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Hiring Successful Candidates: Structured Interviews Give You an Edge
November 5, 2021

Courtesy of Wharton Interactive.

To hire successfully, you need to suspend your intuition. That is, don’t make a decision until you’ve conducted a structured interview process that includes: developing a set of behavioral and hypothetical questions that uncover key skills and attributes that you need for a given role; asking each candidate the same questions; and asking candidates for a work sample, or a piece work that directly relates to the job.

Here are a few things to think about as your interview and hire:

Create a job description. Before writing a job description, you need to decide on the key skills and attributes you need. One place to start is by thinking about what makes the most successful employees and asking trusted employees what makes them successful. Remember to look for skills that are useful now and will be useful later as your company grows, balancing what you need right now with what you will need in the future. The job description should include the organizational mission, the general role, daily responsibilities, and qualifications. You should describe the job as plainly as possible, giving a concrete description of what is expected of any potential hire.

Select you interviewing team. Research shows that a variety of people should interview every candidate, including someone with no connection to the candidate’s potential job. Ask a diverse group of people to interview each candidate and bring their perspectives.

Develop a set of questions. Interview questions should align with the skills you are looking for. Develop a set of behavioral and hypothetical questions that focus on assessing important skills and attributes. Behavioral questions look for patterns in the past (How did you handle conflict in the team in the past?), and hypothetical questions probe by asking what-if questions (What would you do if…). Research shows that using grading scales increases the reliability of the interview process and may reduce the impact of bias by giving interviewers objective standards. Having grading scales on hand also draws the interviewer’s attention away from the personal (do I like this person?) towards the job-related (does this person have a specific skill that you are looking for?). As you prepare to hire, you need to develop a grading scale based on the questions you ask.

Ask candidates for a work sample. A work sample is a piece of work that a candidate can submit that directly relates to the job. Work samples give the candidate a chance to showcase their skills. An effective work sample asks the candidate to show their previous work on a task that is similar to the work they will perform on the job. The work sample is open-ended – there are no right or wrong answers, but there are answers that give you insight into the individual and how they will perform on the job.


Wharton Interactive draws on games, simulations, and the latest pedagogical research to create new kinds of learning experiences that are designed to transform and democratize education. Learn more about their products and platforms.

For more on scorecards, work samples, and interview questions see Google’s Re:Work https://rework.withgoogle.com/subjects/hiring/

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