Job Interviewing Practices in Canada Are Flawed, New Study Finds

March 31, 2008 - News Release

It's an uneven playing field when it comes to job interviews in Canada, with a majority of human resources professionals straying from predetermined questions and prompting candidates when they are struggling with answers, a new study by a University of Guelph professor has revealed.

The study, which is the first to assess the actual interview practices of Canadian human resource professionals, found that 78 per cent of the respondents admitted to giving impromptu hints and words of encouragement to candidates, and 75 per cent reported adding new questions to the list during interviews, said Geoffrey Smith, assistant dean of the College of Management and Economics and co-author of the study.

"Our findings show that there are problems with consistency in interviews, which then jeopardizes the validity of the process," said Smith, who worked on the study with lead author Sheldene Simola of Trent University and co-author Simon Taggar of Wilfrid Laurier University.

"One of the most revealing findings is that people conducting interviews are often modifying the questions and diverting away from the interview script, and this allows for bias or unfairness to creep in."

The research, published recently in the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, examined how interviewers question candidates, note-taking, use of rating scales and the level of interview training of current professionals.

It also compared the methods used by HR professionals with what research studies have identified as best practices and with the practices that are highly valued by human rights tribunals.

"Research shows that the higher the level of structure or consistency across candidates, the more likely you are to select the best candidate for the job," said Smith. "Sticking to a list of set questions and asking each candidate the same questions are also important when it comes to demonstrating fairness to a human rights tribunal."

The researchers also found that 23 per cent of people wait until the interview is over before making notes. Not taking notes makes it more difficult to recall what was said and could adversely influence an organization's credibility during human rights tribunal deliberations, said Smith. And people should keep their notes for at least one year, he added.

Only about 12 per cent of people surveyed reported using rating scales, despite the fact that such scales have been shown to increase the consistency in measurement across candidates, he said.

The study also revealed that a majority of HR professionals had not received formal external training in conducting interviews, with 66 per cent reporting they received training during college or university and 33 per cent saying they were trained by someone in their organization.

"Interviewing in many cases is a central part of their job description, yet many haven't taken any formal training," said Smith. "This research has found that the interview practices and skills that are seen as basic to the job aren't happening."

Geoffrey Smith
College of Management and Economics, assistant dean
519-824-4120, Ext. 58855

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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