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Why an interview is generally invalid and unreliable Essay

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Updated: Dec 9th, 2019


As a selection tool, an interview has been found to be unreliable and invalid therefore most companies end up employing candidates under bias conditions. This article will consider the reasons behind the fruitless efforts of interviews in giving accurate and genuine results.

However the key to improving the reliability and validity of interviews can be seen through employing useful tools. This paper will also explore various ways in which interviews can be made a more impactful tool for selection. Further analysis on how these tools can be incorporated into the selection process to improve decision making will also be discussed.


Many companies and businesses have been opened up recently. The need to employ new ideas and opportunities has also been on the rise with different companies and businesses searching for fresh talent. Ideally, an interview as a tool is used to gauge a candidate’s performance ability by a potential employer (Fontana & Frey 2005, p.196).

It is an important step in any organization because it is regarded as the last phenomena of the hiring process. The interview is a chance where a candidate gets to illustrate his/her knowledge and skills and have a brief idea of what is expected of him/her from the company or organization (Cook 2009, p. 123).

Nevertheless, interviews tend to connect students with the real world and this builds their lives outside of campus or college (Grant 2011, p.168). It offers insights and ideas for the candidates so that they can be in a position to handle any contract or tasks presented to them. Moreover, it is seen as an efficient way to gauge a wide variety of aspects and abilities.

Face-to-face interaction and a two way conversation is manifested therefore, oral communication which cannot be measured with pen and paper is easily established (Ruane 2005, p.77). With its long popularity and history, the interview is viewed as one of the most researched selection tools. Dating back in 1915, interview results were seen to be unreliable and invalid (Robson 2002, p.95).

For example, Convectional interviews were considered haphazard, and shallow predictors of ask performance. Evidence had it that inappropriate questions by the interviewer and the applicants’ lack of preparation are the major contributors of the poor results (Ison 2009, p.163). Nevertheless, there are selection tools that can be of more beneficial help than others, some produce positive results while others do not.

Discussion and analysis

Since interviews are the rightful gateways into an organization and it is regarded as an impactful selection tool, I will discuss and analyze on reasons why it is seen as an imperfect instrument before discussing on how to deal with the risks. The environment surrounding the interview plays a crucial role in how the outcome of the interview will be (Holt 2010, p.115).

If the session happens outside an organizational office and is in a noisy place like a bar, then the results will not be achieved well. Moreover, an interview can be contaminated when the candidate is denied chance to speak. This occurs when an interviewer other than getting ideas from the applicant, he would often present his own (Ruane 2005, p.61).

Too much talk and signaling also acts as a gateway to corrupting the interview. For example an applicant can be discouraged whenever the applicants giggle or make fun of his accent and pronunciations of words. Instead of focusing on the contents and quantity the interviewers tend to focus on the quality thus missing out on important points (Fontana & Frey 2005, p.196).

Nevertheless, individuals who have for many decades been interviewing have a bias tendency which often facilitates mistakes during interviews. Most interviewers are ignorant of the fact that data collected from applicants cannot be compared. Previous interviews cannot go hand in hand with the current because curriculum changes on a yearly basis.

Nonetheless, it proves to be difficult situation when it comes to predicting how an interview would be especially when those who are supposed to hold a “subordinate” post end up behaving as subordinates during the session.

Many are the times when the abilities of an individual based on the area of competence are judged. For example some interviewers, brush off an individual whose previous posts in a certain working area was weak when they quickly assume that he will not be able to handle any current related tasks.

Without doubt, being perfect in one working area is not a possibility that an applicant will be perfect at all areas. An interview can be invalid when interviewers judge a candidate based on a quality that he finds to be appealing or amusing (Ison 2009, p.172).First impressions really matters and most interviewers make their optimum decisions based on it. Impressions can be achieved through a candidates tests score, resumes, reference letters and reactions from referees.

However, interviewers are not supposed to use these impressions as the measuring stick during these sessions to quickly misjudge candidates (Fontana & Frey 2005, p.199). Moreover, information presented earlier on has a lasting effect on judgments later. Most interviewers have the concept of the information learnt first; hold a lasting impression than the ones concluded.

Unreliability happens when the first job interview acts as a gauge for all others since it proves difficult to measure reactions of the remaining candidates (Robson 2002, p.14). Therefore, after the first session, interviewers may restructure or reevaluate most of the questions.

Some of them tend to compare applicants’ packs and gauge if they can outdo the candidate of choice. When the questions become stale, interviewers tend to filter down the session by bringing the least likely candidate as the first interviewee saving the best for the last (Ruane 2005, 89).

Nevertheless, it would be impossible to determine the progress of an interview accurately when the interviewer, brushes off an applicant simply because the latter has attributes and qualities which are in close resemblance with the interviewer. Comparisons related to wonderful or terrible impressions are part and parcel of the job interview but if wrongly used it can lead to bias and stereotyping. It is unfortunate however that most interviewers use this as a gauge to employ people (Sidnell 2010, 99)

Telephone interviews as a selection tool has its own merits and setbacks. Telephones are considered an alternative in case of distance or as a way of dealing with deadlines. Interviewers are in a better position to conduct interviews when an applicant’s far off or in a distant country.

