Avoiding Subjectivity in Interviewing

by Pete Pillsbury Sr.

Regardless of the position you are conducting interviews for, the goal is to hire the person who will be most effective in the job. It is possible to consistently meet this goal. However, in order to accomplish this, you need to control subjectivity in the interview process. Subjective judgment has proven to be a “killer” in the interview process because it distorts the interviewer’s ability to listen objectively. Thus, hiring decisions are made on the basis of “feeling” rather than objective judgment, and all too often, the best person is not hired.

A traditional interview situation begins with a greeting and usually a handshake between the applicant and interviewer(s). This greeting, research tells us, derails the interviewer’s objective thinking by allowing the powerful emotional side of the brain to take over, and, unconsciously, subjective filters are created in the brain of the interviewer. Throughout the interview, the interviewer will process what the applicant has to say through these filters. If the subjective filters are positive,  “I like this person…,” the interviewer will hear what the applicant has to say in a positive light or a negative light if the filters are negative. When hiring decisions are based primarily on subjective thought, they turn out to be more speculative (“I think she will be great, let’s hire her”) rather than based on objective, predictive information (“Listen to how consistently she shared behaviors that are consistent with high performers.”)

The most effective method of controlling interview subjectivity and insuring reliable hiring decisions is through the use of a structured interview. The structured interview helps an interviewer in quieting the subjective filters and listen through the objective side of the brain. (https://www.targetsuccess.biz/index.php/educators/wwd/structured-interviews)

Properly constructed structured interviews, such as the TargetSuccess Structured Interviews, are based on a set of measurable behavioral patterns consistent with high performance in a specific job. The interview questions are designed and tested to quantify objective, predictive behavioral data on each applicant. Through this data the structured interview, if conducted correctly, will produce highly accurate data on each applicant’s capacity to be a high performer. The discipline involved in using the structured interview shortens the time involved in interviewing, and it can be administered in person or via communication technology. In the case of the TargetSuccess Structured Interviews, they can be coded by the trained interviewer online. The computer does all the coding tabulation and provides a detailed profile on each applicant. This profile can be used for development once an applicant has been selected.

The common refrains I hear from consistent users of the structured interview include:“The structured interview takes the guess work out of hiring.” “Amazing and consistently accurate.” “A tool I wish I’d had years ago.”

Government use of the Structured Interview

Federal and State Governments Use Structured Interview

The United States Office of Personnel Management and the United States Postal Service have extensive documentation and systems in place using behavior profiling tools and structured interviews. Many states have modeled their own hiring selection processes after the Federal model, for example Arizona:

…the unstructured interpersonal interview can be one of the most unreliable and invalid methods of selection available”

Arizona Government Human Resources Division

And straight from the Federal Government’s manual:


Excerpted from The United States Office of Personnel Management:

Structured Interviews, A Practical Guide

Structured vs. Unstructured Interviews

Employment interviews can be either structured or unstructured. Generally speaking, structured interviews ensure candidates have equal opportunities to provide information and are assessed accurately and consistently.

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How To Hire The Best Teachers

Teachers are the key

Student experience and learning

Research has shown again and again that the single most important element in student success is effective teachers. Additional research has identified behavior themes that are common to effective teachers.

See: Impact of Teacher Effectiveness on Student Achievement


See: Behavior Characteristics of Effective Teachers


Positive and effective school culture

Teachers are the backbone of a school so it follows that a culture of excellence and supporting excellence in teaching is driven by the teaching staff in collaboration with administration. Positive and effective culture depends on quality teachers and effective leadership.

Problems with traditional hiring approaches

The “traditional” approach to hiring can take any number of forms but generally includes ideas like

  • Hiring people you know
  • Hiring referrals
  • Extensive interviewing

Unfortunately, in most cases, these are very subjective processes and tend to focus on selecting for reasons that are not tuned to finding the BEST teacher candidates regardless of where they come from.

What most leaders don’t know, yet should know, is what happens in the traditional hiring process. Continue reading

Traditional teacher qualifications have little influence on classroom achievement

Teacher experience and education level are characteristics are commonly assumed to correlate with greater teacher effectiveness.

