Interviewing, like the use of resumes, has been a staple of employee selection for many years. Human resource managers and hiring managers appreciate the first-hand contact with the candidate that the interviews provide. Compared to other selection tools available to companies, interviewing is relatively expensive. The time of the interviewer is the major factor for this cost, thus, in the sequencing of the process, interviews are often placed towards the end of the selection process.

One major downside of interviews is that they can be very subjective and fraught with biases, conscious and unconscious. For example, it is common to have different interviewers come up with diverging assessments of a candidate. All this to say that the interview can potentially be problematic. However, scientific advances in HRM have provided some solutions to help make the interview a reliable and valid selection tool.  These advances lie in the use of interviewer training and structuring of the interview. We discuss these two solutions in this section.

Interviewer Training

Unconscious biases and subjectivity tend to drastically reduce the usefulness of the interview. One effective way to counter this is to train those conducting the interviews. Research has shown that interviewer training is a very effective way to reduce biases (Posthuma, Morgeson, & Campion, 2002). Here is a short video from the Royal Society that explains how they seek to reduce biases in their selection process.


The interesting aspect of unconscious biases is that they are greatly reduced by simply raising awareness of their existence. Thus, knowing that they exist and what form they take, helps eliminate them. Here is a list of some common biases that can cloud an interviewer’s judgment.

Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information that confirms or supports one’s personal beliefs or values. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. For example, an interviewer who meets an extremely well-dressed candidate may be biased towards empirical data that supports one’s belief that this candidate is meticulous, ignoring the remainder of the data that is not supportive. This is a great video that demonstrates the strength of confirmation bias; it shows how we are deeply conditioned to look for information that confirms what we know versus seeking information that actually tests our beliefs, creating a very narrow mindset.

Anchoring: A tendency to depend too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (considered to be the “anchor”) to make subsequent judgments during decision making – it becomes the primary reference point for judgements. Once the value of this anchor is set, all future negotiations, arguments, estimates, etc. are considered in relation to the anchor. Information that aligns with the anchor tends to be assimilated toward it, while information that is more dissonant gets discarded. For example, research has shown that we form opinions about others very quickly, in just a few seconds (Willis, & Todorov, 2006), partly because of the effect of anchoring.

Stereotyping: This is forming an opinion about how people of a given race, gender, religion, or other characteristics will think, act or respond or whether the interviewee is animated or reserved. For example, a women with children will miss a lot of work; a veteran won’t be able to adjust to working in an office; a male candidate will make a more assertive leader than a female candidate.

Halo effect: The halo effect occurs when a positive characteristic or strong point, held by the interviewer as a positive, and demonstrated by the candidate influences the entire interview. For instance, a candidate has a degree from a prestigious University so you think he or she must be highly competent and is therefore looked upon favourably. The opposite of this is known as the pitchfork effect, when one negative characteristic or point overshadows the interview. For example, a candidate answers the first two questions of the interview poorly which leads you to believe he or she is not qualified for the job.

Interview Structure

Having a trained interviewer is one way in which to reduce biases in the interview and increase the chances of selecting the right candidate. The other is to structure the interview and treat it less like a free flowing conversation but rather, like a standardized test. In a structured interview, candidates are asked a set of standardized, pre-determined questions based on the job analysis. The expected or desired answers to these questions are determined ahead of time, which allows the interviewer to rate responses as the candidate provides answers. This allows for a fair interview process (everyone is treated the same way) and one that is up to twice as effective at predicting job performance than an unstructured interview (Wiesner, & Cronshaw, 1988). Keeping in mind the necessity of structuring the interview, there are many forms of structured interviews that an HR manager and hiring manager can choose from.

Interviews can be time-consuming, so it makes sense to choose the right type of interview(s) for the individual job. Some jobs, for example, may necessitate only one interview, while another may necessitate a phone interview (pre-screening) and at least one or two traditional interviews. Below, we list some of these interview formats.

