What an Interview Really Is

What an Interview Really Is

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What an Interview Really Is

One man, asked if he does much interviewing, thinks of the time he chose his secretary and of the day he had to counsel one of the management trainees- and answers ‘practically none’. Another man with a similar job thinks of the many informal discussions he has with his superior and with customers, with colleagues and subordinates- and answers that he is interviewing all the time.

The difference lies not in their work but in their interpretation of the word interview. The interviewer must use the same skills, whether he is concerned with formal pre-arranged meetings typified by the selection interview, or with unprepared discussions with staff or visitors. Basically all these situations involve two people meeting to solve some problem. If they are to achieve anything one, and often both of them, must exercise various skills. For instance, they need to think clearly about what they are trying to do- whether they are concerned with selection or with an apparent injustice or with a failure to carry out some task. Then, if they are to exchange useful information, they must be able to inspire each other at least with some confidence and preferably with liking. Essential in formal interviewing, this skill is no less important in informal discussions. One party at least, preferably both, must be able to listen.

The quality of relationships established in this way does much to establish the effectiveness of communication in an organization. Is traditions of relationships, its levels of morale and industrial peace are, establish or profoundly influenced by the many hundreds of brief meetings and discussions that are taking place within it all the time. Some interviews are so important that they have serious and long-term consequences for a company and for the personal fortunes of the individual concerned. The skills needed in all these types of communication are required everyone who has responsibility over others. They make for healthy constructive human groups and contribute immensely to the development of the individual.

Types of Interviews

Although we tend to think of selection interviewing as a conversation between two people there are several variations on this theme.

ü Individual, or one-to-one, interviews

These are by far the most common, and offer the best opportunity for rapport to be developed between the interviewer and the candidate. They do, however have a number of problems. For instance, if the interviewer lacked objectivity, then since he is the sole judge this weakness will go unchecked.

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Additionally the interviewer may find that he lacks knowledge of some of the areas in which he has to question the candidates. The judgment may then be made more on ‘how’ the person answers rather then on ‘what’ is actually said.

A further more problem may be that the very fact the interviewer and the candidate did establish a rapport may act to cloud the judgment of the interviewer, to the extend that the person appointed is the one with whom the interviewer got on best, rather than the most suitable candidate in terms of experience and qualifications. Once again this would go unchecked.

ü Panel interviews

One of the variations is the panel interview, where several people interview candidates. These tend to be used by very large companies, by companies or organizations where group discussions and committee work are a noticeable feature, and by very small organization where everybody is regarded as equally important and may want a say in what is going on. There are quite a number of advantages and disadvantages of panel interview, as a matter of fact, the disadvantages for outweigh the advantages.

Some of the advantages are:

(a) They allow people with different areas of expertise to question the candidate more closely than one general interviewer.

Some of the disadvantages are:

(a) A major difficulty is getting all the appropriate people to be available at the required time, which may well run several days if there are a lot of candidates.

(b) Because it is difficult to get everyone together, too little time and consideration will be given to making the final decision, which may well be made simply to bring the meeting to a close because one or other member of the panel has to get away.

ü Sequential interviews

Another variation is the sequential interview. Many people think that this combines the good points of the one-to-one interview with those of the panel interview.

With this method all the people who wish to be involved in the selection of a candidate do so one after the other and not as one un widely group. They are able to ask question and form opinions without being self-conscious about the other members of the selection group.

There are 3 minor drawbacks; the candidates themselves may have to commit more time to the interview selection process; the interviewers will have to ensure they leave enough time for discussion between themselves as well as making their own post interview notes; time will have to be set aside for the interviewers to meet and finalize their decision.

ü Group interviews

Often these take the form of a problem-solving exercise or a leaderless group discussion, with the interviewers acting as observers.

Group interviews are probably best used when dealing with young applicants, such as new university graduates, or as part of an assessment center process.

