The Employment Interview 

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Macan, T. (2009). The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 19(3), 203-218.

Focus of the Article

After examining 100 research articles, this review identified three primary areas that have garnered considerable attention: (1) exploring the underlying reasons behind the predictive power of “structured” interviews, (2) investigating the constructs or elements that interviews may assess (3) examining the influence of the applicant and interview-related factors on the interview process. The objective of this review was to give the reader an idea of the current state of research on the employment interview, examine progress made in our understanding and identify areas that still need improvement, and lastly to inspire further investigation and understanding of employment interviews. With the consideration of social contexts, the paper looked at the accuracy (validity) and consistency (reliability) of the constructs or ideas examined in an interview.

What is a Structured Interview?

Interview structure is often described and evaluated in research on employment interviews as either “structured” or “unstructured,” although the components that make an interview structured vary widely. However, researchers agree that structured interviews should be measured by multiple factors and used by everyone as an established measure to determine the level of structure in job interviews. Understanding the interview format and how it impacts validity requires a holistic approach. Due to concerns about convenience and exercising their own judgment, structured interviews are underutilized among interviewers despite their effectiveness.

Interview and Interviewer Factors

In comparison to unstructured interviews, structured interviews have been shown to be a better indicator of future job performance. The validity and reliability of interviewer ratings are improved by adding structure to the interview process. Ratings from structured interviews may be better at predicting job performance because of their reliability (consistency). Situational interviews may be less predictive for jobs that are extremely complex. Variations in validity (accuracy) results may be explained by differences in how interviews were conducted, such as in the probing methods used. 

Components of a Structured Interview

  1. Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales (BARS)
    • BARS uses specific behavioral descriptions that represent different levels of performance, allowing interviewers to evaluate candidates based on their actual behaviors rather than vague or subjective guidelines. In interview design, it is essential to establish a common evaluation procedure. Regardless of the interviewer’s level of experience, using behaviorally anchored rating scales increases the accuracy of rating interviews.
  2. Note-taking
    • In recent years, there has been research on note-taking during interviews and in making the interview process more structured. While note-taking can benefit an interviewer by helping them remember a candidate and also for legal purposes, it is still uncertain if it helps with choosing the best candidate.
  3. Panel Interviews
    • In panel interviews, an applicant is rated by a number of assessors in order to receive an overall score. Despite being highly regarded by many HR professionals, past research on panel interviews offers mixed results because of varying/differing evaluation standards. Training and setting a common “frame of reference” for evaluation standards could help with this method. 
    • Studies have investigated how panel composition might impact racial prejudices. Social situations and panel interview evaluations have an impact on consistency and accuracy. Panel interviews are valued for their perceived fairness, even when the research based aren’t always seen.

What do (Structured) Interviews Measure?

  1. Cognitive Ability (Mental Capability)
    • Meta-analyses (combined analysis across a multitude of studies) have looked to see if interviews measure cognitive ability (e.g. mental capability). They found that interviews with high structure had less of a relationship with cognitive ability. They also found that situational interview questions had a better relationship with cognitive ability over behavioral interview questions. While interviews could be developed to measure cognitive ability, there are better ways to measure cognitive ability that already exist and can be included in the hiring process. 
  2. Personality
    • In selection interviews, personality assumptions are formed, and personality traits and social skills are frequently assessed. The amount of interview structure and interview material has an impact on how well interviews match personalities. Although deliberate design of interviews to test particular personality traits is possible, further research is required. The accuracy of personality assessments can be impacted by interviewer judgments or bias and the usage of structured elements. 
  3. Counter-productive traits
    • Interviews may be used to evaluate honesty and unproductive characteristics, according to research. There is potential for analyzing counterproductive behaviors, according to research, which shows a slight association between applicant and interviewer assessments of honesty and unproductive behavior. 
  4. What else do people measure through interviews?
    • A number of constructs (specific and complex psychological concepts), including job knowledge, experience, situational judgment, emotional intelligence, empathy, positive affect, self-discipline, tenacity-resilience, teamwork, and cross-cultural awareness have been investigated in relation to interviews. However, there is disagreement among studies about the accuracy of predicting future job performance in interviews for these constructs. Interview ratings may be more strongly correlated with things including interviewee qualities, interview format, and interviewer parameters.
  5. What constructs should interviews measure?
    • Constructs used in a job interview should vary from job to job and field to field. The constructs that interviewers want to measure can be determined using a job analysis or competency model. Once the KSAOs (knowledge, skills. Abilities, and other characteristics) are established, questions can be developed to measure those constructs. Multiple questions should be used to measure a construct and interviewers that are allowed to probe get more information from applicants. To increase accuracy in predicting future job performance, researchers have looked into telling applicants the constructs interviewers will be measuring which could increase relevant responses. They found that candidates who were in transparent interviews received higher scores. 

