What do the best job interviews involve?

Interviews are always a key part of the recruitment and selection process. Unfortunately when attempting to select the best person for a job, interviews are often not performed well. When job interviews aren’t done right, their ability to predict future performance is low. The good news is we know the key ingredients that will increase your ability to predict a candidate’s future performance and behaviour.

Research has shown consistently that unstructured, non-behavioural interviews have a much lower ability to predict future performance than structured behavioural interviews. The most recent by Schmidt shows that unstructured interviews are able to predict future performance about 10 per cent of the time, whereas structured behavioural interviews get it right about 25 per cent of the time.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, which is why these types of questions are the most powerful. For example, questions that begin with something like “tell me about a time when….” are particularly useful. This allows the candidate to provide an example of specific behaviours they have demonstrated in the past that relate to those they will need to show in the future if they are to be successful in this new role.

It’s exactly why hypothetical questions are not as useful – they don’t measure past behaviour even if they appear to test a person’s intelligence, as well as their ability to think on their feet and communicate clearly. A study by Krajewski et al. shows exactly this, with past-based behavioural interview questions significantly predicting future job performance, whereas hypothetical future-based questions did not.

Structured interviews

Structured interviews are also a key ingredient for success (i.e. asking the same questions across different candidates). This enables everyone who is involved in the hiring decision to compare the final few candidates against the same criteria so that when they evaluate each person there is a consistency of data. Each candidate is given the same opportunity to respond to the same questions and this reduces biases the interviewers may have.


Sometimes people have the ability to perform well in a given role however, they do not have the necessary motivation or drive to perform. Motivational questions are essential to any good interview to help uncover why a candidate wants to work in this company and in this particular role. In a similar way, questions about a person’s career aspirations are also important. Where does this role and this organisation fit into their career journey and their future career aspirations? Is this just a stepping stone to something else? Is it their dream job? Is it just a job to bring in money because they can’t find any other job? Is it the organisation they have always wanted to work for? Understanding answers to these questions will help the interviewers evaluate the level of motivation the person has for the job.


Culture-fit is also a crucial element to consider. For example, our culture at PeopleScape is highly feedback oriented. People get feedback on a daily basis, most of it positive but sometimes about improvement areas. Our staff love this aspect of our culture, but it could be intimidating to some people. So, we ensure we look for people who would fit.

Once you’ve asked all these questions, the interview process can still produce a poor outcome if you don’t have clear evaluation criteria. Good interviews have a simple scale for each question (such as a 1-5 rating scale). In addition, they have a clear definition of what a successful response would look like so that all raters are aligned in terms of what they are looking for and what each rating actually means.

Finally, the data from the interviews needs to be integrated with all other data collected during the recruitment and selection process (e.g. CVs, reference checking and psychological testing) in order to help make an objective hiring decision. If you are able to create interviews that follow these basics guidelines you will significantly increase your chances of “getting it right”.