ü Computer interviewing

A recent interviewing innovation is the use of computers to conduct preliminary screening interviews. The applicant is questioned without the presence of an interviewer. The typical computer-aided interview has about 100 questions and can be completed in less than 20 min. Some, however, are highly sophisticated and are designed to generate information on the candidate’s intelligence, leadership, verbal assertiveness, drive, emotional control and other personal qualities. A lot of information from a large number of candidates can thus be obtained quickly. The well-designed computer system avoids the common weakness of face-to-face interviews. According to Mitchell, the computer is an ideal interviewer as ‘it conducts the interview with perfect memory, patience, accuracy and consistency that enhance cognitive power and decision making capability of the subsequent human interviewer’.

ü Video interviewing

Another recent approach to employment interviewing involves the use of video. This is particularly advantageous for organizations when conducting interview with applicants who are resident interstate or overseas. Cost saving in management time, transportation and accommodation charges obviously can be considerable. A disadvantage is where a candidate expresses reluctance to being video interviewed. There is also complaining about lack of feedback and the lack of the human element. One of the example where video interviewing is applied is in the field of education;

“ The University of East London has used video conferencing in order to interview an applicant for an academic post. The applicant had only recently returned to the United States following a visit to the United Kingdom, when she found that se had been short-listed and invited to return to the UK to attend an interview. Problems / Limitation (Recommendations) of Interviews

Interviews has been recorded and observed but not with the purpose of testing hypothesis and making meaningful measurements. The most important reason for the neglect of the interview is its complexity. No statement can overemphasise the complicated structure of the interview. It is dynamic, not static. It involves not only the present but also much of the past of the two participants. It includes verbal behavior and all numerous interactions possible. Reducing the interview to its behavioral elements is difficult. Experimental methods for dealing with many problems of the interview have not yet been devised and the difficulty of work in this field makes one hesitate before proceeding. Its unsystematic nature makes the interview quite different from more objective selection techniques, such as psychological testing. The conditions for testing, the time allowed, and the questions asked are much, much more systematic and rigidly controlled than is the case in the interview. The examiner consistently must use the same timing and procedures for all applicants. He comes out with objective scores of their performance on the tests. Test scores are handled as one would handle the measurement of, for example, hardness of steel, with no differences in treatment allowable from one sample to another. Regardless of the examiner, the same score would be expected to result for the individual if the same setting and directions were used during the examination. A disadvantage of the use of tests for selection, some say, is that the examiner does not get what has been called a “clinical picture” of the individual.

While psychological testing is highly objective, subjectivity is a problem inherent in the nature of the interview. The word “subjective” here implies that the decisions of the interviewer are based upon his opinion, which is subject to his personal biases and prejudices. His attitudes may differ from one applicant to the next. These attitudes contain bias-errors often made in judging others.

Another problem in the interview is how to qualify the results. To be sure, the interviewer may use a form to rate the applicant on his suitability for the job; these ratings may themselves be scored by some coding system applied to the scale. However, this procedure yields results quite unlike the quantitative measurements available from psychological tests.

Now let us look at the more broader aspect of all these limitation and many more:

ü Interview as an Imperfect Observer - This problem is illustrated very well by the following verse :-

“I do not like you Dr. Fell,

The reason for that I cannot tell;

But this I know and know full well,

I do not like you Dr. Fell.”

Every one has certain stereotypes and this affects our perception to a considerable degree. This has been called by certain writers as the ‘HALO’ effect in interviewing. There are no hard and fast rules for overcoming this halo effect.

The halo effect is the tendency to give greatest credit or value to the candidate who is most like ourselves. It is the human nature, to claim that if we are good employees then those most like us also will probably be good employees. This assumptions has a clear equal opportunities problems, and would only ever offer appointments to those who are very similar to them.

ü Problem of Recording the Interview – Because of the halo effect, it is very difficult for the interviewer to remember all the details as to what happened in the interview; moreover very few of us have such an accurate memory so as to remember everything that happened in the interview correctly. If the interviewer tries to write everything down it interferes in the establishment of rapport (discussed later).

