New Directions in Interview Research

By Posted in - Interviewing on April 11th, 2013 0 Comments

I recently read a review of current studies and directions for future research on the employment interview which I found very interesting (Macan, T. (2009). The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research. Human Resource Management Review 19, 203 – 218.) I thought I would share some of the more interesting details with you. According to the author, there are three main categories of research being conducted.

Understanding Why Structured Interviews Predict

It has long been established that structured interviews are highly predictive of job success and vastly superior to traditional unstructured interviews. The current focus has now shifted to trying to understand why structured interviews predict. In order to do this research, there needs to be a common framework for defining structure. What is emerging is a three dimensional model of structure. The three elements are:

  • Job relatedness – Standardized content (i.e., behavioral questions) are developed or selected based on the competency requirements of the job
  • Standardized process – Conducting the interview in a standardized way
  • Structured evaluation – Following a structured process for evaluating the information

There are a number of structure elements that can be slotted into these three categories. One researcher has identified 15 separate elements of structure. The hope of this research direction is to identify which elements are critical for predicting job performance and which elements are simply “nice to haves.”

Examining Other Constructs Interviews May Measure

Structured behavioral interviews are designed to measure the underlying competency requirements of the job but do they measure other qualities as well? Research is now trying to answer that question. A couple of the more interesting qualities being studied include:

  • Cognitive ability – There needs to be more research to fully answer the question as to whether the interview measures cognitive ability and there appears to be conditions that moderate the relationship. However, early research does seem to indicate that a low level correlation does exist. The interview is certainly not a substitute for cognitive ability testing but it may have a modest relationship to cognitive ability.
  • Personality – Again, more research is needed to explore this relationship. Some personality traits may be better reflected than others in the interview. There may also be differences if the interview content is designed specifically to explore personality factors. However, the early research seems to suggest little relationship between interview measures and personality measures.

Examining the Applicant Factors That Affect the Interview Process

The third area receiving interest in current and future research has to do with examining the impact of various characteristics of the applicant that may impact measures. A couple of the  more interesting include:

  • Gender, Race, Age – Most of the research here is focused on potential bias in the use of unstructured interviews. Unstructured interviews logically provide more opportunity for biases to surface than interviews with high structure. For example, if the interviewer does not have pre-planned, job related questions to ask, you may see a difference in the types of questions interviewers ask candidates with different demographic characteristics. To the extent that biases may appear when using unstructured formats, there is compelling rationale to switch to structured behavioral interviewing.
  • Interview Coaching and Training – With all the different resources on the internet designed to help candidates interview better, this is a very interesting question to explore, “do they work?” Early research seems to suggest that they do have a positive effect. Training and preparation seems to help candidates better and accurately convey their qualities. The impact is a win-win, the candidate performs better and the interviewer makes a more accurate evaluation.


With over 100 years of research on the employment interview having already been conducted, you might think that everything is already known. Clearly, these new directions show that there is still much that needs to be better understood. I remain fascinated with this research and OMNIview will always make sure our interviewing practices are fully aligned with research findings.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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