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Received October 1996 Revised/Accepted October 1997
Employee selection: a question of structure
Jean M. Barclay
Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
Keywords Employee selection, Interviews, Selection, United Kingdom Abstract The first part of a larger study into organisations’ use of structured interviewing techniques. Discusses reasons for continued popularity of interviewing in selection, despite its shortcomings. Considers the use of two structured interviewing techniques to improve selection: behavioural and situational questioning. Presents the findings of a large scale survey of UK organisations’ use of these techniques. The use of structured interviewing is rapidly increasing and is used by all sizes of organisation. Behavioural interviewing is being used more than situational interviewing, and many respondents use both techniques. Structured techniques are most commonly used for management posts. Discusses links with competency based HRM and roles of line managers and HR specialists in selection. Areas for further research are outlined.
Introduction Interviewing is still the most commonly used method of selection in employment, in spite of the fact that many studies have shown it to be a very flawed technique. Given the preference of managers and human resource practitioners for interviewing, structured interviewing techniques have been suggested as a means of improving validity. Much of the research into these interviewing techniques is experimental in nature, and the aim of the present study was to identify and explore the use of two particular structured interviewing techniques by various organisations in the UK. This is seen as the first stage of a larger study. The next stage will provide more detailed analysis of how the techniques are introduced and applied, together with benefits and problems in practice. This study relates specifically to selection interviewing although it may also have relevance to other interviewing situations such as discipline, grievance, appraisal and exit interviewing. It is also likely to be relevant to other situations where interviewing techniques are important as a means of inquiry, such as research, criminal investigation and social work. Background Many studies have demonstrated the weaknesses of interviewing in staff selection (Hunter and Hunter, 1984; Reilly and Chao, 1982). The common deficiencies in interviewer decision making have been summarised by Anderson (1992) and by Taylor and O’Driscoll, (1995). These include, for example: stereotyping of candidates; primacy effects; similarity effects; and negative information weighting bias. Owing to its many limitations the traditional, unstructured interview has been found to have poor predictive accuracy, and various alternative selection
Personnel Review, Vol. 28 No. 1/2, 1999, pp. 134-151, © MCB University Press, 0048-3486
1978). 1994). 1991): • Interviewing is also a popular choice for practical reasons. A question of structure 135 . Popularity of interviewing Despite the evidence over many years discrediting the interview as an effective selection technique. Interviewers are viewed as “typical” of the company employees. Interviewers maintain great faith and confidence in their own judgements and create an “illusion of validity” (Einhorn and Hogarth. Townley. 1994): • It seems that some human resource managers are unaware of the research evidence discrediting the interview (Kumra and Beech. not just by indicating obvious factors such as salary. in both the public and private sectors: (Robertson and Makin. 1994). Shackleton and Newell. studies also show that it is still the most popular selection technique in use in Britain. Williams.1993). 1994). • While some human resource managers are aware of the interview’s shortcomings. 1986. it serves other purposes well. 1989. and providing a public relations function for the organisation (Herriot. Related to this is the impact that the selection process can have on candidates. • The interview is “really” valid to the extent that it can be a useful technique for assessing certain interpersonal skills which are manifested in the interview. Several reasons have been suggested to explain this apparent paradox (Arvey and Campion. Interviewers can influence applicants’ job choices by increasing the perceived attractiveness of the job. 1989). 1991. Even if the interview has poor predictive validity. 1987. they nevertheless believe it to be effective in their own experience (Kumra and Beech. The use of “more sophisticated” selection methods such as tests tends to be limited to those jobs with a large number of incumbents. such as psychometric tests and assessment centres (Anderson and Shackleton. 1992).methods have better predictive validity than interviews. such as “selling” the job. Practitioners therefore need to be aware of the dual purposes of applicant attraction and selection in interviewing (Eder. • Williams’ study of local authorities also identified the main reason why interviews were used simply as “tradition” (Williams. Kumra and Beech. 1992). such as sociability and verbal fluency. answering candidates’ questions. on the candidate’s image of the organisation and thus also on the likely acceptance of a job offer. where the costs of developing and evaluating the technique can be justified. competence and formality. Kumra and Beech. 1982. 1989). negotiating the contract. • Another perspective suggests that psychologists overemphasise the importance of “assessment” in the selection procedure (Herriot. but also through more indirect “signalling” (Rynes. 1987. and candidates pick up cues from them about friendliness.