Applicant Factors and Characteristics that can Influence Interviewer Judgements


  1. Gender and Race
    • The prejudiced recollection of African-American candidates and preference for Hispanic names without accents are only two examples of the subtle discrimination impacts that researchers have discovered. Interviewer bias and discriminatory questions might affect how candidates feel and perform. The atmosphere of an organization affects how people perceive fairness. More formal interview formats are required, as well as training for interviewers on legal and polite questions. One study showed African-American candidates thought situational interviews were more work-related in a company with diverse top-level management.
  2. Age
    • Age prejudices do exist, according to research on applicant age and interview results, but other candidate traits also affect interviewers’ judgments and suggestions.
  3. Applicants with Disabilities
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act covers individuals with disabilities, including those with a past record of impairment. Research has found that candidates with a past record of depression or substance abuse were less likely to be recommended for hire. Discussing disabilities during the beginning of the interview was found to be more favorable for applicants with current disabilities as opposed to those who didn’t discuss it at all or waited to discuss it at the end.
  4. Overweight Applicants
    • Selection biases against overweight applicants have been observed in two studies, with less bias found in behaviorally based evaluations. Strategies that benefit applicants with disabilities may not work for obese individuals. Remaining silent about their condition was a more effective strategy. Interviewers perceived obesity as controllable which influenced evaluations. 
  5. Pregnant Applicants
    • Pregnancy discrimination claims are rising rapidly according to the EEOC. Research shows pregnant applicants receive lower hiring ratings, potentially due to concerns about time off and quitting. It is unclear if these concerns are rational or biased. 

How Much Do Applicant Behaviors Influence Interviewer Judgements?

  1. Applicant Impression Management and/or Faking
    • Applicants are motivated to create a positive impression to improve their chances of getting the job. Interviewers also tend to rate applicants higher when the applicant/candidate engages in impression management. Depending on the style of interview and questions, applicants will use different tactics. Applicants use self promotion or self-focused tactics when responding to experience-based questions and more ingratiation or other-focused tactics (i.e., opinion conformity and other enhancement) when responding to situational questions. Applicant personality may also play a role whether they engage in impression management or what type they use. For example, the Altruism facet of the personality trait Agreeableness has been shown to be negatively related to impression management. 
  2. Nonverbal Impression Management Behaviors
    • Nonverbal behaviors include smiling, eye contact, leaning forward and body orientation. While there hasn’t been a relationship found between interviewer evaluations and nonverbal behaviors, this is an area that needs further investigation. It is believed that this was an area of research that was glossed over because questions that evaluated nonverbal behaviors mostly referred to eye contact and smiling and missed other aspects. Other characteristics such as physical and vocal attractiveness, have been found to have a positive relationship with interviewer ratings. 
  3. Effects of interview coaching and training
    • There are many popular books on how to succeed in job interviews that advise candidates on how to portray their strengths honestly. Interview preparation is related to self-promotion and can improve interviewers’ capacity for good judgment. Interview preparation can make a candidate appear more confident and prepared. Only a small amount of research has been done on interviewee preparation for working adults. There is a positive relationship between interview performance and recent studies on interview coaching. It would be beneficial to examine generalizability across many different populations and interview styles and randomly assign applicants to coaching conditions. The effectiveness of unconventional techniques like vocal self-guidance and mental images has been demonstrated in improving interview ratings and lowering stress.
  4. Effects of Interview Anxiety on Interview Performance
    • Job seekers may experience anxiety during interviews. Anxiety levels were consistent before, during, and after mock interviews with peers, with a lowering trend following. A measure of interview anxiety (MASI) with negative associations to interview performance was established by researchers. Interview evaluation accuracy may be impacted by applicant anxiousness. Techniques for coaching candidates and interviewers may help lower anxiety. 


Years of research have improved our knowledge about job interviews. An increased focus on structured interviews has provided useful organized elements. To make an interview more structured here are a few things you can add:

  • Identify what you are looking for:
    • Create the list of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the job. This can be done with a job analysis. 
  • More interviewers with different backgrounds:
    • Adding more interviewers with different backgrounds creates a diverse panel that promotes a reduction of racial bias.
  • Use the same rating system:
    • Develop a rating scale for all interviewers to use based on the KSAOs, preferably BARS.
  • Take notes:
    • Note-taking is helpful to recall candidates’ information and helpful to make a decision. 

Research on reliability and validity must use a standardized interview format to improve researchers’ understanding. Examining interview constructs reveals the need of developing assessments. Additional research is required on issues like impression management and candidate demographics. There are promising opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of job interviews and better understand how they differ across cultures. 

For further assistance with developing a structured interview, visit our Client Resources Download page if you would like to receive a free template. 

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