and the American Psychological Society Observer. Josh holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Mellon Fellow.
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