however. and in addition it is “expected”. no probing or digression from the list of situations is permitted. 1994. This approach seeks examples of past actual behaviour rather than hypothetical responses. 1988. Several aspects of this approach contribute to its usefulness: the situation descriptions are developed in relation to the situations likely to be encountered in the actual job. Structured interviews Many studies have assessed the validity of different types of interview. can be more difficult. responses to each question area (competency) are evaluated in relation to those expected. Responses to each question are then compared with a set of predetermined “standards” to produce a score for each answer. McDaniel et al. Several meta-analyses of these studies have shown that structured interviews have more predictive validity than unstructured interviews (Huffcutt and Arthur. 1994. Scoring and evaluating of these responses. There is clearly an attachment to interviewing as a selection method and the evidence is that this will continue. the standards for scoring and evaluating responses are developed by analysing the responses of actual good and average performing job incumbents. each candidate is presented with the same list of situations to respond to. This may include using job analysis to make questions relevant to the job.1/2 136 Interviewing therefore seems to enjoy continued popularity because it is a flexible.. with two specific questioning techniques producing different types of structured interview: (1) The situational interview focuses on future oriented questions and asks candidates about their anticipated behaviour in hypothetical situations: (“what would you do if…?”). 1982). Wright et al. It asks for behaviour in relation to defined job competencies rather than particular situations. . This approach is more personal than situational interviewing as it allows candidates to discuss their own experience in detail.. in that it allows more thorough probing and elaboration. personal. Wiesner and Cronshaw. asking the same questions of all candidates as well as using systematic scoring procedures. A particular issue which has received attention is question type. Behavioural interviews are based on the principle that “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour” (Green and Horgan. (2) The behavioural interview focuses on past oriented questions and asks about past behaviour in actual situations: (“Give me an example where you have…”). There are several ways in which interviews can be structured. It is also more flexible. two way process which is often used for social processes which go beyond mere selection information gathering. 1989). Situational interviews are based on the premiss that a person’s stated intentions are related to subsequent actual behaviour.Personnel Review 28. A fuller discussion and comparison of these two techniques can be found in Eder and Ferris (1989) and in Taylor and O’Driscoll (1995). Here.
1995.. 1987. 1993).Research has demonstrated the reliability and validity of these interview techniques over more traditional approaches. Fairness and impact. Situational interviews were shown to have good validity in several studies (Arvey et al. 1987). and generalities) (Janz. research suggests that what they actually do in interviews has little relationship to the job requirements (such as asking about opinions. 1989). The use of psychometric tests have been the subject of several legal challenges concerning alleged unfair discrimination. Interviews. are not only more acceptable to candidates... 1982... So structured interviews “work” because they force attention on to job relevant variables. 1994.. 1994)). 1990. They have also been questioned on ethical grounds (Baker and Cooper. 1984. Latham et al. 1993) as well as their on grounds of acceptability to candidates (Silvester and Brown. Even where interviewers do have a clear picture of what is required. 1985). on the other hand. and a few have made a direct comparison of these two techniques (Campion et al. and also “prevent a degeneration of the interview into a quasi-personality test” (Smith and George. Structured interviews have been shown to increase the probability of candidates accepting job offers (Taylor and Bergmann. rather than irrelevant variables such as race or sex. Latham and Saari. 1990. 1980. 1988. Why structure improves interviews The traditional or more “casual” interview fails because it often focuses on the “here and now”: how the applicant responds to the stresses and demands of the interview itself. Barclay. which is too narrow a focus. Other studies have demonstrated improved validities using behavioural interviews (sometimes called patterned behaviour description interviews) (Janz. 1994). 1995). and seek to assess an applicant’s technical competence and ability to work with other staff. 1989). they are expected. A question of structure 137 . A few studies have considered using both of these techniques together (Green et al. Orpen. McDaniel et al. Pulakos and Schmitt. A strong relationship between the content of the job and the content of the selection method improves the validity of the selection method (“point to point” validation theory: (Smith and George. Taylor and O’Driscoll (1995) suggest that structured interviews are “less complex to develop and less time consuming and expensive to conduct than alternative approaches” (such as work samples and assessment centres).. 1987). 1993). Robertson et al. Structure improves interviews because it makes interviewers focus more on the job and makes the questions asked more likely to be job related. Interviewers may not have a clear picture of the qualities required for successful job performance. Reasons to favour structured interviews Cost and time. Weekley and Gier. Behavioural interviewing “zeros in on what applicants have accomplished (or failed to accomplish) and how they went about doing it in situations similar to ones they will face on the job” (Janz. Stohr-Gillmore et al.
