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You can probably already guess the most popular – or at least most widely used – method of hiring a new employee. In fact, research has shown it’s the most widely used across all countries, jobs and levels [1].

Considering its widespread use, it’s not surprising that, all too often, recruiters and hiring managers feel overly comfortable trusting their intuitions during interviews. For decades, interview judgments have tended to be based on “hunches” and, therefore, haphazard. As early as 1923, employment interviews have been considered too unreliable to be useful [2].

On more occasions than you would think, I’ve come across hiring managers who say, “I know a good job candidate when I see one,” or “I feel it in my gut.” What they don’t say is how they define a good candidate and what they look for in relation to the target job.

We call this hiring on a “gut feeling.”  It often leads to another well-known mistake in interviews – the “similar-to-me” effect. Interviewers with this bias are typically attracted to candidates who share their same interests and characteristics. Typically, this has nothing to do with fit for the job.

While this may sound discouraging, there are, luckily, better ways to conduct an employment interview. Many companies have done their homework and found that all they need to do is come to the interview prepared.  Being prepared means that your interview includes all the right pieces or ingredients to effectively assess your candidate for the job. I refer to this as the “recipe.

The Recipe

Years of research have identified three ingredients to a successful employment interview: Structure, Behavior and Competencies.


Structured interviews have pre-planned procedures and sets of questions that are asked of all candidates. The questions are tailored to fit the job (i.e., job-related). This allows for a better interview, and it also gives the interviewer the opportunity to make better comparisons across candidates. Using a structured interview doubles the accuracy of hiring the right person for the job (validity coefficients rise from .34 to .67) [3].


Focusing on behavior, as opposed to a candidate’s reported opinion, is the second ingredient necessary for a successful employment interview. There are slightly different names to the approach. Behavioral Description Interviews (BDI) is one title used in the field.

BDIs are based on the axiom that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. A typical BDI question might be: Tell me a time when you had to motivate someone to do something they didn’t enjoy doing. Describe the situation, your actions and the outcome.

BDI questions allow the interviewer to probe into the candidate’s answer, reducing the possibility for the candidate to embellish or make up information.


One of the most important considerations in choosing interview questions is that they must be job-relevant. Basing an interview on appropriate competencies aids the interviewer in focusing on job-relevant information. This ensures the usefulness or validity of an interview and satisfies legal requirements around fair selection procedures.

Competencies are essential attributes needed of candidates to be successful on the job. For example, a competency used to hire a mid-level manager might be the capability to influence others. For a senior level position, demonstrating business acumen would likely be an important competency to include in your interview.

A Ready Solution

Readers may be interested in learning about E.A.S.I-Consult’s® solution for hiring the best through interviews. Our E.A.S.I-Interviews online interview generator ensures that you address the three key ingredients of successful interviews: Structure, Behavior and Competencies.

You could say that we’ve done your homework for you. Through years of research, E.A.S.I-Consult has developed a proprietary Four-Factor Model of competencies. The four factors are: Cognitive, Emotional, Interpersonal and Motivational.

There are 24 competencies in the model, each addressing three levels of an organization: 1) Individual Contributor; 2) Manager; and Senior Manager. The labels for the competencies are the same no matter what level but the behaviors required to perform at each level are different.  The interview includes a page for each competency, behavioral description questions (BDI), and what to look for in the candidate’s responses.

Designing your customized interview can be done in a matter of minutes. We have reduced the amount of time it takes to create an exceptional interview from hours to minutes.

Regardless of the approach you take to design your employment interview, remember the importance of good preparation and the three key ingredients to a successful interview: Structure, Behavior, and Competencies.

For a sample interview created by E.A.S.I-Interviews, contact us at E.A.S.I-Consult.

David Smith, PhD, is the president and CEO of E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government   agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.

[1] Farr, J.L. & Tippins, N.T. Eds., (2010). Handbook of Employee Selection. NY: Routledge.

[2] Hollingworth, H.L. (1923). Judging Human Character. NY: Appleton

[3] Conway, J.M., Jako, R.A. & Goodman, D.F. (1996). Journal of Applied Psychology. 80, 565-579.