This article is written by Rebecca How, Talent Management Associate Director MEA at PageGroup

We all want to make sure that we are hiring the right person for the job. But with the way in which we are working, hiring and onboarding new talent dramatically and quickly changing, we might need to review how we are assessing the people we still need to join our organisation, ensuring we find the best person for the job. If we are not meeting them in person, how can we still be sure that we are making the right decision?

Research into the effectiveness of interviews has largely centered on two measures: reliability and validity. Would the same judgement be made by another interviewer and is the judgement related to relevant criteria associated with success? Whether we are interviewing face to face, or via video conferencing facilities, the importance of these two elements can make the difference between a good hire and a great hire. If we can be clear on these two measures, we can be confident our interview, whether in person or over video conference, has been effective. 

Improving Validity

Our brains are operating at an almost unfathomable speed and complexity and in order to work efficiently our brain will draw on previous experiences and make assumptions. When it comes to hiring, these assumptions can manifest themselves in unconscious bias.

What is Unconscious bias?

This is a topic in itself, but to share an example, let's look at the Horns and Halo Effect. A favourable rating given to a person for one characteristic washes over into a general attitude of favourability for all that the person does. For example, if an interviewee answers questions very confidently, we may not further question them on a topic. “They seem confident, so I’m sure they handled that project well, and were able to inspire the team involved.” The same happens when we attach negativity to one characteristic, allowing that negativity to wash over all other attributes of that person. Rather than make a note of a possible risk factor, or development area, we rule that candidate out.

By familiarizing ourselves with all the key unconscious bias that may effect our decisions, these decisions will be less likely to lead to invalid conclusions

Improving Reliability

As well as being confident we are not encumbered by unconscious bias, we also need to consider whether the interview is reliable. Would the same conclusion be reached by your peers if they were to conduct the interview?

One of the techniques which can mitigate issues around reliability are competency or behavioural based interviews.

Competency vs Behaviour

Competency relates to the knowledge, skill, experience, access and judgement to do something. Behaviour relates to how and whether someone performs a task: not simply that they could.

A good way to think about these is whether someone has the competency to stay physically fit; or do they exercise the behaviour to stay physically fit. The difference is subtle, but depending on the role, you may want to understand and be given examples of a skill someone has, or you’d rather delve into the behaviours they have demonstrated in the past.

Behavioural based interviews are based on the idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of future action. We will look at how this style of interview can be executed. 

Top tips for conducting Behavioural Based Interviews:

1)    Be clear on which behaviours you are testing – What are the behaviours which will underpin success in this role? Do you have a behavioural framework and two or three of these behaviours would lead to likely success for you new hire. The behaviour should have a clear definition or traits. For example: Teamwork. Demonstrates team player mentality, is able to contribute to team success and harmony. Adapts to the team’s different style and approaches.

2)    Think about how you will record the information – if you are interviewing a number of candidates, it is important you can compare like with like. You may be able to rate the behaviours out of 5, being clear about what sort of examples and details you would like to hear to score at the top end of the scale.

3)    Explain the structure of the interview – Interviews by their very nature are nerve wracking. In order to get the truest impression of the interviewee, it is important to set out clearly the format of the interview.

4)    Ask open or TED questions about past behaviour – prior to the interview think about which questions you will ask all candidates, and ensure these can't be answered with one word. You may also wish to utilise the more directive TED questions, starting with "Tell", "Explain" or "Describe". It is important to delve into the answers with further questioning to test the candidates involvement in the example and truly understand how this demonstrates the behaviour you know will lead to success in the role you are recruiting for.

Examples include:

a.      Describe a time when you worked on a team project?                                           

b.      How have you built and maintained effective working relationships?

What else?

Finally, if you still do not feel confident in making a decision, are there other technologies or processes which will give you the confidence to make the offer? It may be that for maximum reliability and validity it might be worth your while to conduct a relevant psychometric test.

We have recently seen a Multinational Power Generation Company in South Africa utilise psychometric testing to help them assess critical thinking, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence and verbal reasoning. These were conducted over two online tests, followed by the video conference interview. Not only did it give the interviewers extra insight into the interviewees capabilities, it helped them ask targeted questions in the interview around what they already knew to be strengths and weaknesses: as discovered in online tests. When it comes to onboarding – our client is also better able to design a bespoke onboarding programme, which will make the most of those strengths as quickly as possible.

People are key to any company’s success. There are still opportunities to find, assess and hire the best talent, and the above tips and knowledge can help you ensure you increase the reliability and validity of your process.

Michael Page Middle East has launched a complete e-guide ‘Running your Recruitment Processes Remotely’ which you can download here

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