Various devices have been used to overcome this difficulty. Phonographic recording is now extensively used in interviewing. But this has the disadvantage that the interviewer cannot always remember the gestures, mood, and expressions of the interviewee and these may sometimes be very important cues in interpretation.

One way screens have also been used, one or more persons observe the behavior and gestures (without themselves being seen) of the interviewee and the interviewer and also listen to what is being said.

But the best method in this context is the sound motion picture recording, which gives interviewer a chance to observe the whole thing again. But this method has the obvious disadvantage of its prohibitive cost. One of the most up coming technique is the Video interviewing (discussed above).

ü The tendency to stereotype candidates on the basis of insufficient evidence – This might include dress, hair, and accent. This would also include the incorrect assumptions that all women are physically weak. This tendency to make assumptions about individuals based on our experiences of, or prejudices about, other members of that group lies at the heart of the concern about unequal access to workplace opportunity.

ü Establishment of Rapport – Rapport exists when the patient’s tendency to be on the defensive is overcome: when his confidence, trust, goodwill and friendship are gained. When his resistance to discussing his problems is dissipated or minimised and when he is motivated to discuss his problems. Without rapport both diagnostic and therapeutic effort will be relatively unsuccessful, for neither truthful nor complete data can be obtained from the patient who does not have confidence and trust in the clinician. Rapport is a relationship, which must be maintained, and its establishment does not guarantee its continuance. Physical setting has a very important influence on the establishment of rapport. Interview should be carried out in pleasant surroundings and interview should be well lighted and ventilated. Every interview should be carried out in privacy. No one likes to wait beyond a reasonable length of time. It is, therefore, essential that a schedule of appointments be made out so that such waiting is kept at a minimum.

ü Reliability – This refers to the consistency with which a measure gives the same results if it is applied repeatedly. If we measure the same individual a number of times, do we get approximately the same answer at each measurement?

The subject of reliability of the interview has been the basis of a number of scientific studies. Reliability in these studies is generally measured by having two or more individuals interview the same subject and then comparing the results obtained by one interviewer with those obtained by each of the other interviewers.

ü Cultural Bias – The rituals and customs of employment interviewing are essentially features of western workplace practice and may not be familiar to members of the other ethnic groups. For instance, one of the unwritten rules of interviewing is that strong eye contact between interviewee and interviewer indicates honesty and integrity, while weak eye contact is said to indicate shiftiness and dishonesty. This unwritten rule does not take account of the accepted practice among many members of the Asian community, who would regard a young person holding strong eye contact with an older person (e.g. an interviewer) as rude and insolent. The interviewer must be aware of the degree to which our culture impinges upon our perception of others.

ü Validity - This is to know whether or not the factor being measured is what we want to measure. It is possible to measure a great number of traits with a high degree of accuracy. However, if these traits have no connection with our criterion, the information, which we have obtained, is useless. The degree to which the results of the interview are correlated with criterion can be called validity.

It is necessary for both reliability and validity in the interview situation, that judgments resulting from the interview itself is confined to those abilities and traits which can be rigidly described and about which there is general agreement. When we have determined the habits and abilities to be measured, our deductions must be made from facts – either fact resulting from the performance of the individual in the interview or facts deducted from information about the behaviour in past situations. The interview is thus a procedure for gathering a series of facts. There is nothing magical about it, it is not based on superhuman intuition.

In the industrial field (and sometimes in social) it has been found that interviews become more reliable and valid if a “patterned or guided interview” is used. This technique is also sometimes called the standardized interview and is frequently used in employment process. In essentials in such an interview every move is very carefully planned before the candidate is interviewed.

However, if this standardization is carried to the extent that the questions to be asked by the interviewer are prescribed, there is a danger that the interview will become a stereotyped procedure.

ü Criteria – What should be the criterion indifferent interviews? Importance of a suitable criterion is too well known in scientific research to need say detailed explanation here. In industrial field workers have generally described it by labeling it as ‘job success’, which in turn is dependent upon ‘maxim output’ in the job. While this may be true of presumptions I the so-called ‘managerial jobs’, it is not known till today as to what contributes to success and maximum output in such jobs.