However, when researchers analyzed student achievement data along with teacher qualifications, they found that a five-year increase in teaching experience affected student achievement very little — less than 1 percentage point. Similarly, the level of education held by a teacher proved to have no effect on student achievement in the classroom. These findings have implications for the way in which teacher quality and effectiveness should be assessed and valued by a school district. Continue reading

Problems with Traditional Hiring Approaches

The “traditional” approach to hiring can take any number of forms but generally includes ideas like:

  • Hiring people you know
  • Hiring referrals
  • Extensive interviewing

Unfortunately, in most cases, these are very subjective processes and tend to focus on selecting for reasons that are not tuned to finding the BEST teacher candidates regardless of where they come from.

What most leaders don’t know, yet should know, is what happens in the traditional hiring process. Continue reading

The Impact of Teacher Effectiveness on Student Achievement

Impact of Teacher Effectiveness on Student Achievement

The work of Bill Sanders, formerly at the University of Tennessee’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, has been pivotal in reasserting the importance of the individual teacher on student learning.4  One aspect of his research has been the additive or cumulative effect of teacher effectiveness on student achievement. Over a multi-year period, Sanders focused on what happened to students whose teachers produced high achievement versus those whose teachers produced low achievement results. He discovered that when children, beginning in 3rd grade, were placed with three high-performing teachers in a row, they scored on average at the 96th percentile on Tennessee’s statewide mathematics assessment at the end of 5th grade. When children with comparable achievement histories starting in 3rd grade were placed with three low-performing teachers in a row, their average score on the same mathematics assessment was at the 44th percentile, an enormous 52-percentile point difference for children who presumably had comparable abilities and skills. Elaborating on this body of research, Dr. Sanders and colleagues reported the following: Continue reading

The Structured Interview: What and Why

Also called “Structured Behavioral Interview,” “Pattern Interview,” “Quantitative Interview,” the Structured Interview is a process of interviewing that uses a set of carefully designed scripted questions and highly specific guidelines for interpreting candidate responses.

The “structure” of the interview itself is in both the exact content and order of the questions and in the interpretation and analysis of responses.

The Structured Interview analyzes behavioral characteristics to predict which candidates are most likely to be successful.

Behavioral attributes focused on closely align with accepted standards such as the ISLLC “dispositions” that define behavioral characteristics associated with excellence in teaching.


We know you are committed to excellence! Let us help.

Click HERE for:

  • FREE 60-day access to our online Teacher Selection Sketch (questionnaire-based predictive behavior profiling tool)
  • FREE 60-day access to the Posting Manager tracking and reporting system
  • Personalized introduction and tour of the Structured Interview online training and management system


Corporate America and the US Federal Government understand the importance of screening and profiling tools such as our Structured Interview and Screening Sketch.

Structured Interview Transforms Organizations!

Reasons to to implement structured interviews in your hiring process:

  • Control bias and subjectivity
  • Increase consistency
  • Maximize fairness
  • Minimize hiring mistakes
  • Predict excellence
  • Build culture of excellence
  • and more

Continue reading

Interested In A Better Way To Sort Applications?

Our mission is to assist organizations in identifying,
    selecting and developing the most talented employees.

Man and stack of resumes


Consider using the effective, efficient and affordable online screening Sketches created by TargetSuccess.




A screening Sketch is a forced choice online survey taken by each applicant. Each Sketch measures an applicant’s fit based on a set of research based excellence attributes for each specific job category. A numerical score is produced and allows the hiring organization to easily see how an applicant compares to all other applicants for a specific job. Sketches are available for: Teacher, Administrator and Classified Support Staff. For more information and DEMO Sketch visit www.targetsuccess.biz

WHAT IS THE COST (annual subscription)?

Teacher and Support Staff Sketches each:

ADA up to 1,500= $400.00

Above 1,500 ADA = $400.00 plus .10 cents per additional ADA

Principal/School Leader Sketch:

Quarterly (90-day) Subscription: $300 plus $0.7 per ADA above 2,000

Annual Subscription: $400 plus $0.13 per ADA above 1,500, 0.05 10,000+


Target Interview is a structured interview that provides an objective means for the final
selection of the most talented applicant. Each interview is based on a set of attributes consistent with high performers in a specific job. When used by trained practitioners, in your district, these interviews produce data that create a foundation for making solid, objective predictions of how the interviewee will likely perform in a specific position.

$950.00 per training participant (Includes all materials). Certified Coders (those who have completed the training) can perform unlimited interviews.
We offer training conveniently online.


For More Information Contact:

(831) 607-9478