Michael A. McDaniel, D. L. Whetzel, F. L. Schmidt and S.D. Maurer, 1994,
The validity of employment interviews: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis,
Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 599-615.
Do employment interviews provide valid predictions of job performance? McDaniel et al.
present the results from a meta-analysis. The paper is a model of how to properly conduct
a meta-analysis. For example, it describes the rules for the literature search and the
procedures for coding and analyzing the studies. Their literature search alone was a major
undertaking that was conducted over a 8-year period. Their findings should be of interest
not only for personnel
forecasters, but also to forecasters in general because of certain methodological
findings. In addition to studying (1) whether the interview has predictive validity, they
examined (2) the relative value of structured versus unstructured interviews, (3) group
versus individual interviews, and (4) the effect of giving an interviewer access to
relevant predictor scores prior to the interviews.
- With respect to overall validity, they summarized previous studies of correlations
between interviews and job performance. These studies, containing 160 comparisons drawn
from over 25000 subjects, indicated that the interview does have some predictive validity.
The typical correlation was about 0.20. McDaniel et al. state that this finding conflicts
somewhat with traditional beliefs. They state "In our experience, many personnel
psychologists believe that the interview generally has low validity." Their
experience conflicts with findings from Dakin and Armstrongs (1989) survey of
personnel consultants in New Zealand. These respondents placed the validity of. the
interview second only to experience in a list of 11 leading procedures. A replication by
Ahlburg (1992) found that the interview was among the more effective techniques as judged
by US experts.
- Consistent with research in other areas of forecasting, structure aids judgment. In
general, the correlation was higher for structured interviews, especially when the content
of the interview was job related. Interestingly, however, this was not the case when the
criterion was the candidates performance during training courses.
- Individual interviews were more valid than when a group of interviewers were used. Why
might this be? Perhaps the stress on the interviewee will lead to effects other than
job-related responses. (Note that this is not a test of combining because the members of
the group are not acting independently.) This finding is especially useful because
individual interviews are less expensive.
- When interviewers were provided with relevant information in advance (namely, cognitive
test scores) their overall validity was reduced. I find this surprising. Perhaps
the quantitative evidence, which represents only a small part of the story, is weighed too
While the study shows that the interview has some predictive validity, I have three
reservations about how these findings might be used. First, the criterion was typically
rated performance and this might not be closely related to actual
performance. Bommer et al. (1995), in a review based on three studies, found a mean
correlation of only 0.39 between subjective and objective measures of performance. Luthans
(1988, Chapter 9), for example, found no relationship between managerial success (e.g.
promotions) and actual effectiveness (e.g. quantity produced by the group). Assume that
personal style counts heavily in ones subjective performance ratings. It is likely
also to help in the interview. Thus, one would expect to find a positive relationship
between interviews and ratings even if there were no relationship to actual performance.
The second reservation is whether the interview is superior to alternative techniques.
For example, realistic job samples, bootstrapping (expert systems), and assessment centers
have been shown to be effective. Of course, it may be that the interview, properly used
can add predictive value.
A third reservation, noted by McDaniel et al., is that the interview as used in
practice probably tends to be even less structured than the unstructured interviews in
In general, this paper provides a useful summary of all that is known about the
personnel interview when used alone as a predictive tool.
Ahlburg, D.A., 1992, Predicting the job performance of managers: What do the experts
know? International Journal of Forecasting, 7, 467-472.
Bommer, W.H., J.L. Johnson, G.A. Rich, P.M. Podsakoff and S.B. MacKenzie, 1995, On the
interchangeability of objective and subjective measures of employee performance: A
meta-analysis, Personnel Psychology, 48, 587-605.
Dakin, S. and J.S. Armstrong, 1989, Predicting job performance: A comparison of expert
opinion and research findings, International Journal of Forecasting, 5, 187-194.
Luthans, F., 1988, Real Managers (Ballinger, Cambridge, MA).