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.”