Most companies still use traditional, unstructured interviews to make a global evaluation. The interviewer accumulates information about the candidate and then reaches a conclusion. Unfortunately, a vast amount of evidence indicates that unstructured interviews lead to biased evaluations that have very little predictive value. It occurs because the interviewer usually forms a mental model of a candidate, a process that psychologists have shown has three specific limitations:
Mental models are usually simpler and more coherent than the reality they aim to assess. As interviewers, if we assume, for instance, that a particular candidate is an extrovert, we tend to ask questions that confirm this hypothesis.
A “quick and sticky” quality
We form our mental models rapidly, often on the basis of limited evidence at the start of the process, and we alter our models slowly as new facts emerge. That explains why, as common sense would suggest (and research has confirmed), first impressions have a disproportionate effect on the assessments we make of people in general and on the outcome of job interviews.
Our mental models often don’t give each pertinent fact the weight it deserves. We may discount important bits of information or, in contrast, give great weight to factors that should be entirely irrelevant. For example, an interviewer may wrongly perceive that a male candidate has great leadership qualities just because he is tall and has a deep voice. For those reasons, we do not expect all interviewers to agree on one candidate and we often compensate by averaging several interviewers’ viewpoints.
Dozens of studies on personnel selection have shown conclusively that decisions are more accurate when interviews are structured rather than unstructured. Therefore, a growing number of organisations, especially those that put a high premium on the quality of the talent they hire, have adopted structured interviews.
In a structured interview, the interviewer must rate several key traits before making a final evaluation. Scores on each attribute serve as mediating assessments: intermediary ratings, produced in a predetermined, standardised manner in order to be as fact-based as possible. The final evaluations are then derived from these ratings.
An early form of structured interviewing was developed in 1956 by Daniel Kahneman while he served in the Israeli Army, where he observed that holistic ratings given by interviewers were poor predictors of the future success of recruits.
He replaced these ratings with separate scores on six attributes: sense of duty, sociability, energy level, punctuality, capacity for independent thought, and what was then called “masculine pride.”
A simple average of these scores proved to predict overall performance more accurately than did an intuitive evaluation based on an unstructured interview. An intuitive prediction made after these separate structured interview ratings were assigned was also useful. The combination of the two was the best performance predictor of all.
Adapted from “A Structured Approach to Strategic Decisions” BY DANIEL KAHNEMAN, DAN LOVALLO, AND