Interview format influences perception of hiring fairness: Study

Structured format lessens bias and helps employment equity programs beat bad rap

Organizations that use situational interviews are perceived to have fairer hiring practices, especially when employing women and visible minorities, according to a new study.
The study, from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., found situational interviews, when used by organizations with strong employment equity programs, lessen negative reactions when minorities are hired.
In fact, The Role of Situational Interviews in Fostering Positive Reactions to Selection Decisions found minority job applicants benefited from situational interviews, regardless of the strength of the employment equity program.

The findings suggest this interview format reduces the likelihood people will discount the qualifications of employment equity program beneficiaries.
“The situational interview encourages organizations to treat job applicants consistently,” said Gerard Seijts, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the Richard Ivey School of Business and the study’s lead author. “It allows job candidates to be hired on the basis of merit.”
Situational interviews require job applicants to discuss what they would do in various workplace situations. Applicants respond to the same predetermined questions and responses are scored as outstanding, minimally acceptable or unacceptable.

In contrast, unstructured interviews are more casual free-flowing conversations that may make the hiring process seem inconsistent and subjective, especially when used by organizations with employment equity programs.
Employment equity programs are often criticized for encouraging reverse discrimination and backlash against employment equity programs may contribute to low workplace morale.
The study has important implications for managers, since perception of hiring fairness is critical for the success of employment equity programs, said Seijts.

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