Interviews are the most widely used selection method. It is the exceptional organization that is prepared to make an offer of employment without a “face-to-face” meeting with the candidate. Therefore, when considering the interview as a selection method, it is not a question of whether a company wants to interview but how to conduct the interview “best.” Fortunately, this is an area where considerable research has been conducted.



The Structured Interview

With these findings in mind, it is clear the interview should be structured by using standardized questions. Furthermore, there needs to be a way for the interviewer to make notes on the candidate’s response to each of the questions in order to improve recall. If follow-up questions to the standardized questions are to be used, the interviewer should be trained on how to ask these questions (see the notes in Table 7 and Table 10).

With the existence of the National Occupational Standards we have a detailed job analysis to work from in order to develop the interview questions. In developing the questions, consideration should be given to the information being collected through the Background Review and the Tests and Questionnaires the candidate has to complete in the other elements in the selection process. Therefore, the structured questions should relate to the key knowledge and abilities that cannot be determined through these other selection methods.

Table 4
Questions That Will Get You in Trouble

As a result of Human Rights Legislation and guidelines that have been developed by the various Human Rights Commissions in Canada there are questions that should be avoided on application forms and during interviews. Many of these prohibited questions are obvious but there are some, less obvious ones that can get you in trouble. We have listed them below with the appropriate human rights concern identified in parentheses, they are questions related to:
• Maiden name or name change (marital status)
• Address/residency outside of Canada (nationality, ethnicity, race)
• Year of graduation (age)
• Spouse’s employment (marital status)
• Children/dependents (marital status, sexual orientation)
• Proof of citizenship (nationality, race, ethnicity)
• Work on religious holiday (religion)
• Requirement for accommodation at work (disability)
• Medical examination prior to working (disability)
• Pardons, convictions, criminal record (record of convictions)
• Experiences that are unrelated to the job (any of a number of prohibitions)

Beyond using the Standards as a basis for developing standardized questions and narrowing the focus of the questions to information that cannot be collected through other methods in the selection process, questions should be structured primarily using a behavioural description or situational response format (see Table 8 - Behavioural Description and Situational Response Questions).

Finally, in addition to the normal courtesies one should extend to interviewees such as introducing oneself and ensuring they are comfortable, candidates should be “coached” on:

  • what will happen in the interview (i.e. how it will unfold)
  • why the questions are being asked
  • how they will be asked
  • why notes are being taken and
  • how they are expected to respond (i.e. in a candid and open manner)

Table 5
Research Findings

  • Structured interviews produce more valid results than unstructured interviews.
  • The use of standardized questions and avoiding non-standardized follow-up questions produces better results than allowing non-standardized follow-up questions unless the interviewer is highly trained and skilled in the use of follow-up questions.
  • Structured interviews developed from a comprehensive job analysis, such as the National Occupational Standards, are more valid predictors of job performance.
  • There is some evidence to suggest more valid results are achieved with a structured interview if the interviewer has not reviewed background information on the candidate prior to the interview (see Table 6 - Biases and Ratings).
  • Note-taking during the interview improves information recall and increases validity.
  • Structured interviews produce more valid results when the interviewee is “coached” on the interview process prior to the interview being conducted.
  • Structured interviews produce more valid results when the interviewee is “coached” on the interview process prior to the interview being conducted.
  • Using well-defined rating scales with a behaviourally specific description of what constitutes good, average, poor or unsatisfactory answers to questions improves validity.
  • Similarly, using separate ratings for specific items covered in the interview - such as job knowledge or ability to communicate - when combined for a composite score is a more valid approach than not having separate scores for each specific knowledge or ability and using a unitary or single overall rating such as - employability.
  • Training interviewers yields more valid results. • Questions that are either based on behavioural description or situational response produce better results (see Table 8 - Behavioural Description and Situational Response Questions.)
  • Results do not improve through the use of a panel of interviewers as opposed to an individual interviewer. Note that the research does not indicate using multiple interviewers is less valid.
  • Interviewers will give greater weight to “negative” information than “positive” information in rating the interviewee’s response to a question.
  • Interviewers will give greater weight to “negative” information than “positive” information in rating the interviewee’s response to a question.
  • Unless very well trained, interviewers will form a “bias” at a relatively early stage of the interview process and will unconsciously gather and record information that supports this bias (see Table 6 - Biases and Ratings).
  • Where there are multiple interviews and interviewers, results can vary widely particularly when an unstructured approach is used.
  • Structured interview programs, unless scrupulously managed, will tend to “degrade” into unstructured programs.


Table 6
Biases and Ratings

For several decades, researchers have been studying the types of biases individuals can have and how these biases affect their rating of candidates in an interview situation. Some of the more prominent biases they have found are:
First Impressions The tendency of the interviewer to form an opinion of the candidate at a very early point in the interview and then unconsciously lead the interview in a way that confirms these first impressions – even though they may be invalid.
Contrast Effect   To compare candidates in a group of interviewees to one another rather than to an overall standard. If the group is made up of many weak candidates, those selected may be better than their cohorts in the group, but not good enough to meet the overall standard.
Halo Effect  Candidate characteristics unrelated to the knowledge and ability required to perform the job influence the interviewer’s rating of the candidate. It has been shown that individuals who are attractive, or are highly accomplished in athletics or the arts benefit from this “halo” in interviews.
 Similar-to-me Interviewers have been found to give higher ratings to individuals who are similar to them.
Central Tendency The tendency of some interviewers to rate candidates very close to one another.
Negative-Positive Skew The tendency to rate candidates either very positively or very negatively.
Attribution Bias Similar to the Halo effect, this bias attributes certain knowledge and ability to the candidate because of experience unrelated to the job they are being selected to e.g. if a candidate is a good chess player then he/she must be a logical thinker.
Stereotyping This is a classic bias whereby the interviewer attributes certain characteristics to the candidate based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, etc.


