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Why tougher interviews unearth candidates who are a better fit

By Becky Postlethwaite on 15.03.16 in Finding a job

Interviews are the way in which an organisation finds its future employees - simple? Not so much. Research by Ayal Chen-Zion, a Research Fellow at Glassdoor entitled: 'Do Difficult Job Interviews Lead to More Satisfied Workers? Evidence from Glassdoor Reviews' shows that hard job interviews have been statistically linked to higher employee satisfaction. 

The findings discovered that the optimal interview difficulty, when measured on a five-point scale, was four out of five. On this scale one is very easy, three is average, and five is very difficult. 

Out of the six countries examined (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, USA, and the UK), an increase in interview difficulty of 10% was associated with a 2.6% rise in employee satisfaction later on.

However, once the interview surpasses the difficulty of four out of five, subsequent employee satisfaction drops. "The easiest two-point interviews, and the most difficult five-point interviews, are both associated with lower employee satisfaction," says the study. In other words the more rigourous the interview questions, the better the candidate fit, but don't make the experience like an appearance on Mastermind. 

However, let's not make the mistake in thinking that we should just ask harder questions during the process - it's about asking good questions. Interviewers need to tax candidates to find out what they really know about the role and how skilled they are. In my experience, candidates either find an interview like a walk in the park or a living nightmare - there seems to be no middle ground. An informal chat, followed by an offer never works in the long-term. Essentially, the organisation is taking on someone they've not challenged and the candidate is accepting a job they really know very little about in a company whose culture is, on a deeper level, largely unknown. 

Equally, an interview that is a five on the difficulty scale may be an indication to the candidate of a dysfunctional culture within the company - where such an aggressive, demanding environment will end up being damaging to employees, leading them to quit and seek a role elsewhere. 

The research threw up similar results in all six countries examined - more difficult interview questions lead to higher employee satisfaction weeks, months and even years down the line - but the 'feel-good' factor is switched off as soon as those questions hit five on the difficulty scale. 

Fundamentally, organisations really need to overhaul their interview process and the questions they ask. In our experience as recruitment consultants, we see so many candidates who have felt let-down because the interviewer seemed unprepared - having not read their CV, texting and not really challenging them on their skills and experience. The flipside of this comes from our clients who will point out that a particular candidate was under prepared and hadn't researched the company or the role properly. Neither will lead to a match made in heaven. 

So what can you do? 

Here are some top tips to ensure a decent outcome from an interview: 

• Make sure you ask the candidate some searching questions - i.e. 'How have you dealt with tricky clients in the past?'
• Make sure you know the role and the skills needed for the role you are hiring for - you can't ask searching questions if you don't understand what's needed.
• Get the candidate to explain what they think the role will entail - this will reveal any knowledge gaps and will be a basis for discussion.
• Don't just ask about work - find out what motivates your candidate to get up in the mornings and what their passions are.
• If needs be, hire a professional to come in and help you overhaul your organisation's interview process and techniques.
• Lastly, remind those in charge of the interview process that it is the first line of defence for company culture.