I refer to it as the old-fashioned interview because it is about as useful as were the old fashioned typewriters compared to today’s computers. Never mind the fact that it is a dismal predictor of future success on the job, it is still in use. The good news is that there are alternatives, although they are not yet widely used.
The Worst Predictors
In general, unstructured interviews, those in which the interviewer is left to their own accord to ask whatever questions come to mind, can explain only about 14 percent of an employee’s future performance. Yet, the interviews taking place today could largely be categorized as unstructured interviews. Rarely is the interviewer prepared in advance for the types of questions they will ask or are the consistent across multiple candidates for the same position.
Refence checks fair a little worse and can only explain approximately 7% of on the job performance. Yet, how many of us still conduct reference checks only to be told that they employee was wonderful, never missed a day of work and that they would be re-hired. Only a few times have I heard a voice on the other end of the line tell me something negative about an applicant. In those cases, I always wonder what that candidates less favorable reviewers would say about them if these are the best they could come up with.
Years of Work Experience
By far, the least predictive of success, coming in at explaining only 3% of performance is our concern with the numbers of years of experience an applicant has. We somehow make the leap that someone who has been in an occupation for 15 years is better and worth more than someone who has been in the same occupation for only 5 years. That may be true if the more senior applicant has shown significant career progression, but the inverse may actually be true if both applicants have been in the same job and neither have experienced career progression.
The Best Predictors
The Work Sample
While not all jobs easily lend themselves to work sample test, these are, not surprisingly, the best predictors of future success coming in at 29%. While management jobs are notoriously difficult to give a work sample test to, there are many types of positions including finance, accounting, call centers that readily lend themselves to these types of tests.
While there is some reluctance to give what people think of as IQ tests to candidates, these cognitive tests are the second-best predictor of performance coming in at 26%. They actually don’t measure IQ as much as they measure the thought process that the candidate uses, their ability to solve issues and how quickly they can think and process information. They are predictive because general cognitive ability includes the capacity to learn and the combination of raw intelligence and learning ability will make most people successful in most jobs.
In a tie with the Cognitive tests are structured interviews at 26%. These structured interviews can be either behavioral where the candidate is asked to describe a past achievement in a certain area or situational where the candidate is given a hypothetical, but related scenario and asked how they would respond.
Given the above data, think about how you might re-structure your interviewing processes to give your company the best chance of hiring candidates that will experience success on the job.