Purpose of an Interview
The purpose of the selection interview is to obtain and assess information about a candidate which will enable a valid prediction to be made of his or her future performance in the job in comparison with the predictions made for any other candidates.
Interviewing therefore involves processing and evaluating evidence about the capabilities of a candidate in relation to the person specification. Some of the evidence will be on the application form, but the aim of the interview is to supplement this data
with the more detailed or specific information about competencies, attitudes, experience and personal characteristics that can be obtained in a face-to-face meeting. Such a meeting also provides an opportunity for judgments by the interviewer on whether the individual will ‘fit’ the organization, and by both parties as to how they would get on together. Although these judgments are entirely subjective and are often biased or prejudiced, it has to be recognized that they will be made.
In particular, selection interviews aim to provide answers to these questions:
- Can individuals do the job – are they competent?
- Will individuals do the job – are they well motivated?
- How will individuals fit into the organization?
The interview forms a major part of the ‘classic trio’ of selection techniques, the other two being the application form and references. Further evidence may be obtained from psychological tests as described in Chapter 29 but, in spite of the well publicized inadequacies of interviews as reliable means of predicting success in a job, they are still an inevitable part of a selection procedure for most people.
This chapter focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of interviews, the nature of an interview –
The advantages of interviews as a method of selection are that they:
- Provide opportunities for interviewers to ask probing questions about the candidate’s experience and to explore the extent to which the candidate’s competences match those specified for the job;
- Enable interviewers to describe the job (a ‘realistic job preview’) and the organization in more detail, suggesting some of the terms of the psychological contract;
- Provide opportunities for candidates to ask questions about the job and to clarify issues concerning training, career prospects, the organization and terms and Selection interviewing.
- Enable a face-to-face encounter to take place so that the interviewer can make an assessment of how the candidate would fit into the organization and what he or she would be like to work with;
- Give the candidate the same opportunity to assess the organization, the interviewer and the job.
The disadvantages of interviews are that they:
- Can lack validity as a means of making sound predictions of performance, and lack reliability in the sense of measuring the same things for different candidates;
- Rely on the skill of the interviewer; but many people are poor at interviewing, although most think that they are good at it;
- Do not necessarily assess competence in meeting the demands of the particular job;
- Can lead to biased and subjective judgements by interviewers.
However, these disadvantages can be alleviated if not entirely removed, first, by using a structured approach that focuses on the competences and attitudes required for successful performance and, secondly, by training interviewers. The use of another opinion or other opinions can also help to reduce bias, especially if the same structured approach is adopted by all the interviewers.
The Nature of an Interview
An interview can be described as a conversation with a purpose. It is a conversation because candidates should be induced to talk freely with their interviewers about themselves, their experience and their careers. But the conversation has to be planned, directed and controlled to achieve the main purpose of the interview, which is to make an accurate prediction of the candidate’s future performance in the job for which he or she is being considered.
However, interviews also provide a valuable opportunity for an exchange of information, which will enable both parties to make a decision: to offer or not to offer a job; to accept or not to accept the offer. It may be better for the candidates to ‘deselect’ themselves at this stage if they do not like what they hear about the job or the company rather than take on a disagreeable job. Interviews are often used to give the candidates a favorable impression of the organization and the job. But this must be realistic a ‘realistic job preview’ will spell out any special demands that will be made on the successful applicant in terms of the standards they will be expected to achieve, the hours they may have to work, the traveling they have to do and any requirement for mobility in the UK or abroad. Clearly, if these are onerous, it will be necessary to convince good candidates that the rewards will be commensurate with the requirements. If poor candidates are put off, so much the better.
Good interviewers know what they are looking for and how to set about finding it. They have a method for recording their analyses of candidates against a set of assessment criteria, which will be slept out in a person specification.