Interviewing The Candidates
An interview has been the traditional method of selection for decades. Problems associated with interviewing Difficulties with arriving at a consistent and objective decision on a candidate is hampered by a long list of irrational but understandable tendencies by interviewers who have the following.
- Different views on the person they are looking for. The person specification may be too vague or ambiguous so interviewers have different ideas on what would be the success factors in the position. One interviewer may place great importance on the candidate's previous experience; another may be influenced by a candidate's perceived inflexible ideas. In one research program, a group of interviewers who were aware of the person specification and were in possession of the application forms, were shown a group of video-taped interviews and yet there was still a variation in the recommended candidate for the position. This was despite having identical information.
- Decide intuitively. Despite repeated calls for interviewers to base their decisions on the objective evidence which they have collected, there remains a constant temptation to make overall judgments based on intuition. The ‘I have a gut-feel’ school of interviewing still has a number of ardent supporters, who usually also subscribe to the ‘I can spot them as soon as they come in the door’ association!
- Make decisions before the interview takes place or early on in the interview. Studies show that the average length of time between a candidate entering the interview room and a decision being made is just under 4 minutes. This ‘expectancy effect’ arises from a study of the CV or application before the interview. All the subsequent information is recorded but adjusted to fit into the decision that the interviewer has already made.
- Prefer candidates like themselves. The so-called ‘clone factor’ indicates that interviewers give higher ratings on some traits to candidates who are similar to themselves, rather than matching the candidates against the person specification.
- Continue to stereotype candidates. Despite the illegality of judging candidates on the basis of their sex, ethnic origin, disability or marital status, interviewers, often unknowingly, will allow such considerations to cloud their judgments. This can extend to areas such as age, geographical origin, accent, height and even their attire.
- Cannot take on board all the information provided. The brain can only assimilate a certain amount of information. Each candidate provides a wealth of data and even 30 minutes of interview time can be transcribed into more than 10 pages of written text. A recommended interview period therefore should not extend beyond 1 hour individually or 4 hours in a day and certainly not beyond five or six candidates. Notes need to be compiled during the interview, and compared and agreed after each one.
- Influence candidates’ behavior. How an applicant behaves is partly dependent on how the interviewer behaves.
The general advantages put forward in favor of interviews are:
- It is a relatively low-cost exercise, with additional expenses limited to the time of the participants and any travelling and accommodation expenses.
- No decision on selection should be taken without an interview of some sort being carried out. At the basic level, it is a pure courtesy, an introduction both to the organization and the people involved.
- Used properly, valid judgments can be made on a number of items of behavior, especially inter-personal behavior. Sociability, verbal fluency, social confidence can all be competencies detailed in the job specification and measured effectively in the interview process. The interview can be viewed as a type of ‘work sample’ of these behaviors and should give some degree of prediction about future behavior and performance.
- The interview is important in selling the job to the applicants and this is vital in certain high demand, low supply occupations, such as information technology or accounting. If the interview is handled positively and carefully, disappointed candidates will still feel good about the experience and the organization.
- A degree of negotiation can and often should take place before an agreement is reached between the organization and the selected candidate. The interview allows informal negotiation to take place on the nature of the job together with the terms and conditions.
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