Less Isn’t More: Structure in Employment Interviews


Interviews remain one of the most common methods that organizations use to select new employees. Additionally, one of the most consistent recommendations in I/O psychology is that structuring interviews improves their ability to improve the selection process and make successful hires. Although the strength of structured interviews over unstructured interviews is well-documented, previous research has been inconsistent in identifying how different methods of adding structure to interviews may relate to one another. A new study by Melchers and colleagues begins to address this issue.

Melchers and his colleagues’ study compared the effectiveness of two methods of adding structure to interviews: frame-of-reference (FOR) training and descriptively anchored rating scales (DARS). FOR training is used to provide interviewers with information about the content addressed by each question, as well as a common standard by which the performance of applicants and their answers to the interview questions can be judged. DARS are a bit more specific, giving interviewers examples of what poor, average, and good answers to each interview question might consist of.

Although the goals of each of these methods are similar, the authors identified differences between them that they hypothesized would lead to more accurate interview judgments when both methods were employed together, instead of in isolation. In their study, the authors found support for their hypothesis, as participants in a hypothetical hiring scenario who had access to both FOR training and DARS supplied ratings that were more accurate and reliable than participants who had access to only FOR training or DARS alone.

The results of this study imply that using multiple methods to increase interview structure can be more effective than only using one method alone. This knowledge may be useful in justifying the cost of implementing multiple “structural methods” to an organization’s interview procedures. It is worth noting that this study also demonstrated that both FOR training and DARS, even when used exclusively, resulted in better (i.e. more accurate) ratings than when neither method of structure was used. This finding lends further support to the belief that some amount of structure in an interview is better than no structure at all.