Do you trust your gut too much when hiring?

Highly regarded CEOs such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Jack Welch have said the most critical decisions made by leaders is whom they hire. Should you leave such important decisions to your gut?

Unfortunately, too many leaders do, and it leads to bad business decisions that might not be evident for months.

Leaders can substantially improve the quality of their hires and the performance of their teams by establishing a more structured interviewing process. It is not difficult to set up.

A structured interview is a quantitative approach to interviewing based on the competencies to perform on the job and in the company’s culture. With structured interviews, the company creates a set of questions to ask each candidate to determine if they have the education, experience, technical skills, social skills, and emotional intelligence to do well on the job.

The structured interview also determines if job candidates have a record of success and how they achieved it. Structured interviews dig deep and don’t hover over the surface.

In contrast, unstructured interviews have no or minimal fixed format, no predetermined set of questions to be answered and no procedure for scoring applicant answers. In many cases, different job candidates will randomly be asked various questions. Unstructured interviews have much less validity in selecting job candidates. In fact, they are not much better than flipping a coin.

Often, with unstructured interviews, the interviewer decides based on a first impression made in the first few minutes of the interview and spends the rest of the time trying to confirm the validity of the impression. This also leads to bias in interviewing.

Empirical studies conducted in the 1980s and 1990s have shown the strength of structured interviews over unstructured interviews.[i] Structured interviews have higher reliability and predictability than unstructured interviews in selecting candidates who will perform better on the job. A more recent meta-analysis on structured interviewing, conducted in 2014, arrived at the same conclusion of the earlier studies.[ii] Looking at 12 meta-analyses, the 2014 study concludes there is, “strong evidence for the superiority of structured interviews compared to unstructured interviews.”

When detailed structured interviews are used with background checks and reference checks, they become a reliable way to determine if the job candidate is telling half-truths or lies. The number of job applicants lying on their resumes and in job interviews is increasing, and it is very difficult to catch someone lying in an interview, even among those trained to watch body language and tone of voice.

New face-recognition technology doesn’t help determine who is lying either and can lead to biased decisions. This technology is still developing for hiring. Structured interviews with background checks and checking references improve your odds of smoking out untruths.

Structured interviews also reduce the number of interviews required to evaluate job candidates thoroughly. Research shows that no more than four interviews are necessary, especially if the interviewers are asking questions about separate job competencies (such as one interviewer focusing on team-work behaviors and another interviewer focusing on technical skill questions).

Besides, structured interviews hold up well with legal challenges, as compared to unstructured interviews.

Interviewing is too critical to your team’s success to leave to a gut call. Use structured interviews instead.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting. Today’s blog is an excerpt from his new book: Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. You can buy it online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Archway Publishing.

[i] Frank L. Schmidt and John E. Hunter, “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings,” Psychological Bulletin, 124, no. 2 (1988): 272. Copyright 1998 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0033-2909/98/

[ii] Julia Levashina, Christopher J. Hartwell, Frederick P. Morgeson, and Michael A. Campion, “The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature,” Personnel Psychology 67 (2014): 241–293).

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