What makes a good selection interviewer?

What makes a good selection interviewer? When does he or she get it right? Psychologist Francois De Kock found that interviewers must have three characteristics to be accurate in selection interviews. And contrary to popular belief, interviewers’ own personality does not make a difference in the ability to judge applicants accurately. De Kock defends his thesis on Thursday 17 December 2015 at Erasmus University Rotterdam.


Selection interviews are routinely used to identify the best talent for organizations. Most research on interviews focuses on the applicant as opposed to the interviewer. Yet the quality of the interviewer influences ratings of applicants and therefore also the eventual personnel selection decisions. It is well known that assessors differ in the accuracy of their judgments, but we do not yet understand why this is so.

The dissertation of De Kock ‘Individual differences in judgment accuracy in personnel selection – What makes the ‘good judge’?’ explored characteristics of interviewers that may influence their judgment accuracy.

From four separate studies De Kock concludes that differences between interviewers’ ‘dispositional reasoning’ is important. Dispositional reasoning is the ability of interviewers to understand three types of information in the social context. 
First is the ability to know which behaviours of applicants correspond to their particular underlying general personality traits. An example of this ability is understanding that being loud and talkative at a party means that a person is probably an extrovert. Second, a correct understanding of how people’s personality traits go together in nature was important for accuracy. Honest people are typically also quite reliable, as an illustration. And finally, knowing how certain situations either help or inhibit personality traits to show themselves in observable behaviour by applicants. Being tense is normal in an interview – a highly stressful situation – but in a relaxed situation this may mean that you may be generally anxious. 
Interviewers who score high in the last two abilities are particularly accurate, De Kock found.

‘It takes one to know one’?
The dissertation also explored the role of interviewers’ personality as a predictor of accuracy when interviewing applicants. Interviewers’ own personality did not make a difference in their ability to judge applicants accurately, De Kock found. More specifically, it appeared that interviewers were not better at judging personality traits they shared with interviewees. For example, interviewers that were extroverts, could not judge extroversion in others accurately. Therefore, the results showed that the age-old saying “it takes one to know one” finds little research support.

Finally, the degree to which interviewers differ in their tendency to use specific personality traits in observing and judging applicants is called chronic accessibility. The better this chronic accessibility for certain personality traits, the better the accuracy. These findings imply that organizations can better select their interviewers by testing them on their ability to understand certain types of information.

About Francois De Kock
Francois De Kock graduated in 1998 from the Military Academy in South Africa. While in the Army, he also completed his Honours and Masters Degrees, before receiving an appointment as junior lecturer at the Military Academy at Stellenbosch University in 2001. Later, François took up an appointment as industrial-organizational psychologist at the Military Psychological Institute in Pretoria, South Africa. He conducted various research and development projects in South Africa and various African countries (e.g., in diplomatic and United Nations peacekeeping missions). In 2007, he was appointed as lecturer at the Department of Industrial Psychology, Stellenbosch University and soon started a PhD project at the Institute of Psychology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, studying individual differences in interviewer judgment accuracy. In 2012, he moved to the School of Management, University of Cape Town, where he still lectures in the area of psychometrics, psychological assessment, and research methods. His research and consulting interests fall in the broad area of personnel selection, with a special interest in assessor-related topics.

More information

Press Office Erasmus University Rotterdam, + 31 10 408 1216 or press@eur.nl

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