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Interview: An employers guide to good practice

By Memory NGuwi

One of the tools often used to select potential employees is the interview method. While this process is popular, it is beset with many challenges making it the most vulnerable selection tool available. The interview method is also subject to manipulation and biases that can make it the least effective way for selecting employees.  Research already shows that the interview method can only be effective if it’s structured versus unstructured. The common interview method on the market is mainly unstructured, making it less effective in selecting employees.  To make the job interview method an effective way for selecting employees, employers can take the following steps:

  • The first step in designing a structured and effective interview process is to start with job analysis.

Job analysis allows you to establish the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAO) required from an individual to perform the job effectively. The KSAOs cannot be derived from a standard job description that we see on the market. The job descriptions prepared for job evaluation purposes are not good enough to establish KSAOs. To develop credible KSAOs that will be the bedrock of your recruitment and selection processes, you need to use reliable tools for conducting job analysis. There are reliable tools that can be used for this purpose. If you want to see samples of job profiles developed for hiring purposes, look at the O*Net Online. When designing your job profiles for hiring, they should ultimately lead you to minimum hiring standards.  When doing job analysis, do not rely on job incumbents. You need to put together at least 3 subject matter experts. A subject matter expert (SME) is a person with a deep understanding of a particular job to give an expert opinion. When selecting such people in your job analysis process, choose at least three people for each role. These are interviewed through a standardised questionnaire to enable a proper summary of essential duties and KSAOs. In some instances, the SMEs can be incumbents provided the persons chosen are competent enough to give an expert opinion on the job. If you decide to use job incumbents, make sure you also include other people; supervisors of the role, employees who occupied the position before but have since been promoted to higher roles.

  • When designing the job advert based on the output of the above process, please avoid putting anything under “Added advantage”.

Anything that has not been listed as a minimum hiring standard should not be used to prepare an advert. I see most organisations waste their time putting things under added advantage. This will exclude capable people. If an organisation requires a minimum of a first degree, is an MBA an added advantage in performing that role? This is not necessarily true, therefore do not list anything under added advantage.

  • The most effective job interviews are competency-based interviews and situational interviews.  In both cases, the design of interview questions is the key. A solid job analysis must inform this design. Situational interviews are based on data collected through critical incidents that have happened in the job before. The output of the essential incidents is then used to feed into the interview questions.

To get the maximum value out of job interviews, you need to have a standardised process for carrying out the job interview.

  1. This means that all questions must have agreed response parameters agreed in advance.
  2. All candidates are asked the same questions
  3. No other questions are asked to job candidates except those on the interview script. The only questions allowed are follow up questions where a panellist may want to solicit more information to add to a question already asked.

The interview panellist should rate candidates based on their responses versus the agreed marking script. The Panellist rate candidates individually without discussing them with anyone.

  •  Panellists should not be allowed to discuss the candidates after each candidate has finished. Instead, they can be allowed to discuss their experiences once all the candidates’ scores have been tabulated or as they are being tabulated. Any discussion done will not affect the rating of the candidates but will be for noting only.
  •  The tabulation of results should be handled properly. Check for outlier ratings. Some Panellists may overate or underrate certain candidates. There are two ways to deal with this: you ask the Panellist to justify their extreme ratings.

Alternatively, instead of using the average score from all Panellists, you may want to use the median as it is less susceptible to outliers.

  •  Rank your candidates based on average score or the median score. You must have a cut-off point below which, if a candidate scores, you do not consider them even if they are the highest among all candidates.

Lastly, do not allow people who have never been trained in carrying out job interviews to sit on job interview panels. They bring biases and errors that may lead to the selection of the wrong candidates.

If you adhere to the above process, you should be able to develop a credible process for selecting job candidates using the interview process.

Anything short of the above procedure is classified as an unstructured job interview. If you want more information on other selection methods, click here.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. — https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone +263 24 248 1 946-48/ 2290 0276, cell number +263 772 356 361 or e-mail: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com or visit ipcconsultants.com.

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