Why difficult interviews lead to better matches

Hard job interviews have been statistically linked to higher employee satisfaction, according to new data.

The findings discovered that the optimal interview difficulty, when measured on a five-point scale, was four out of five. On this scale one is very easy, three is average, and five is very difficult.

Out of the six countries examined (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, USA, and the UK); an increase in interview difficulty of 10% was associated with a 2.6% rise in employee satisfaction later on.

However, once the interview surpasses the difficulty of four out of five, subsequent employee satisfaction drops. “The easiest two-point interviews, and the most difficult five-point interviews, are both associated with lower employee satisfaction,” says the study.

Speaking to Executive Grapevine, Dr Andrew Chamberlain, a Chief Economist at Glassdoor and Co-Author of the report, says that interviewers should ask better questions, not harder ones: “This information sends a signal to organisations that they should re-evaluate their interview processes to ensure they’re asking the right questions to better understand a candidate’s skill set, whether they will be a cultural fit and if they can do the job.

“Every employer wants to hire the right candidate - who will be satisfied weeks, months and years into the job. Taking a step back and improving your interview process to better screen candidates will help you achieve that.

“We saw the same results across all six countries we examined in Europe and North America. In every country, more difficult interviews predict higher employee satisfaction later on, but that effect disappeared for extremely difficult interviews. In that sense, the findings are universal and are not culturally specific - at least among these six countries.”

Potential reasons for this could be that one-point interviews are too simple, and do not adequately tax the candidate. Whereas five-point interviews “may be an indication of deeper dysfunction within companies, such as an aggressive work culture harmful to employee satisfaction,” says the study.

Chamberlain also reminds those in charge of the interview process that it is the first line of defence for company culture: “There are many factors that affect culture, including the quality of senior leadership, the culture and values of the organisation, and the opportunities for advancement within the firm.

“But what this research shows is that interview processes themselves can directly affect employee satisfaction, by affecting the quality of matches between job seekers and positions. The key message of our study is that what happens at job interviews today doesn't just affect hiring. It affects broader company culture for years to come by determining the quality of matches between employees and jobs. 

The research was titled Do Difficult Job Interviews Lead to More Satisfied Workers? Evidence from Glassdoor Reviews. The other Co-Author was Ayal Chen-Zion, a Research Fellow at Glassdoor.

Apple’s trickiest, Facebook’s most bizarre, and Google’s toughest interview questions have all been revealed in the past year.   

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