However, this tool tends to be unreliable and invalid when technological issues happen, shortening conversations. Unlike unstructured interviews, an interviewer is not in a good position to gauge the oral communication skills displayed by a candidate (Gate wood 2011, p.179). It is hard to judge whether a candidate is serious or casual with the employment opportunity over the phone.

Most organizations use unstructured interviews to meet the applicants understanding, belief or intelligence in a twisted manner. It is continually used by employers due to the belief that data collected is valid and it provides similar accounts of what an applicant said. However, most organizations have preferred this style of interview on subjects that are sensitive as most applicants would be deceitful in answering questions (Drew 2005, p.26).

Unlike a structured interview; the latter does not offer a preset range of answers for a candidate to choose from. The main theme in this interview is to acquire in-depth-knowledge and gauge how authentic life experiences of people are. Ideally, the goal to be achieved is a deep and personal disclosure (cook 2009, p.123).It is because of its many setbacks that unstructured interviews are seen to be invalid and unreliable.

Firstly, the interview sessions tend to be time consuming as dialogues between the interviewer and applicants are unnecessarily prolonged (Ison 2009, p.170). In addition, the candidate answers are instigated by the interviewer view based on his race, ethnicity, and color, thus data accrued is susceptible to digression and bias. This also makes an organization to be vulnerable to legal attacks (Robson 2002, p.30).

Since unstructured interviews are small scale, it proves difficult to generalize findings because only a small number of candidates can be interviewed. Moreover, difficulties can also occur when it comes to categorizing data since there are lower chances of having varieties of different answers.

Scholars have argued that during interviews, information is not consistently covered (Grant 2011, p.172). The questions asked to a certain group of applicants tend to vary making it inconsistent and unpredictable. Most of the time, there would arise some disagreements between the interviewers in relation to differing views and opinions about a certain topic attached to the same information.

Interviewers tend to form a stereotype of a qualified candidate and therefore they would make use of these stereotypical ideologies to judge the applicants. Stereotype can be categorized in form of gender, age, religious backgrounds, and culture (Fontana & Frey 2005, p.135).

An interviewer can quickly dismiss a candidate when he/she has Biasness, racial differences; color and nepotism are some of the factors that make interviews to be unreliable. Situations occur when the interviewers, choose the candidates based on color and race.

However qualified a candidate may be, chances of him/her failing an interview are high because of these defining factors (Robson 2002, p.39). Therefore, relevant skills and knowledge from an applicant ideal for an organization tend to be sidelined at the expense of race, color or nepotism.

Instead of listening to a candidate’s viewpoints and arguments, most interviewers often spend more time talking. Listening is seen as an important aspect in an interview and if it is not taken seriously, it may harm the applicants’ reputation (Ruane 2005, p.300).

Structured interviews are considered as an effective selection tool in most organization because all applicants are treated the same, the questions used during interviews are linked directly to job behaviors, candidates are evaluated by different people , accountability and transparency is enhanced since written records are formed of each applicant’s response during the interview (Ison 2009, p.166).

Candidates are therefore evaluated on similar grounds by multiple interviewers, lowering chances of subjectivity and bias. Moreover, structured interviews give candidates similar chances to display their abilities, knowledge and skills since they are asked the same questions (Holt 2010, p.113).

Studies have indicated reliability and predictive validity for job performance in future can be enhanced if there is a well developed structured interview. Legally, structured interviews are defensible because procedures used to make them are consistent with professional advice and guidelines from government bodies (Sidnell 2010, p.5).


Interviews vary depending with the historical and cultural background of an organization. However, interviewers are not guaranteed to use these factors as a measuring stick during the selection process.

Rather than making judgments based on the contents of the answers, Interviewers ought to establish a reliable and accurate applicant assessment based on the exhibited behavior during the interview. Moreover, they also need to collect accurate data about an applicant’s attitudes, knowledge, and motivation prior to signaling the ‘right ‘responses.


Cook, M 2009, Personnel selection: Adding value through people, 5th edition, Wiley-Blackwell, United Kingdom.

Drew, P 2005, “Conversation analysis”, in K Fitch & R Sanders (eds), Handbook of Language and social interaction, Lawrence Erlbaum, New Jersey, pp. 71–102.

Fontana, A & Frey, J 2005, “The interview: From neutral stance to political involvement”, in N. Denzin & S Lincoln (eds.), the sage handbook of qualitative research, Sage Publication, Thousand Oaks, pp. 195–234.

Gate wood, R et al, 2011, Human resource selection, 7th edition, Gower Publishing Ltd, Burlington.

Grant, A 2011, “Fear, confusion and participation: Incapacity benefit claimants and (compulsory) work focused interviews”, Research, Policy and Planning, vol.28, pp.161–172.

Holt, A 2010, “using the telephone for narrative interviewing: A research note”, Qualitative Research, vol.10, pp.113–121.

Ison, N 2009, “Having their say: Email interviews for research data collection with people who have verbal communication impairment”, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol.12, pp.161–172.

Ruane, M 2005, Essentials of research methods. A guide to Social Science research, Blackwell, Malden.

Robson, C 2002, Real world research. Blackwell, Oxford.

Sidnell, J 2010, Conversation analysis: An introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.

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