and it can then be difficult for line management to accept decisions based on these outcomes if they have not been directly involved in the process. This is particularly relevant for practitioners who must weigh costs against anticipated benefits when deciding how much to structure an interview.1/2 138 Ownership of selection methods and decisions. so these techniques fit well with the competency approach to HRM. standardised interviews and the pursuit of “objectivity” can also involve rigidity (Anderson. Previous surveys A limitation of the existing research into structured interviewing techniques is the reliance on an experimental approach. showing that while some structure improves the effectiveness of interview decision making.Personnel Review 28. particularly relevant for organisations which are trying to devolve human resource management decisions and roles to line managers. these can be very time consuming and costly. on the other hand. The interviewer’s role can be reduced to that of a “personally detached information gatherer” losing the advantages of flexibility and two-way discussion. too much structure is not necessary. 1994). Structured interviewing techniques are designed to elicit evidence on defined competencies which are relevant to the job. 1992) have . This found a ceiling effect. Very structured. There has been a huge increase in recent years in the use of competency frameworks not only for selection but in all aspects of human resource management (HRM). A recent study also points to a limit on the usefulness of structure (Huffcutt and Arthur. do not readily relate to competencies (Fletcher. 1991. since higher levels of structure typically involve increased development time and costs. some using existing employees or teaching assistants as “candidates” and non-managerial employees or teaching assistants as “interviewers”. Williams. 1996). little is known about the actual use of structured interviewing in practice within organisations. 1982). Shackleton and Newell. Studies typically apply the techniques on a “one-off” basis. 1992). Previous surveys of organisations’ recruitment and selection practices (Robertson and Makin. The use of psychometric tests in organisations is usually carried out by human resource specialists or by consultants. Interviewing skills. While these studies suggest that structured interviewing offers potential benefits to recruiters. can be more readily developed by line managers who have good knowledge of the particular job and the behaviours required for success. even for structured interviewing. Psychometric tests on the other hand. and whilst assessment centres do measure competencies. there may be a limit to the amount of structure which is desirable. who conduct the interviews under instruction from the experimenters (Janz. Competencies and human resource management. While structured techniques can improve selection decision making. Limits on structure. because of the expertise required. 1986. So structured interviewing is less likely to marginalise line managers.
tended to take a broad view of different selection methods. A particular A question of structure 139 . 1994). • Management recruitment tends to be more expensive than other grades of staff. These are two different techniques. These surveys also focused on management selection. and then to explore the interviewing practice in these organisations. and at what stage in the selection process? As well as these questions. A more recent survey which did investigate use of interviews in the private sector obtained only very limited data on the use of structured interviewing techniques (Kumra and Beech. it was expected that larger organisations would use structured interviewing techniques more than smaller organisations. 1994)). • Behavioural interviewing is a more flexible and acceptable technique than situational interviewing. in a recent survey of 400 organisations taken from the Times 1000. there were several expectations about the use of structured interviews: • Behavioural interviewing and situational interviewing have been highlighted. The first issue was how to identify organisations using structured interviewing. each requiring different strategies regarding preparation and development as well as conduct and evaluation. and since larger organisations tend to have more resources than smaller ones. • Since structured interviewing involves development time and costs. The objectives of the survey were to identify organisations using structured interviewing techniques. (For example. and have not considered specific interviewing techniques (other than one-to-one and panel arrangements). Hence it was expected that structured interviewing would be used more for management selection than for other posts. The author wanted to gain information about the use of structured interviewing practices in both the private and public sectors and across all levels. Since relatively few organisations were using structured interviewing techniques any random sample would be unlikely to yield much positive information. It was expected that organisations might use one or the other of these. How long have these been used. The survey The survey reported here was designed to address this gap. and their different approaches outlined. Because of this it was expected that behavioural interviewing would be more prevalent than situational interviewing. but not both. only 12 organisations indicated that they were using behavioural interviews (Kumra and Beech. not just management grades. for which positions. and so any investment in improving the selection decision for these posts would provide potentially greater returns and savings.
