Other selection methods

A well-planned and structured interview process is an effective way of helping you to select the most appropriate candidate. However, it is most effective if used alongside other selection methods that can help give you a more rounded picture.

Effectiveness of different selection methods

Research into the value of different selection methods has indicated wide variations in accuracy and effectiveness at indicated below:

More effectiveLess effective

Assessment Centres  68%

Structured interviews  63%

Work-related tests  55%

Ability tests  54%

Bio-data analysis 38%

Personality tests  38%

Unstructured interviews 15%

References  12%

Some of the methods most commonly used alongside the structured interview are outlined below.  Click on a link to jump down the page to:

Work-based tests

For jobs that are focused on well-defined processes and tasks, work-based tests can be a useful indicator of how candidates would actually perform. Examples of work-based tests include:

Such tests are by definition best devised locally, so that they are clearly focused on the particular requirements of the role.  The University's Resourcing Manager can provide further advice and guidance to help you implement tests. 

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Sub-panel interviews

It can often be useful, particularly where there are larger numbers of potential panel members than can comfortably be involved in a formal interview, to form a number of smaller (usually two-person) panels to undertake short, focused discussions with each short-listed candidate on targeted areas of the role/person specification.

 Holding one or more focused discussions with candidates on specific key areas of the person specification can enable greater scope for probing than is offered in a traditional interview setting, and therefore provides an opportunity to build an enhanced picture of the candidates’ skills/knowledge/experience in particular areas.  Other benefits include a more personal and relaxed forum for discussion for both parties, and greater flexibility in diarising meetings.

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It is a requirement of the selection process for Pathway 1 and Pathway 3 roles that candidates be invited to deliver a presentation on a relevant research or academic topic (in the style of an undergraduate or postgraduate lecture) to an audience of academic staff and students from the department/faculty and other invited participants depending on the focus of the talk.

A presentation can also be a useful element of the selection process for other jobs, particularly professional or managerial roles. The presentation can be just to the panel or to a wider group, although if the group is wider you need to ensure that the audience understands what sort of feedback they should give and how this will be reported.

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Work samples

Some job roles lends themselves to examples of work that can usefully be used as indicators of suitability, for instance examples of published academic work, portfolio's of creative output or qualification transcripts. In such cases applicants could be asked to provide samples of recent work at the application, long- or short-listing or interview stage. 

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Visits and meetings with the team

The addition of a more informal element to the selection process can often be useful to gain a broader view of a candidate's suitability and also to provide them with a clearer picture of the working environment, colleagues, facilities, research agenda etc. they will be joining if successful in the selection process. For example, alongside the more formal interview the candidates could meet with colleagues they would be working with in the team or department; attend a lunch or dinner with representatives from the team or department; or even shadow the work of an existing member of the team or accompany them on a 'walk round'. This can also be a chance for colleagues to provide information or answer questions on terms and conditions of employment and employee benefits. If feedback from the informal elements of the process is to be used as part of the overall assessment then it is particularly important to inform the candidates in advance so that they are fully aware of the two-way purpose of the visit or meeting.

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Telephone or virtual interviews

Telephone interviews can be used as an additional selection tool. They can, for instance, help identify which candidates to short-list from a long-list or even to assess the telephone skills of candidates if appropriate.

Sometimes there may be logistical problems associated with an overseas candidate attending a face-to-face interview. This may simply be that a prohibitively long journey is involved, or not possible or that the cost of the journey is particularly high (the costs are met from the central recruitment budget held by Human Resources). Telephone interviews are not recommended in this situation unless as a last resort. In such cases a video-conference or other virtual link is the best alternative option (again, the cost would be met from the central budget). The University has a number of video-conference facilities, arrangements for which can be made through Telephone Services by e-mailing kevin.thomas@bristol.ac.uk; alternatively, a remote interview could also be set up through Zoom or Microsoft Teams, if both parties have the software and a webcam.

The principles outlined for face-to-face structured interviews should be applied as much as possible to telephone and video-conference interviews. The potential pitfalls relating to discriminatory practice or making wrong decisions are magnified even further in a remote interview. This method should therefore be used with caution, and is ideally combined with a follow-up in person visit prior to any offer of employment.

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Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests are designed to provide a profile of an individual's intellect, ability and behavioural patterns and can help to provide a more informed judgment of their suitability for the role. However, they are sophisticated assessment tools that should only be set up, administered and assessed by a trained individual. Any decision to use psychometric tests should only be made in consultation with the University's Resourcing Manager.

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Assessment centres

Assessment centres are structured events that include a range of the above selection methods and group activities. They typically take place over one or two whole days. If you wished to explore the possibility of setting up an assessment centre event then this should be discussed with the University's Resourcing Manager first.

Choosing the most appropriate selection methods

If you choose to use any of the above selection methods it is important that:

Remember that using other selection methods will increase the level of forward-planning involved and will often require someone from outside of the selection panel to co-ordinate the exercises during the day. Reasonable adjustments may also need to be considered to support disabled candidates.

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