Understanding the Personal Interview:
A Study for Managers Involved in the Hiring Process
Updated by: LAURA SIMS
The Personal Interview
It is ironic the large emphasis that is placed on the “personal interview” when arriving at selection decisions within organizations, despite its low reliability and low accuracy in predicting future job performance. These interviews are usually relatively unstructured. Recent literature reviews suggest that the interviewer’s judgmental errors, along with numerous errors and biases associated with the processing of applicant information, contribute to the low validity of personal interviews. Since the workforce is the primary asset in ...view middle of the document...
Furthermore, interview perceptions are based on the interviewer’s life experiences, goals, needs and values, and thus can affect the judgment of the applicant.
First, we discuss some of the psychological pitfalls of personal interviewing. Second, we look at a company that is experiencing personnel problems. Third, we look at how the problems can be resolved.
Pre-Interview Impression Effects
Before the interviewer greets the applicant and begins the discussion, judgments are likely to have already been formed. Impressions of the applicant’s qualifications and characteristics by looking solely at the application and resume could bias the conduct of the interviewer and the eventual results. First impressions of a person from just paper credentials can exert a disproportionate influence on our continued perception of them. A process model by Diboye, 2002, proposes three interview phases:
1. The Pre-Interview Phase
2. The Interview Phase—the face-to-face interview with the applicant
3. The Post-Interview Phase—where impressions are formed of the applicant’s qualifications and the decision is made to hire or not to hire
A study at the University Placement Center of 120 interviews by Macan and Diboye in 1990, revealed a strong positive correlation between pre-interview impressions and post-interview impressions.
Hakel, in 2002, concluded after his interview research that “It is abundantly clear that whatever information occurs first has disproportionate influence on the final outcome of interviews.”
This could be explained by the fact that people with high test scores, good grades, etc., on their credentials actually make better impressions in the interview, although studies have been done (Sparks & Manese, 1998) to show little support for this contention.
An interviewer forms a pre-interview opinion of the applicant and categorizes the applicant as “ideal, highly qualified” or “typical” or “unqualified,” and the interviewer’s subsequent conception of the applicant then influences the subsequent gathering and processing of information. This “cognitive categorization,” means interviewers form expectancies of how applicants present themselves in an interview. Macan and Diboye confirmed this theory in a study they did and found that candidates with high qualifications were expected to give better answers and display traits of an ideal candidate. Their findings also revealed that interviewers have more favorable attitudes to these higher qualified applicants and show more signs of approval in their verbal and nonverbal behavior than the less qualified applicants. This, in turn, influences the applicant’s motivation to make a favorable self-presentation or stop the applicant from trying to make a good impression if he or she becomes discouraged. Also, the interviewer can lead to a behavioral confirmation by restricting the interviewee’s responses or by only asking about negative aspects of their...