Hacking the Interview: Part 2

8 more techniques from industrial psychology to make your interviews even better

This is the second guest post by Daniel Maurath, a former Associate Data Scientist at Bright.com and recent graduate of San Francisco State University, earning a Masters of Science degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

In Hacking the Interview: 7 Recommendations from Industrial Psychology we gave you the first essential techniques for improving interviews. 

With those mastered, here are further recommendations to elevate interviewing to a scientific process. As with our first set of recommendations, these are taken from a seminal 1997 paper by Michael Campion, David Palmer, and James Campion: A Review of Structure in the Selection Interview

#8. Limit prompting, follow-up questions, and elaboration on questions. 

By the book technique 

For each question, write a set of predetermined scripted prompts that interviewers can provide to candidates. Campion et al. (1997) outlined four levels of prompts:

  • Level 1: Prohibition of any prompting, follow-up questioning,or elaboration. Questions can only be repeated, or candidates can be given the question on a card
  • Level 2: Allow only limited or pre-planned prompts and follow-ups
  • Level 3: Allow and encourage unlimited probes and follow-ups. 
  • Level 4: Provide no guidance. This level was found to be the most common. 

The hack!

Choose the happy medium of limited scripted prompts. Prompts do not need to be written for every question. For example, only allow interviewers to ask, “Is that all?” or “Do you have anything more you would like to add?”  

Prohibiting prompts completely can lead to less information when incomplete answers are given, and negative reactions if candidates feel restricted. On the other hand, providing no guidance at all to interviewers, can lead to candidates receiving different amounts of information. 

 #9. Prohibit questions from the candidate until after the formal interview has concluded

By the book technique 

Inform the candidate that all questions should be saved for after the formal interview. This will prevent candidates from receiving varying levels of information during the formal interview. 

The Hack!

Campion et al (1997) suggests that questions to lessen ambiguity be allowed, but tangential questions should be saved for the end. In other words, allow questions from the candidate to clarify what is being asked of them, but save questions about plans for the weekend or specific projects they could help with until the end. 

#10. Make the interview long but not any longer than it needs to be 

By the book technique 

Long interviews, whether measured in time or number of questions, are better because they allow for more information to be gathered, and more information means a more accurate assessment of a candidate’s fit within an organisation, and a more accurate prediction of their future performance. 

There is limited research on the best times or number of questions to ask, but the average amount of time found in the research was 40 minutes or 16 questions. 

The hack! 

Save interview time by asking candidates to answer some of the questions in the application before they are interviewed. 

Remember to have all candidates answer the same question, and to have interviewers rate the questions, preferably before or directly after the interview. If you are short on time or have busy managers with limited time to interview, this is one way of collecting a considerable amount of information without any extra time.

#11. Control ancillary information

By the book technique 

Ancillary information includes application forms, resumes, test scores, recommendations, portfolios, previous interviews, transcripts, online research, or personal relationships. If any information outside of the interview is permitted, it must be collected from all candidates and given to all interviewers. 

The hack! 

Before inviting candidates to interview, choose the types of ancillary information that will be allowed (applicant and resume or portfolio should be sufficient in most cases) and ensure all candidates can provide that information. 

If a candidate is a referral, the referring employee should be removed from the hiring process. Ancillary information can be used outside the context of an interview as its own assessment. For example, score the interview and portfolio information separately for each candidate..

#12. Require interviewers to take extensive notes

By the book technique 

Interviewers should summarise each answer as the question is asked. They should write in a factual non-judgmental way, only reporting what they hear. 

Detailed notes are important because human memory is poor and vulnerable. Notes will be invaluable in remembering why you thought a candidate was great or shouldn’t be moved forward. Detailed notes encourage objective evaluations because interviewers must justify their judgements with evidence from the interview.

The hack! 

When drafting the questions, place a series of blank lines beneath each question for the interviewer to summarise the answer. When training interviewers, emphasise the need for just the facts, nothing more. 

#13. Use multiple interviewers

By the book technique 

Use multiple interviewers as part of a panel or in a series. More eyes, ears and note-taking pens means more objective and unbiased information, which is essential for effective predictions. Multiple interviewers limits the idiosyncratic biases such as an interviewer who—despite their best efforts—is attracted to a candidate, or is simply not the best listener. 

The hack! 

Your organisation is likely already using multiple interviewers, but its not to be overlooked. Multiple structured interviews can dramatically increase the predictiveness of interviews over a single structured interview or series of unstructured interviews. 

#14. Prohibit discussion of candidates among interviewers

By the book technique

Prohibit interviewers from discussing any interview until all interviews for all candidates is complete. Discussion between interviewers can lead to irrelevant information entering the evaluation process, and to changing standards (e.g. becoming more strict after finding out about an exceptional candidate from a colleague) between interviews.

The hack! 

Before any interviews take place, schedule a time after the interviews for interviewers to meet and discuss the candidates and ask interviewers to save discussion until that time. Cluster interviews together as much as possible to limit the amount of opportunities, thus temptations, interviewers have to discuss candidates.

#15. Have all interviewers interview the same candidates

By the book technique 

Every candidate is interviewed by the same panel or group of interviewers. Even trained interviewers will each act and ask questions slightly differently. We are not (yet) robots. 

The hack! 

If you already have a highly-structured interview, this step can be ignored. A study by Campion found that judgments are very reliable between different interviewers as long an interview is already highly-structured. Subtle differences in asking questions won’t substantially affect judgment’s of the candidate.


Structured interviews save time, money, and headaches because they enable you to better identify productive hires. By using data and objective methods instead of biased subjective judgment, judgment errors are reduced and accuracy for predicting future performance and turnover is increased. 

Give Daniel your feedback on this post on twitter - he’s @dmurath

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