<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How to Build a Better Interview

May 17, 2016

interview-day.jpgAs one of the most critical pieces of the hiring process, the interview has the potential to be a ‘make or break’ situation for a large number of candidates. Those that have made it past any screening tools or assessments in place are qualified for the most part, and the interview is one of the last big hurdles they need to jump. Like most other aspects of hiring, however, there are countless different methods of interviewing, all with proponents that will swear by their preferred option.

While there may not be a one size fits all, objectively “right” style of interviewing for every context, there are certainly some ways in which you can maximize the effectiveness of the interview. More often than not, the candidate is coming in on their own time, and as the hiring manager, you’ve scheduled time out of your busy day to conduct the interview, so there’s no reason not to attempt to make the most of everyone’s time. Below are some recommendations to help understand how to build a more effective interview.

Should You Use a Structured or Unstructured Interview?

When it comes to interviews, there are generally two types: structured and unstructured. The names are reflective of their respective style; structured interviews follow a pre-determined format that allows you to objectively compare candidates. On the other hand, unstructured interviews are largely unplanned, free-flowing conversations. Because of this, unstructured interviews are often much less accurate and not as helpful when you need to interview multiple candidates for the same position.

For the majority of interviews used in hiring settings, structured interviews are much more effective, as they allow hiring managers to compare multiple candidates’ answers to the same questions to determine the most qualified applicant. Unless there isn’t a need to assess an individual’s skills, knowledge, or qualifications, a structured interview will be the way to go.

What Should You Ask?

The whole point of an interview is to ask questions about the applicants. But which questions should you ask? Hashing over the same content from the application or other screening tools or assessments isn’t the best use of anyone’s time, so an essential aspect of an effective interview is knowing which competencies are most critical to assess at that time. This is best determined by a thorough job analysis, which helps determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed to be successful in the role for which you’re hiring.

For example, if you're hiring for a customer-facing retail position, having strong customer service skills might come out to be highly critical for success. Due to its importance, this competency would be a good one to measure multiple times throughout the hiring process, including in the interview. Or on the other hand, if you determine that problem solving is essential for the job, but realize that it isn’t measured much in the other steps of your process, making sure to hit on it heavily during the interview would be necessary. Knowing what questions are best to ask in an interview can be determined by having a complete and detailed understanding of both what it takes to be successful in the job, and of the other facets of your hiring system.

Another critical but often overlooked aspect of candidate evaluation is their motivational fit, referring to whether there’s an alignment between what an applicant desires in a position and work environment, and what’s offered in the position. For example, an individual that thrives under close supervision and a regular schedule likely wouldn’t do well in a position with high autonomy and varying hours.

Conversely, someone who prefers minimal supervision and the ability to prioritize their own work would not be as effective in a strictly regulated and controlled environment. The idea behind motivational fit is that bringing in candidates whose work preferences and style aligns most closely with the job and its environment will result in the highest likelihood of success. Taking the time to understand what sort of intrinsic motivation matches up best with the type of work being done in the position you’re hiring for will help determine which traits and preferences you should be selecting for.


One of the biggest mistakes a hiring manager can make in an interview is to not plan ahead. Not figuring out ahead of time how to make the most of the experience wastes both your time and the applicant’s. Doing your homework as to knowing what competencies are most critical for measurement, as well as what personal drivers and motivations you should be on the lookout for, will go a long way towards setting up the interview and making sure you have the best system in place to find qualified workers. 

Interviewer Tips

Greg Kedenburg Greg Kedenburg is an I/O Psychologist who previously worked for PSI. He is living and working in Chicago, IL.