Interviews are part of most hiring processes, but how important are they? Interviews are arguably the most subjective part of any selection system. As humans, we have to fight the tendency to judge people according to whether we simply like them or not, as opposed to making sure that the candidates we’re interviewing are being graded on job-relevant characteristics. For this reason, we suggest that interviews come later on in the process, after objective components of the process.
These more objective components include basic applications and assessments. The application is usually the first step of the process, and its goal is to make sure that the applicant meets the basic requirements of the job. Examples of such requirements include meeting required levels of education and work experience to perform the job effectively. Most applications today are automated, which means that recruiters and/or hiring managers don’t even have to review applicants who don’t meet these job basics. Assessments are typically the next step in the hiring process. Again, most are automated and applicants can often take them remotely. When implemented correctly, assessments can be a highly effective way to screen out potential poor performers or to identify potential high performers.
Many hiring systems will also include a phone screen before a candidate is asked to come onsite. This screen is typically a verification of the information the applicant provided in the initial application, though sometimes additional questions are asked. Motivational fit is something that should be assessed early and often in the process. A good job description helps a bit because it should outline the fundamental job duties. If there are key motivational fit aspects of the job (such as shift requirements or extensive travel) these should also be mentioned in the job description, to weed out people who aren’t willing to work under the outlined conditions.
By the time a candidate is brought in for an interview, the organization should be comfortable that the candidate would be able to perform the job duties and requirements. Ideally, you should also have a sense for how the candidate’s competencies (characteristics) align both with your organization and the job itself. The interview’s function is to confirm two important things, both for the organization and for the candidate him/herself:
Can the candidate successfully do the job?
From a motivational fit standpoint, does the candidate align with the organization and the job?
To answer these questions as accurately as possible, your interview process should be structured and consistent. If it’s not, you risk leaving the interviewer with no choice but to make a subjective decision on the candidate.
Back to our original question – how important are interviews? They are certainly key parts of the hiring process, as they serve as confirmation for whether or not a candidate is likely to succeed in the organization and in the job. Interviews are only as effective as how and when they are conducted, though. When they come at the right place in the process (further down, after objective measures) and are conducted consistently, interviews can provide you with the confidence to move forward in your selection decision.