Interview Types

  1. Traditional interview. This type of interview normally takes place in the office. It consists of the interviewer and the candidate, and a series of questions are asked and answered.
  2. Telephone/video interview. A telephone interview is a relatively quick and inexpensive prescreening to narrow the list of people before a traditional interview. It can be used to determine salary requirements or other data that might automatically rule out giving someone a traditional interview. It is an opportunity for candidates to disqualify themselves from the selection process. For example, if you receive two hundred resumes and narrow these down to twenty-five, it is still unrealistic to interview twenty-five people in person. At this point, you may decide to conduct phone interviews of those twenty-five candidates, which could narrow the in-person interviews to a more manageable ten or so people.
  3. Panel interview. A panel interview occurs when several people are interviewing one candidate at the same time. While this type of interview can be nerve racking for the candidate, it can also be a more effective use of time. Consider some companies who require three to four people to interview candidates for a job. It would be unrealistic to ask the candidate to come in for three or four interviews, so it makes sense for them to be interviewed by everyone at once.
  4. Group interview. In a group interview, two or more candidates interview at the same time. This type of interview can be an excellent source of information if you need to know how they may relate to other people in their job. This method can be useful if you expect to hire more than one candidate of the group and want to observe ‘team’ dynamics – or who might best work well together.
  5. Company tour/meal or cocktail interviews. Many organizations offer to take the candidate to lunch or dinner for the interview. Others may offer a tour of the workplace. This can allow for a more casual meeting where, as the interviewer, you might be able to gather more information about the person, such as their manners, social skills, and treatment of waitstaff. This type of interview is common in certain domains (e.g. finance, accounting, client relations). While this interview may resemble an unstructured interview, organizations do try to structure them as much as possible with detailed assessment sheets to be completed after the event.

Most organizations include multiple interviews in their selection process. These processes may include one or more of the above types of interviews. For example, they may conduct preliminary phone interviews, then do a meal interview, and follow up with a traditional interview, depending on the type of job.

Interview Questions

Most interviews consist of three types of questions: ice-breakers, situational questions, and/or behavioural questions.


Interviews can be awkward, particularly at the beginning when tension is high. Icebreaker questions allow the interviewee to become more comfortable, therefore, feel more comfortable to creatively and efficiently express themselves during the interview process. It also helps the interviewer feel more at ease to ask the questions that need to be asked. The interviewer also gets a better sense of who the applicant is and what type of employee they can be in the future. Here is a list of possible ice-breaker questions that could be used.


Situational questions are ones in which the candidate is given details on a hypothetical scenario and is asked how he or she might deal with this situation. Such questions help gain insight as to the candidate’s analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as determine how well candidates can handle a problem that they did not prepare for. Here are some examples of situational questions with possible answers.


Behavioural questions focus on the candidates’ past experience and what they actually did in a variety of given situations. These questions often begin with ‘tell me about a time when you […]’. The assumption in this type of interview question is that someone’s past experience or actions are an indicator of future behaviour. Here are some examples of behavioural questions: Most common behavioural interview questions and answers


Hanricks, M., “3 Interview Questions That Could Cost You $1 Million,” BNET, March 8, 2011, accessed August 2, 2011,

Lipschultz, J., “Don’t Be a Victim of Interview Bias,” Career Builder, June 15, 2010, accessed July 12, 2011,

Posthuma, R. A., Morgeson, F. P., & Campion, M. A. (2002). Beyond employment interview validity: A comprehensive narrative review of recent research and trends over time. Personnel Psychology, 55(1), 1–81.

Reeves, S., “Is Your Body Betraying You in Job Interviews?” Forbes, February 2006, accessed August 2, 2011,

Wiesner, W.H. and Cronshaw, S.F. (1988), A meta‐analytic investigation of the impact of interview format and degree of structure on the validity of the employment interview. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 61: 275-290.

Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face. Psychological Science, 17(7), 592–598.



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