Will Psychometric Testing Replace The Traditional Interview?

The purpose of the interview is to assess the candidate’s skills and qualifications, determine how well the prospective hire fits in with the company’s culture and move beyond the resume to learn about the interviewee as a whole. But is the job interview really a reliable way to achieve these objectives? The answer is a definitive yes and no. Research suggests that unstructured job interviews tend to be poor predictors of job performance while structured interviews and standardized processes produce more reliable results.

The job interview is the cornerstone of today’s hiring process. But should it be?

The unstructured job interview relies heavily on the interpersonal interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee. Generally, these types of interviews take a more improvisational approach to the discussion and depend on an organic conversation to guide the meeting. This creates a highly subjective environment where interviewers draw conclusions based on gut instincts as opposed to objective data. Under these conditions, unintentional subconscious biases held by the person running the interview affect first impressions. Gender, race, age, and appearance all influence perception during the interview regardless of any conscious effort to be impartial. To confound the issue even further, research consistently demonstrates that individuals overestimate their ability to predict performance based on superficial interaction.

The flaws of the traditional interview

The challenges of unstructured interviews are not one-sided. Prospective hires contribute to shortcomings in the process as well. Candidates notoriously overestimate their own ability to perform a job even with evidence to the contrary. In certain situations, persuasive—or even manipulative—candidates may take advantage of the interview to mislead or deceive the hiring manager. The free-flowing unstructured interview also puts socially adept candidates at an advantage. Introverted or less socially confident candidates may elicit a negative first impression even though from a skill and experience perspective they are more highly qualified.

Standardized Process and Psychometric Testing in Interviews

Despite the flaws noted above, the job interview is not on the verge of disappearing. Organizations searching for more reliable results are shifting to a structured approach to assessing potential new hires. According to current research, structured interviews with standardized processes create a more uniform experience and produce more dependable results. Structured interviews may include standardized interview questions administered to each candidate in a systematic way. In addition to creating a consistent interview experience, hiring managers may also administer standardized tests such as aptitude or IQ tests to candidates. Analyzing past performance and observing potential hires in workplace simulations are also becoming more common during the interview process.

But contrary to research that points to phasing out the unstructured job interview, most organizations are unlikely to forgo the process altogether. Tradition, corporate ethos, and basic human nature dictate an inherent need to meet face to face to assess the potential of prospective candidates.