Are there questions that could be asked during the interview process that would reveal if a potential employee is looking for a long-term job or just a temporary position until something better comes along?

Vladimir Gendelman


Unfortunately, there's no surefire way to predict this, but we have some evidence-based ideas to consider.

Before interviews, screen applicants' resumes. How long has each stayed in positions? Take specific situations into account; this will look different for new graduates vs. mid- or high-level managers.

You're on the right track using structured interviews. Decades of studies show they're more likely to result in good hires than are "informal" interviews. Research also suggests two most effective types of questions: situational and behavioral. The first requires a short "case" for applicants to respond to, hopefully revealing their underlying approaches to thinking about jobs. The second is a question asking about responses to past job events such as, "Tell me about a time you took a job and realized it wasn't for you. What did you do and why?"

Before you begin interviewing, think about what you want and develop a scoring rubric such as five points for an answer like, "That hasn't happened to me, and here's why." Maybe three points for an answer that shows a candidate didn't handle a situation well but appears to have learned from it, and zero points for an answer like, "It's a free country! I can quit anytime!"

The reason to do this ahead of time is that many of us think we're good "judges of character" but we aren't. It's easy to fall into "similar-to-me" bias once the interview begins. Hundreds of studies have shown that as interviewers we're attracted to those who are most like us, not those who would be best for the job. Similarly, "halo error" can occur when you like one thing about a candidate so much, they take on an unearned "glow" in other areas as well. Having a scoring sheet can help counter your own biases (and we all have them).

About the authors

Teresa J. Rothausen, Ph.D. and professor of management and Kevin E. Henderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of management.