Common interview approaches in recruitment

Morgan McKinley November 15, 2013 6 mins read

What keeps employers and directors awake at night?

Deloitte, an internationally renowned consultancy company, has carried out a detailed survey of the 200 fastest growing companies in the world during recent years. Of the factors that keep employers and directors awake at night, the top three are as follows: 

1. How to attract top talents?
2. How to retain top talents?
3. How to cultivate top talents?


I. Misconceptions generated by traditional interview approaches

Interviews are the most commonly used ways for companies to sift and identify talents in recruitment. Data shows that over 90% of companies employ interviews in recruitment. However, during the traditional interview, the interviewers often play an inappropriate role, leading to a misconception. Generally speaking, the inappropriate roles the interviewers play and their accompanying misconceptions are as follows:

1. “Fact Discoverer”

The so-called “fact discoverer” refers to the interviewers who only focus their questions on specific factual information, e.g. “what courses have you taken at university?”, “how many staff does your previous company have?” etc. It seems that they only aim to find out some facts, or to verify the information listed in the resume. While it is of course necessary to verify factual information, these questions only serve to control the responses of the candidates, while failing to dig out more important information such as the motivation for the application, as well as the values, the capabilities and the personalities of the candidates.

2. “Theorist and Fact Discoverer”

In contrast, this kind of interviewer often raises questions related to the candidates’ belief and values, e.g. “why are you.....?” or “what do you think you should do.....”. Answers to these questions reflect the candidates’ opinions on how to handle a issue, rather than the ways they handle the issue in a real situation. As a result, the interviewers only get a reasonable explanation for people’s behavior, rather than the actual behavior, despite the fact that the candidates’ actual behavior is always much more important.

3. “Therapist”

“Therapist” interviewers tend to raise questions related to candidates’ emotions, attitudes and motivations, e.g. “could you please tell me how you feel....” These interviewers apt to explain or analyze the candidates’ behavior, while the explanations and analyses are always subjective and unreliable, because feelings do not equal real responses and capabilities of the candidates.

4. “Salesmen”

This kind of interviewer attempts to win the candidates’ agreement through leading questions, just like a salesman, who imposes his own idea on the candidates. For instance, the interviewer may ask such questions as “don’t you think this is the best way to solve the problem?” These interviewers like to judge the candidates by their established modes, and unconsciously transfer their own values to the candidates. As a matter of fact, the answers the interviewers get reflect their own thoughts, rather than the candidates’ way of thinking or doing. This “suggestive effect” is quite common in the traditional interview. Some candidates tend to figure out answers that cater to the interviewer after taking hints from the interviewer’s implied meanings, hence making it very difficult to elicit true responses.

5. “Fortune Teller”

The “fortune teller” interviewer likes to ask candidates what they are going to do in the future, e.g. “if you were......, what would you do.........?” In this case, the assumption about the future cannot be tested and proved. Clever candidates always give the answers in a way that caters to the interviewer, resulting in a “Halo Effect” in the interview, i.e. when the answers given by the candidates conform to the interviewer’s thoughts, the latter naturally generate a good impression on the former, and in turn, generalize the good impression to other aspects of the candidates, leading to a rating that is either too high or too low.

II. Interview Approaches in Recruitment and their Applications

Behavior Descriptive Interview:

The behavior descriptive approach was developed on the theory of behavior consistency.
The interviewers collect the information in two aspects through descriptions by the candidates of their own behavior.

The first aspect is the candidates’ past working experience. Through the candidates’ previous working experience, the interviewer is able to judge the candidates’ motivation for their application and predict their behavior patterns in their future development in the company.

The second aspect is the candidates’ patterns of behavior. The interviewers find out the patterns of behavior that the candidates would adopt for a specific situation, analyze and compare it with the patterns of behavior required by the vacancy. During the interview, the interviewer always requests the candidates to describe their behavioral processes, e.g. “could you please talk about your past working experience and the reason why you quit your previous job?”, and “could you please describe the process of submitting the letter of resignation to your general manager yesterday?”etc.

During the process of raising questions, the questions involved in the behavior descriptive interview are often associated with the candidates’ previous job responsibilities and work performance, and the way of raising questions is more thought-provoking. Taking frictions among the colleagues as an example, a question like “please tell me something about the colleagues that you were interacting with least frequently in your previous company, including how the problems arose, and the tensions or frictions between you” is obviously more effective in provoking the candidates’ true thoughts than a cliché like “have you ever had any friction with your colleagues, please give me an example”.

Behavior descriptive interview can be conducted in the following several ways:

1. Collecting various cases of the candidates’ previous behavior, to judge their responses.

The best way to know whether the candidates behave as they describe is to collect some cases of their previous behavior. The behavior adopted by the candidates in the past carries more value than answers such as “I often..., I always..., I am able to ...., I would like to..., I may...., or I should.....” Generally, the answers given by the candidates are more theoretical (not behavioral). The opinions they express may not conform to the real situation they came across in the past. The interviewers need to analyze and compare the candidates’ descriptions of their behaviors with the cases of their past behaviors to reach a correct conclusion.

2. Raising behavioral questions

In general, behavioral interview questions are raised in a tone such as “could you please talk about the situation you came across when you ........, and how did you solve the problem?” and “have you ever come across the situation of ...., please talk about one of them”.

Problem-solving ability:

Please describe a problem you have recently come across in your work (in terms of quality, equipment or processing). How did you settle it? How did you solve the problem arising in the process of production? Were you able to solve the quality-related problems?


Please describe a case where you had to adjust according to changing requirements. How did you handle it, and what was the result? How would you feel if you had to frequently adjust your plans according to changing requirements? Would you mind if you had to switch between several different positions within a short period of time?

Sales ability:

Please describe the biggest contract you have won during the past year, and how you accomplished it. Why do you think that you are capable of doing sales? Are you able to meet the challenges of the sales targets we set for you?

Team work and coordination ability:

As a manager, how do you tackle difficult personnel issues? How do you cope with “problem” employees? Are you good at resolving conflicts and frictions?

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