Three Keys to Exceptional Hiring Interviews

What do you know about the people you hire? Do they have the right skills or experience needed for the job? Are they open to learning on the job? Do they bring the right attitude for success? Will they “fit in” and support the organizational culture that will make your company successful? These are important questions you need to answer before making a job offer.

On more occasions than you would think, I’ve come across hiring managers who say, “I just 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 their fit for a particular job.

While this may sound discouraging, there are 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: StructureBehavior and Competencies.


Structured interviews have preplanned procedures and sets of questions that are asked of all candidates for the position being filled. 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).[1] For those of you who are non-statisticians, this is an exceptional doubling in the accuracy of your hiring decisions.


Focusing on behavior, as opposed to a candidate’s reported opinion, is the second ingredient necessary for a successful employment interview.[2] There are slightly different names to the approach. Behavioral Descriptive 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[3] 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 online self-service interview generator, E.A.S.I-Interviews™, ensures that you address the three key ingredients of successful interviews: Structure, Behavior and Competencies.

4 intersecting circles entitled cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, motivationalYou could say that we have done your homework for you.

Our interviews are based on years of research and can be generated from your desk using E.A.S.I-Consult’s proprietary Four-Factor Model of competencies. The four factors describe essential attributes needed for success in any job. They include cognitive, emotional, interpersonal and motivational attributes.

Within the four factors there are 24 competencies:


  • Problem Solving | Business Acumen | Decision Making | Creativity | Learning Agility | Strategic Thinking |


  • Relationship Building | Interpersonal Sensitivity | Teamwork and Collaboration | Talent Development | Customer Focus | Organizational Awareness |


  • Results Orientation | Influencing Others | Initiative | Embracing Change | Quality Focus | Communication


  • Adaptability | Risk Taking | Self Confidence | Valuing Diversity | Conflict Management | Professionalism |

Each competency addresses three levels of an organization: 1.) Individual Contributor; 2) Manager; and 3) 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. For example, an Individual Contributor-level job requiring Results Orientation (Motivational factor) would include, “Sets challenging, yet achievable, goals for self.” For a Manager-level job, it would include, “Prioritizes responsibilities for others.” And for a Senior Manager job you will find, “Articulates a compelling vision that builds commitment to a common goal.”

The interview includes a page for each competency, behavioral descriptive questions, 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. The cost to you is nominal compared to the time it will take to write your own interview of any type.

You can learn more about E.A.S.I-Interviews™ at

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™ or to just speak with the author of this article about improving your interview process, contact us at

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

[2] Janz, T. (1982). Initial comparations of patterned behavioral descriptive interviews versus unstructured interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 577-580.

[3]Gordon, R., Strother, M., Rosenau, S. & Cooper, Merri-Ann, (2008). Conducting a robust interview: The behaviorally and competency-based structured interview. HR News magazine, International Public Management Association for Human Resources.

About the Author

David Smith, PhD, is the founder 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’s 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 advisement. 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, email or call 800.922.EASI.