Table 7
Questions, Questions, Questions

The quality of an interview is determined by the quality of the questions asked. The purpose of the interview is to collect information about the candidates’ knowledge and abilities as they relate to the tasks performed by a bus operator. Questions can be broken into two types - closed and open. Closed questions are normally ones that ask for a specific, one word/sentence answer and often begin with when, where, who or sometimes what. Open questions are ones that ask the candidate to explain something or elaborate on a point. They ask for more general responses, more than a one sentence answer and often begin with how, why and what. An effective interview will involve the use of both types of questions. Normally, an open question would be used first and as the candidate is providing information, the interviewer uses closed questions to get more specific information related to the information being given. Where it is an unstructured or semi-structured interview format, it is especially important the interviewer be skilled in using open and closed questions.


Table 8
Behavioural Description and Situational Response Questions

Behavioural description and situational response questions have proven to be an excellent method for collecting information from candidates in interview situations. A behavioural description question is one that asks the candidate to describe how he/she dealt with/behaved in a particular situation in the past. For example: Describe a time when you had to deal with someone who was very upset and distraught. How did you deal with it?
A situational response question asks the candidate to envisage a situation and to describe how he/she would deal with it. For example: Imagine you are the driver of an intercity bus travelling from Calgary to Edmonton. You are an hour into your trip when it becomes clear to you that two young male passengers have brought beer on board and are drinking. As a result, they have started to create a disturbance. How would you deal with this situation?


Table 9
Bodies That Talk

Research has shown that “body language” (body position, gestures), facial expressions and voice tone have a much greater impact on our interpretation of another person’s communication than the actual words he/she is using. It is vitally important, in an interview situation, that we are aware of the impact of these non-verbal communications. If a certain non-verbal message is confusing or appears to be in contradiction to what the candidate is saying, the interviewer should deal with it. The best method for turning non-verbal communication into verbal communication, that can be dealt with, is to “reflect it back” to the candidate. The interviewer can do this by telling the candidate what he/she is seeing (in the case of body language and facial expressions) or hearing (in the case of voice tones). Therefore, if the candidate is non-verbally expressing uncertainty or apprehension, the interviewer (in the case of an intercity operator interview) should say something like:
“I detect in your tone and facial expression you have some reservations about whether you can effectively deal with the demands of being away from home for so long. Can you elaborate on that for me?”

Table 10
Paraphrasing and Summarizing

As a way to improve note-taking, skilled interviewers find that paraphrasing and summarizing improves the validity of interviews as an information collection process. Paraphrasing is the process whereby the interviewer takes what the candidate has said and puts it in his/ her own words, usually in point or “bullet-type” form. Summarizing is where the interviewer brings together in one or two sentences the essence of what the candidate has said as a summary before moving on to another question. Both techniques require the interviewer to be a diligent listener and vigilant note-taker.


Determining Knowledge and Abilities through Interviews

Most experts feel interviews are best suited and most valuable for determining an applicant’s verbal communication and interpersonal skills as opposed to technical knowledge and abilities that can be determined by using the other selection methods. Therefore, in developing the questions to be used in the interview, it is the knowledge and abilities in the Standards related to interpersonal skills that should be the focus of the interview. Exhibit 7.6 has examples of both situational response and behavioural description questions. These examples can be used to develop a comprehensive list of questions. Finally, it should be recognized that, in developing this list, there is a limit to the number of situational and behavioural questions that should be asked25.

Decision-Making Strategies

Now that we have examined each of the three recommended methods for gathering information on the candidate, we have to ensure we have an effective process for using that information to make a decision as to whether the candidate has the pre-requisite knowledge and abilities for the bus operator position.

Creating Ratings

The recommended approach for evaluating all of the information collected on the candidates’ job-related knowledge and abilities is to assign a rating to each piece of information using a rating scale, such as unsatisfactory, poor, satisfactory and fully satisfactory. With this kind of a system, a numerical value can be given to each rating, such as 0 for unsatisfactory, 1 for poor, 2 for satisfactory and 3 for fully satisfactory. Under this system, the scores for each piece of information can then be added for a total score for each candidate. Candidate scores are then compared to a benchmark number and a determination is made as to whether the candidate has reached or exceeded the benchmark. Those candidates who make it are considered for hiring and those who do not are contacted or sent a letter telling them that they are no longer under consideration.



The existence of a recognized certification program can serve as a valid and reliable surrogate for the selection process. By requiring candidates to be certified as a requirement for consideration for employment, a company avoids the need to conduct its own tests to determine whether they have the necessary knowledge and ability to perform the tasks that make up the job of bus operator. In order to assist companies in Canada, the Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada has initiated work on the establishment of a national certification program for bus operators based upon the National Occupational Standards. Although the creation of this program will not completely relieve companies of the responsibility to carry out their own selection process, it should greatly simplify the training and testing requirements needed to hire professional bus operators.


A final issue in decision-making is the relative weight we want to give to one versus another piece of information. Clearly, some areas of knowledge and abilities are more important than others. In order to allow for this difference, weights can be given to each knowledge or ability evaluation and the overall evaluation would be the sum of the product of the rating multiplied by the weight for each knowledge or ability.



Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada (MCPCC),
Business number: BN# 877577427 RT0001