Interviews Are the 3rd (Really 9th) Best Way to Select People

researchSkilled researchers pored through 85 years of scientific literature to identify which employee selection methods were the best predictors of job performance.    85 years of research, distilled down into one set of findings.

So of the 19 methods studied, which ones were the best?

So … correct me if I’m wrong here, but that list covers just about all the methods most employers use when making a hiring decision.

OK, so this research goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many hiring mistakes, but I bet it leaves you wondering just what those researchers found to be the best predictors of job performance…

The best predictors of job performance were being smart, (General Mental Ability – such as IQ) and doing well on work sample tests (see: “Talking About Work vs. Doing Work In the Interview.”)    Actually employers who used a combination of two good methods improved their hiring accuracy even further.

So, in 85 years of research, one finding is crystal clear:

Most traditional methods of selecting employees are terrible at predicting job performance.  

But the fun really begins when you evaluate the entire recruiting and hiring cycle in light of these findings:

  • You reduce your chances of making a good hiring decision when you emphasize (the nearly irrelevant) years of experience in your job description, and employment advertising.  That (arbitrarily) limits who you will even consider in your pool of candidates.
  • Then, when you dip into that already limited pool of candidates to select people for an interview, you further reduce your chances of making a good hiring decision when you rely on the resumes alone in selecting who to interview.   Just what, exactly, can you learn from a resume beyond education and years of work experience?  Less than you think, yet surveys show that years of experience is one of the most common factors executives use in evaluating candidates.
  • So, before you have even had your first interview, before you have spoken one word to your potential future employee – your entire recruiting and hiring sequence conspired against you by using two of the least reliable indicators of actual job performance to select who you will speak with.  And then of course, most managers compound the error by “winging it” with an unstructured interview.   Hey, if that’s the combination of hiring methods you are using, maybe you should save the trouble and just rely on handwriting analysis instead (it was ranked 18th).

So what exactly can you do to improve the accuracy of your hiring decisions?  Well, I don’t know what you can do in your company culture, but I can share the approach we have taken on hundreds of searches for dozens of clients.  No, we don’t use IQ tests and no we’re not perfect, but 90% of our placements are thriving on the job after 18 months.   (When you get a lot of repeat business and offer a really long performance guarantee you tend to track these things very carefully).

Our Results-Based Hiring Process®  does not emphasize education or job experience during the outreach, recruiting and selection process.  We purposefully cast a wide net with telephone interviews to avoid any hint of resume bias – we intentionally want to talk with “out of the box” candidates.   After we winnow the candidate pool based on the behaviors and competencies that will actually drive business results, we then provide hiring managers with several useful kinds of structure.  We develop targeted behavioral interview questions and detailed candidate evaluation forms for each position.  We help our clients manage who should be involved in the interview sequence, and suggest how it should best be structured, and we encourage our clients to integrate rigorous work sample tests into the interview process.

And yes, we still check references –  because even if reference checking is only 13th on that list, it still has some correlation to job performance, and I just flat refuse to use handwriting analysis.

19 Responses to Interviews Are the 3rd (Really 9th) Best Way to Select People

  1. Thanks for sharing the information and your insights from the research Bob. While I agree that interviews are not great predictors of future performance/success, I’m curious as to how your phone interview process differs from a structured interview. And even though you’re casting a wide net, aren’t you still choosing who to schedule for a phone interview based off of information from a resume?

    Personally, I’m also a big fan of doing phone interviews prior to in-person interviews for a number of reasons – time, ease of taking notes, tends to be more conversational, etc. but other than referrals, I haven’t figured out how to avoid the resume as one of the primary entry points into the process.

  2. Bob Corlett says:


    There you go again – right to the heart of the matter. So permit me to step atop my soapbox.

    (ahem, is this microphone on?)

    Yes, I despise the resume as the “entry point” into the process. Top performers with bad resumes and poor performers with great resumes are epidemic. It’s the worst possible way to select people … except for everything else.

    I look forward to a cool new iPhone app, or for the clever people at Google to resolve this problem with some innovation I cannot even envision right now, but until then, we’ll be reading resumes, lots of resumes.

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  4. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  5. Eva says:

    Brilliant! Now if only everyone posting and screening resumes followed your advice…

    Unfortunately, even if all organizations switched to using work samples today — their methods will STILL be outdated tomorrow.

    Past performance may have been predictive of future performance when tasks were predictable and jobs were routine. But now, it’s the ability to learn and adapt and be creative that is more important. Current ability may be what people look at today, but I think potential is much more important.

  6. Bob Corlett says:


    Great point. I agree that thriving in chaos is increasingly important in many jobs.

    We often look at how people have adapted to past changes, taken responsibility for mistakes, learned from them and moved on, but I’m curious what other methods would work well to assess this ability?

    What is success? Some say it is falling down 7 times and getting up 8… boldy making a series of new mistakes instead of the same mistake over and over … but how can you best predict that in the future?

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