The cost of a bad hire can be substantial. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that an employee departure can cost upwards of 60 percent of their annual salary. 

That number can climb as high as 200 percent when you factor in total disruption to the organization. On top of hard costs like training and recruitment fees, you must also consider delays in production, lost team productivity, contagion, and potential loss of clients. 

To hedge their risks, many companies look to hiring and recruitment best practices to find 'bad apples' before they enter the organization. Some of the latest trends include predictive analytics, behavioral assessments, and aptitude/cognitive tests. 

Even with all of the new technology, one of the best ways to predict future performance is structured interviews. Structured interviews mean applying the same assessment methods across the board, and in this case, using the same behavioral and situational based questions to evaluate performance. 

Let's be honest, following a script and asking canned questions in an interview is awkward. It disrupts the natural flow of conversation and seems disingenuous. However, the benefits outweigh the discomfort -- they keep the discussion fair and free from bias.

Let me explain. 

In an article that he wrote disclosing Google's secret to hiring the best people, Laszlo Bock (former Google Exec in charge of people) highlighted research that two psychology students from the University of Toledo conducted on the topic. Tricia Prickett and Neha Gada-Jain reported in a 2000 study that judgments made in the first ten seconds of an interview often predicted the outcome of that interview.

In other words, first impressions really do matter. Laszlo argues that these predictions from the first ten seconds are useless. These judgments are actually a form of prejudice known as confirmation bias. 

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs, and then to ignore any contradictory information. For this reason, Laszlo says, "Most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds."

However, you can remove bias by being disciplined and using structured interview questions. Unfortunately, most won't. Research shows that structured interviews aren't used because, in general, interviewers think they're good at interviewing and don't need help. As we all know now, that's not the case. 

Technical skills are easier to evaluate objectively. You can code or you can't. But, soft skills are a different story. Because they are more subjective by nature, they naturally create space for interpretation and bias.

Here's where you should spend time creating formalized and structured questions. 

Luckily, LinkedIn has done some of the heavy lifting for you. In a new tool that they rolled out, it can help you generate a list of behavioral and situational interview questions based on traits important to your organization. 

For the sake of length, I've highlighted my top two below, and why most have a hard time objectively assessing them. 

1. Culture add 

Culture add is defined as "brings a new voice to the team." The ironic thing is that bringing a new perspective is often what gets you labeled as "not being a great cultural fit." So, to ensure interviewers are open to new ideas, you need to remind them that diversity is the goal and that they should try and identify areas where the candidate can complement the company. Here's a couple of my favorite questions: 

  • Tell me about a time in the last week when you've been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?
  • What's the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that?

Questions like these help uncover the candidate's workstyle and also sheds light on the type of environment they thrive in. 

2. Leader 

A leader is defined as being influential, supportive, and guides change. Great leadership is another one of those areas where you don't want to leave the interpretation to the interviewer's discretion-- everyone responds differently and has a unique perception of an effective leader. For example, you'll notice that the definition of "leader" doesn't mention managing others--and, that's where a lot of our minds naturally gravitate. 

Here were two great questions from LinkedIn's Interview Question Generator:

  • Tell me about the last time something significant didn't go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?

Interview questions are hard to develop, but they are even harder to stick to. If you want to make sure that you're evaluating every candidate against a level set, then make sure you prevent your interviewers from winging it by using structured questions consistently. 

Published on: Jun 17, 2019
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