Interview: What every manager needs to know

Structured interviews, in particular, have been repeatedly shown to enhance both reliability and validity, leading to more consistent and predictive hiring outcomes.

THE job interview remains one of the most popular methods for evaluating potential employees, viewed by many as a critical component in the hiring process. Despite the advent of various new hiring tools and technologies, the traditional job interview has stood the test of time.

The reliability and validity of job interviews have been a topic of considerable research.

A comprehensive review and meta- analysis by McDaniel et al. (1994) highlighted the complexity of job interviews as a hiring tool, suggesting that while interviews can offer valid assessments, their reliability and predictive validity are often contingent upon their structure and execution.

Structured interviews, in particular, have been repeatedly shown to enhance both reliability and validity, leading to more consistent and predictive hiring outcomes.

The unfortunate part is that most job interviews practiced by many companies are unstructured, leading to bad hiring.

However, without proper training, managers conducting job interviews might inadvertently introduce biases into the hiring process, affecting the utility of the job interview as a hiring tool.

The consequences of untrained managers handling job interviews can be severe, ranging from legal implications due to inappropriate or discriminatory questions to potential financial consequences if an unqualified candidate is hired.

Inadequate interview processes can also cause companies to miss out on qualified candidates, leading to a talent drain that can affect overall organisational success.

Given the high stakes involved, it is clear that managers must be well-versed not only in the art of interviewing but also in the legal and ethical considerations that govern it. This necessitates a commitment to ongoing training and development to ensure that the job interview continues to serve its intended purpose: to reliably and validly assess candidate suitability for the role.

Understanding the market

Managers seeking to hire top candidates must navigate the complexities of the modern job market and must recognise the patterns of candidate behaviour and preferences.

As of 2023, the job market is characterised by a substantial presence of passive job seekers — individuals who are not actively seeking new employment but are open to considering new opportunities.

For instance, Subbarao et al. (2022) explored the distinct behaviours between active and passive job seekers, particularly in their use of social media for job searching, indicating that different strategies may be required to engage with each group.

Preparing for the interview

When it comes to interview preparation, the stakes are high, both for candidates and interviewers.

On average, for a single job opening, 118 candidates apply, but only about 20% are actually interviewed.

As for the candidates, who are offered an interview, a significant percentage fail due to a lack of knowledge about the company and not understanding the job on offer, highlighting the importance of thorough preparation.

Structuring the interview

A structured interview process is a critical element in the recruitment and selection of new employees.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) emphasizes the use of structured interviews, which involve asking every candidate the same questions in a predetermined order.

This level of standardisation helps ensure that each interview is conducted fairly and that all candidates are evaluated on the same criteria, reducing bias and discrimination in the hiring process.

Research supports the effectiveness of structured interviews in predicting job performance. For example, Van Iddekinge et al. (2007) found that structured interviews administered by experienced interviewers could mitigate the use of impression management tactics by candidates.

Structured interviews typically include different types of questions, such as situational, behavioural, background, and job knowledge, which together provide a comprehensive assessment of a candidate's suitability for the role.

These types of interviews can be particularly effective in minimising in-group favouritism and other forms of bias that can compromise the integrity of the selection process.

Behavioural interview techniques

Behavioural interview techniques are widely recognised for their effectiveness in assessing a candidate's potential for future job performance.

These techniques are rooted in the concept that past behaviour is a reliable indicator of future behaviour in similar situations. Data indicates that behavioural interviewing has a 55% predictive accuracy rate for on-the-job success, which is significantly higher than the 10% predictive accuracy of traditional interviewing methods.

According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 75% of hiring managers use behavioural interview questions to assess soft skills and the potential performance of a candidate. The survey also reveals that nearly 63% of organisations incorporate competency-based questions to evaluate candidates' skills and abilities.

In practice, behavioural interviewing can involve questions that prompt candidates to describe specific instances from their past work experiences. For example, asking a candidate to detail how they navigated a challenging project or conflict within a team can provide insights into their abilities in areas such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Furthermore, research supports the use of behavioural interview techniques as a means to gain a deeper understanding of a candidate’s competencies. One study by Motowidlo et al. (1992) explored the structured behavioural interview and highlighted its effectiveness in evaluating a candidate's job-relevant behaviors and experiences.

The approach is supported by data suggesting that behavioural interview data can be used to classify new hires into performance groups, allowing for a more refined prediction of candidate success.

Evaluating cues

Non-verbal cues can be just as telling as verbal responses. A study by Northeastern University found that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Managers need to be adept at reading body language, eye contact, and other non-verbal signals that may indicate a candidate's confidence, enthusiasm, or truthfulness.

Wrong questions

Managers must exercise caution to avoid asking the wrong questions during an interview because doing so can lead to significant reputational risks. Inappropriate or discriminatory questions during interviews can damage an organisation's reputation and lead to mistrust among potential employees.

Employers are, therefore, encouraged to steer away from personal topics that could inadvertently lead to discussions of protected characteristics, which might then influence hiring decisions.

It is crucial for managers to be trained on which questions are appropriate and how to conduct interviews that focus on job-related competencies without crossing into illegal territory.

Impact of technology

Technology has revolutionised interviewing. Video interviews increased by 67% during the recent pandemic, and platforms like LinkedIn have made it easier to connect with candidates.

Managers must be comfortable with these technologies.

Closing the interview effectively

The closing of an interview is as important as the beginning. It is a manager's opportunity to ensure that the candidate has a clear understanding of the next steps. Statistics show that 80% of candidates say a positive interview experience can change their mind about a role or company.


Effective job interviewing is a multifaceted skill that encompasses preparation, structure, communication, legal understanding, technology, and continuous improvement.

With the right approach, managers can not only select the best candidates but also enhance the company's reputation and attract top talent in the future.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. — or e-mail: [email protected].

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