Using interviews to assess job behaviour

The following information is an excerpt from the whitepaper ‘Best Practices in Talent Assessment’ by Dan Harrison, PhD, of Harrison Assessments International ©2008 Harrison Assessments International.  For a copy of the full report, please email us.

handshakeIn the past, interviews have been used as the primary means assess attitude, motivation, and job behaviour. However, even if interviewers are extremely intuitive, there are many reasons why accurately assessing job behaviour with a normal interview process is nearly impossible.

1. Interviewers do not have access to a real behavioural success formula. There are dozens of behavioural factors that either promote success or inhibit success for any one job. Interviewers rarely have access to a job formula that identifies the behavioural success factors, weights the success factors against each other. And formulates how different levels of these success factors impact job performance

2. Even if the interviewer has access to such a formula, the interviewer would need to accurately assess specific levels of each applicant’s behaviour for each of the job success factors.

3. Some people are skillful at being interviewed. However, being skillful at an interview usually does not relate to job success and therefore it often confuses them into thinking that such skillfulness will relate to job success.

4. The interviewee aims to tell the interviewer what he/she thinks will be viewed as the best response. The interviewer aims to determine how much of what the person is saying reflects genuine attitudes and behaviour and how much is related to just trying to get the job. This in itself is extremely difficult to resolve in the short period of the interview.

5. Interviewers are biased. Research clearly shows that interviewers routinely give favorable responses to people who are similar to themselves, and less favorable responses to people who are different from themselves. In the end, the result is very likely to come down to how well the interviewer likes the candidate rather than how well the candidate fits the behavioural requirements of the job.

Many interviewers claim insights into the personality of applicants and certainly some interviewers are quite perceptive. However, predicting job success is an entirely different matter. It is not sufficient to perceive a particular quality of a person. Rather, the interviewer must be able to accurately assess the magnitude of each of dozens of qualities in relationship to a complex formula of behavioural requirements for a particular job. This is nearly an impossible task without the aid of significant research and tools.

Assessment research shows that interviewing has a moderate ability to predict job success. However, this doesn’t mean that interviewers can predict job behaviour. The moderate ability to predict job success comes as a result of exploring the candidate’s resume, previous experience, education, and job knowledge rather than the interviewer’s ability to predict job behaviour. If you doubt my assertion, I suggest you try the following experiment. Have your interviewers conduct the interview without ever seeing the resume and without discussing past experience, education or skills. Then have them write down their job success prediction. Later, you can compare this prediction to the actual job success. In fact, conducting interviews in this way would be so difficult that I doubt anyone would even attempt it.

Next in this series:  Job behaviour assessments compared to personality assessments

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