In clinical psychology different clinicians (therapists) speak in “different languages”; hence everything is in a melting pot. It is only when an adequate language of description is developed in clinical psychology that we can have a suitable criterion.

ü The strength of first impressions – It is claimed, and indeed there is considerable research to back this up, that the interviewer generally makes up his or her mind about an interviewee within the first few minutes of the start of an interview. Some would claim that it takes less time than that – and that interviewers decide as soon as the person walks through the door. Well then in some cases it can be said that, ‘First impression is the last impression’.

Whatever may be the matter, common sense tells us that we have all had experiences whereby we have changed our opinion of those we have meet as we have got to know them better. The interviewer must guard against making instant (or too rapid) decisions about candidates.

ü Training of the Interviewer – It is probable that in most organizations the only people that will have regular experienced of interviewing are the HR specialists. Most other managers will be called upon to interview infrequently, and probably only when a vacancy exists in their own department. It is also widely accepted that interviewing is a skill, and like most skills will deteriorate if not practiced regularly. So on matter what training is given to line managers, their interviewing skills may well be rusty.

No matter how impressive the battery of tests there are two things that can be performed only by the interview. First; fitting test results together in a unified personality configuration and second, compensating in the overall evaluation for the necessary artificial nature of the test situation. At the present time it is hard to imagine how the interview can be discarded in a clinical situation.

In a scientific analysis of the interview, the interview must be considered as complex experimental situation enveloping many variables which are in constant interaction. These variables must be identified and dealt with in a systematic manner.

ü Interviewer’s previous acquaintance with the subject.

ü Interest of the interviewers in the subject.

These are some of the variable which can be studied in the interview. Others must be inferred through a thorough knowledge of pre and post interview situations on the part of both the interviewer and the interviewee. It seems an impossible task to consider all of the factors present; but not even the most rigorous of the physical sciences does its. It should be possible however, to select those which are apparently important and systematically study them.

These factors which make the interview difficult to work upon in a scientific way explain why it has been said that the interview is the “oldest and least scientific” of various personnel selection methods that may be utilized. Odd Reactions to Overcome

Occasionally an informant may want to present a false image to you. It is natural for him to present a front in this way when he meets strangers then it will be natural for him to want to defend himself in the same way when you, as a stranger, approach him. For example, someone may hint at the wonderful job he has, and it can be cruel and hard for you to press for truth on the matter later in the interview without making him lose face.

Since you know the full range of your questioning when you meet, and he does not, you need to stem an informant’s natural defence, before he goes far in fantasy. Get over to him, as opportunities occur from the doorstep onwards, that you want his help, but also that you are not over impressed by any of his words. Take his response in a matter of fact way and show that what will impress you is to know exactly what he thinks and precise facts about some aspects of his life. Indicate it does not matter what kind of view he holds, so long as it is truly his own. We are in a no position to censure informants.

If you are told something which you sense may be untrue, in that the tone or speed at which it is said conveys an informant's fear an guilt in some way, try asking the question again using a linking phrase “Can I just check, I am uncertain whether I made clear what I meant to ask you” (and then repeat the question carefully). Often this will give the informant the opportunity to overcome any doubt about stating the truth. Your tone will help show that you do not take it to be a question of any special significance, and the inference of your own mishandling of the question can be used by the informant to excuse himself from not having been clear on what you wanted. A question which pressurizes an informant in some way should prompt you to reiterate, just as you would if asked if a given reply were acceptable, that if what he has said reflects truly what he thinks, or if it is a fact so far as he knows it, then it is the answer we want.

Another tone which might be adopted by a minority of those you wish to interview is one where, whilst the informant nominally agrees to the interview, he is answering tongue in cheek. In fact your manner whilst explaining the survey purpose, and the way you probe for exact replies during the interview, will often serve to school an informant to the degree of responsiveness required, but if it fails and the informant continues in the same vein try one of two lines: to a facetious response adopt a facetious tone yourself to show you appreciate his sense of humour but probe to sort out whether his response is genuine inspite of the tone or not.

