Computer-Assisted Interviewing

Those interview questions you answer may have been designed by a computer.

Next time you step into a job interview, you may be facing more than a savvy but lone human resources manager or hiring manager; she may be backed up by a computer program.

Recruiters and human resources professionals are using technology to stack the deck in their favor to select the right candidate, giving themselvs a competitive edge — the kind you would seek in a casino, said Dr. Larry Pfaff, a human resources consultant who specializes in candidate selection techniques, organizational needs assessment and performance appraisal.

“Professional gamblers know which games have the best odds when they go to Las Vegas,” Pfaff said. “They know ahead of time that roulette and slots have poor odds, and cards and dice games have better odds. It’s like when recruiters look first at resumes and candidates’ skills to decide whom to interview — who has the best chance of success.”

After almost 30 years as a consultant, Dr. Pfaff developed SELECTPro, a Web-based program that helps recruiters and hiring managers design and develop better interview questions to increase the odds of hiring someone who will be successful, he said.

“SELECTPro is an outgrowth of my work helping companies design a better interview and screening process for hiring,” he said. “Most hiring companies put the most weight on face-to-face interviews, but that is the area they are worst at; the interviews aren’t structured and the questions are horrible, so they end up making gut decisions.”

SELECTPro allows recruiters and hiring managers to build customized interviews based on a database of more than 500 questions across 55 different skill areas developed by Dr. Pfaff and used extensively during his career. The questions are based on behavioral event interviewing (BEI) techniques that use candidates’ past performance to gauge their future potential.

“Over the years I developed this huge question bank based around skill areas — interpersonal skills, leadership skills, sales skills, that sort of thing — that recruiters and hiring managers can use to identify what skills candidates need and then pull specific BEI questions from those areas to create a more powerful and effective interview,” Pfaff said.

Screen First, Interview Later

SELECTPro is also effective when used to develop online interviews for use as candidate pre-screening tools. Companies can develop their own initial online interviews and can direct candidates to a customized site where they reply to preselected questions from the SELECTPro database. And SELECTPro is just one of a growing number of online candidate assessment tools available.

“The days of handing a clipboard and pen to candidates are long over,” says Brian Stern of Cleveland-based Shaker Consulting. “Innovative companies are now looking for new ways … to successfully vie for talent” including online interviews and customized simulations that mimic specific job roles within a company so candidates can get a feel for the job.

“The more levels of screening you have, the better. Used this way, SELECTPro doesn’t take the place of an in-person interview, but it can serve along with the face-to-face interview to reinforce your initial gut reactions to a candidate,” Pfaff said, and that can mean the difference between hitting the jackpot and going bust.