hr potentials blog

What science says about employment interviews

Published on by Anže Dejak, mag. psih.

Allow us to speculate for a moment:

You’re in the midst of your hiring process and about to make a final decision regarding your final few candidates. You’re counting on your gut feeling to tell you whether Monica or Matthew are the right choice for your company based on their final interviews.

Not to discredit intuition, but let’s review its predictive power for hiring processes.

The frequency of employment interviews

Employers today have and use a wide range of methods when it comes to their hiring processes. One of the most common methods is an employment interview¹. It offers an opportunity for the candidate and the employer to get to know each other and their prospective fit. Employers particularly prefer it to get a feel for whether they wish to hire a specific candidate or not.

Employment interviews can be either:

  • structured
    have a carefully determined set of questions and a detailed scoring scheme, and tend to be more job knowledge oriented or

  • unstructured
    have no fixed format or set of questions, there is usually no fixed scoring procedure, and tend to be more personality and social skills oriented.

Research shows that unstructured interviews are less reliable but have a validity, comparable to the structured interviews. Further, managers and candidates seem to prefer unstructured interviews as it gives the interviewer more control over the interview process and seems less difficult for the candidate¹˒².

Yes, you read that right. Latest research shows that there is no particular reason to use structured interviews, since they are as good as unstructured ones, which everyone prefers. We were surprised as well.

But does heading into an interview with solely intuition on your mind pay off?

The utility of employment interviews

It would appear so. A 2016 meta-analysis² compared the utility (usefulness, profitability) of various common hiring methods based on the research of the past 100 years. Employment interviews (structured, unstructured, and even phone-administered) are among the top 5 hiring methods based on their ability to predict job performance and performance in job training programs.

However, employment interviews are not the most useful hiring method. That would be the general intelligence or general mental ability (GMA) tests. Assessing the construct of intelligence, the GMA tests have the most numerous and the strongest research evidence for their ability to predict job performance and performance in job-training programs. They are well-researched and have a low utilization cost, which gives them a special advantage in comparison to other hiring methods. GMA tests, if used, therefore, represent the single largest unique contribution to the validity of the hiring process.

Fair point, but why should you use GMA tests? The aforementioned meta-analysis showed that no other hiring method can compare to the GMA’s ability to predict both job performance and performance in job-training programs. Furthermore, it also showed that regardless of their ability to predict performance, most common hiring methods have little to no practical value over the predictive ability of the GMA tests. Most, but not all.

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The costs and benefits of employment interviews

Employment interviews (regardless of the type) possess the ability to predict job performance and performance in job-training programs well. When compared to the GMA tests, their unique predictive ability is similar, but not the same.

If you were to use a psychological assessment (say, GMA tests and a personality inventory) and an employment interview within the same hiring process, the unique contribution of employment interviews would be drastically lower than that of the psychological assessment. This is due to the fact that the content of common employment interviews is usually highly correlated with psychological constructs such as the general mental ability, personality traits etc. In other words, research³ shows that employment interviews offer some, but not a lot of new insight, if used together with psychological assessment.

But aren't employment interviews a better choice between the two? Common employment interviews have a handful of other challenges. The interview itself represents a stressful situation, possibly for both the interviewer and the candidate, putting them under the pressure to be liked and socially desirable. The interviewer may, due to their own personal characteristics, unintentionally influence the candidate’s responses or even, because of their personal beliefs and prejudices, discriminate against certain candidates (i.e., interviewer effect and interviewer bias). Lastly, the costs of and resources needed for interviewing a large pool of candidates can be fairly steep.

On the other hand, psychological assessment is designed to be objective and provide a more complete picture of an individual's characteristics, relevant to their work. Due to the way it is conducted, it eliminates the possibilities for the administrator to affect the assessment results. It can also help identify areas of strengths and weaknesses that an employment interview may not reveal.

Furthermore, an examination of hiring methods in the meta-analysis² shows that there are other factors, such as integrity, occupational interests, and certain personality traits, that affect an individual’s job performance. These psychological constructs also provide their unique contributions to the validity of the future job performance prediction and, by extension, to the validity of the hiring process.

All things considered, consider HR Potentials

Does all this mean you shouldn’t use employment interviews in your hiring processes?

We certainly hope you do. Psychological assessment should be (and usually is) only a part of your hiring processes. A comprehensive approach to your hiring process would include various attributes as well as various methods to assess candidates to give them an opportunity to present themselves in their full complexity and showcase their unique mix of abilities. In the same way that modern jobs became increasingly complex, modern hiring demands combined information to predict an individual’s likelihood of being successful on the varied demands of the job. That is, if you wish to hire long-term employees and not employees who will temporarily replace other employees.

At HR Potentials, we strive to answer modern problems with modern solutions. We provide our clients with psychological assessment, backed by the latest scientific research and professional standards. Our goal is to empower HR specialists and decision makers with the use of objective, reliable and valid methods so they can make better, data-driven, bias-free decisions.

Got you interested? Contact our representative and secure yourself a free demo.


  1. Conte, J. M., & Landy, F. J. (2019). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (6th ed.). Wiley.
  2. Schmidt, F. L., Oh, I.-S., & Shaffer, J. A. (2016). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 100 years of research findings (working paper). ResearchGate.
  3. Salgado, J. F., & Moscoso, S. (2002). Comprehensive meta-analysis of the construct validity of the employment interview. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 11(3), 299–324.
  4. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Interviewer effect. APA dictionary of psychology.