Never expect informants to treat any subject matter in exactly the same degree of caution, frivolity or seriousness to match your own. On the other hand, do not let yourself be hoodwinked and left feeling you are wasting time on someone who just won’t use the word no to you, though he had no intention of co-operating.

Ending the Interview
Always thank the informant at the end of an interview. The public do not have to take part in surveys. Enquiries are on worthwhile matters but the public are still doing a favor when they agrees to give their time and express their views full to the company. Our aim is to leave them happy about the whole reason for the survey. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to ask further questions of you about the background to the survey, should they want to, before you leave the house.

Always leave the informant with permission to return to check any item, in case you discover an omission once you have left the house. Your conduct throughout the interview should be aimed at making the interview as pleasant an experience as possible for your informant, so that he is left feeling willing to co-operate in the future on any other survey.

Why Use Interviews?
Walter Bingham has asked in his column “Today and Yesterday the inevitable question which most of us would like to have answered: If we now have available more objective selection procedures, such as application blanks validated item by item for the prediction of the most successful long-term employees, as well as psychological and trade tests which have been shown to be reasonably valid for prediction of success on various jobs in the company, then why bother with the selection and training of proficient interviewers? Why not save the salaries of interviewers and do hiring in a more objective manner by the objective technique.

Bingham says you’re not really serious when you ask such questions. All of us know that skilled interviewers will always be at a premium in every well-run business. Four duties of the employment interviewer will never be delegated to a computing machine, according to Bingham:

1) He must answer fully and frankly the applicants’ questions about your business, the job and the working conditions. Who has invented a regression equation which will do that?

2) He must convince the man he is interviewing that yours is a good firm to work for since it furnishes such and such opportunities for growth the advancement (if it does). In other words, he must be skillful in selling your firm to the applicant.

3) He must steer the applicant toward a job for which he is better suited, if there is one somewhere, lest he discover that job and shift to it only after you have spent a few hundred dollars in training him.

4) Finally, the interviewer should leave the prospect, in any case, with the feeling that he has made a personal friendly.

Bingham’s point of view is well taken. Because of such reasons, because of everyone’s faith in his ability to judge people in a face-to-face conversation, and because applicants like some assurance of personal treatment, the interview remains widely used. To make it useful, as well, we prefer to recommend trying to improve it through research in the development and evaluation of ways of conducting the interview; and at the same time we wish to emphasize improved use of supporting tools. Improvements in technique lead toward a higher degree of objectivity as well as toward better ways of recording and handling data derived from the interview.

At last we are in a position to bring together our general conclusions regarding the interview. The interview in its fact-finding aspect has especially challenged attention. Whether the interview is carried on with a limited, personal objective, primarily in the interest of the interviewee, or in his interest only indirectly and primarily in that of a business concern or a group, or ostensibly in the interest of society at large, acquaintance with the techniques which make for success in any one field, it seems, facilitates the process of interviewing in all. The employment interview aims at appraisal of individual abilities and possibilities of growth, which it tries to discover fearlessly and in detail. It has been said with some emphasis that the interviewer who investigates employees relations must be a good listener; he must be more interested in what his questions may uncover in the way of truth that in any preconceived hypothesis of his own. The value of this rare accomplishment requires no further emphasis; it is needed by all.

So each type of interview with its emphasis, resulting in a peculiar effectiveness in attaining a particular goal – a single aspect perhaps of the many-faceted objective of the interview – may suggest to experts in other fields a way of perfecting their own techniques or of critically weighting the validity of their results. Could a single interviewer combine in ideal proportion the care and training and objectivity of the interviewer in commercial surveys, the intuitive sympathy of the social worker, the common sense and understanding of the employment interviewer, the technical skills of the specialist in public opinion polls, the patience and insight of the psychiatrist, the educator’s breadth of grasp, the self-immolation of the interviewer in employee relations, with the lawyer’s facility and the reporter’s persistence, he would be no longer in need of the interview as a means of ascertaining facts, for they would be known to him already.
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