These organisations were known to have used a particular training video on behavioural interviewing for selection. Responses Of the questionnaires returned. by focusing the survey in this way it was felt that a significant number of relevant organisations could be targeted reliably. For a “one-shot” postal survey this overall response rate of 31 per cent is not unexpected. Some organisations had hired the video before purchasing it and so were included twice on the original database. Additionally. Possible reasons for nonreturn of questionnaires are that some of the named contact individuals may have left the organisation since the original time of obtaining the video. or the organisation itself may have moved. Some organisations may well be using structured interviewing without recourse to the video mentioned and so these organisations cannot be represented. Response rates in recent surveys of selection practices .) Survey The present survey (Barclay) Kumra and Beech Williams Shackleton and Newell Robertson and Makin Year 1995 1994 1992 1991 1986 Response rate (per cent) 31 28 61 61 36 Number of responses 282 114 276 73 (UK) 108 Table I. the number of survey responses makes it significant (282). questionnaires were sent to 889 organisations. The 282 respondents in the present survey represent almost all economic sectors and range in organisation size from below ten to over 5. The number of responses is considerably more than in other recent surveys (see Table I). The time of year may also have been a contributing factor.1/2 140 approach was selected. with a slightly lower response rate from the private sector (65 per cent). Although this survey did not use a representative sampling approach. The questionnaire was sent to the named individuals in the organisation which had used this video over the previous eight years. 70 per cent were private sector organisations. There is only one such video on the market in the UK (and none specifically on situational interviewing as far as is known). as well as the number of employees represented (over 200. Of these. By discounting all of these “duplicates”. (See Figure 1 and Table II. However. A questionnaire was sent to a number of UK organisations in Summer 1995. 25 per cent public sector and 5 per cent from the voluntary sector.000 employees. in some cases the video had been hired by different divisions of the same organisation. in order to increase the likelihood of targeting organisations which were using structured interviewing techniques. merged or closed. with staff on holiday. therefore. 282 were usable.000). with a request that it be passed to the appropriate recruitment specialist for completion.Personnel Review 28.
RENTING & BUSINESS ACTIVITIES PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION & DEFENCE EDUCATION HEALTH & SOCIAL WORK OTHER SERVICES Figure 1.A question of structure Key % Responses 141 N = 282 ECONOMIC ACTIVITY CODES: C D E F G H I J K L M N O MINING & QUARRYING MANUFACTURING ELECTRICITY.000 1.000 Note: N = 282 Number of responses 37 97 54 68 26 Responses (percentages) 13 35 19 24 9 Table II.000 over 5. STORAGE & COMMUNICATION FINANCE REAL ESTATE. Survey respondents grouped by number of employees . Survey respondents by economic activity (using standard industrial classification) Source: Central Statistical Office Employees 0-100 101-500 501-1.001-5. GAS & WATER CONSTRUCTION WHOLESALE & RETAIL HOTELS & RESTAURANTS TRANSPORT.
non-manual and managerial staff. again confirming expectations (although it is likely that this may be due. whether these were used systematically or not. Responses indicated that behavioural interviewing was more popular and was also used more systematically than situational interviewing.) An unexpected finding was the large proportion of respondents (36 per cent) who indicated that they used both behavioural and situational interviewing systematically.) More than half the organisations which use behavioural interviewing systematically also use situational interviewing systematically. The survey then asked about specific structured techniques used. to the nature of the survey sample). semi-structured and structured interviews used for each category of staff Results Structure in interviews The survey asked about the use of structure in interviewing for different categories of staff. situational questions were outlined. Percentage of unstructured. Similarly. This illustrates that more structured interviews are more likely to be used for management posts. Interview structure used for manual. Use of behavioural interviewing . A description of behavioural interviewing was provided together with examples of this type of question. thus confirming expectations. with examples. (See Figures 2 and 3.Personnel Review 28.1/2 142 Table III. It is possible Unstructured Manual Non-manual Managerial 12 3 1 Semi-structured 38 37 27 Structured 50 60 72 N 184 253 264 70 62 60 50 Percent 40 30 20 10 0 used systematically not used used not systematically use of behavioural interviewing questions all respondents N = 281 34 don’t know Figure 2. In each case organisations were asked to indicate whether they used these types of question in interviews and if so. (See Table IV. at least in part. Results are shown in Table III.
This may mean that interviewers are just trying out a few novel questions. The way that these interviews are used may also relate to concerns about the impact of too much structure in practice: concerns about being too impersonal and rigid. Use of situational interviewing Technique(s) used Systematic use of behavioural interviews only Systematic use of situational interviews only Systematic use of both behavioural and situational interviews Total using one or both methods systematically Note: N = 281 Number of respondents 73 9 100 182 (Percentage of total respondents) (26) (3) (36) (65) Table IV. (Very few organisations use only situational interviewing. or it may reflect some adulteration of the approach. These results also show that a substantial proportion of organisations seem to use behavioural interviewing or situational interviewing in an unsystematic way. some use of these structured questions is likely to be better than none at all.70 60 50 Percent 40 30 20 10 0 used systematically not used used not systematically use of situational interview questions all respondents N = 281 17 39 43 A question of structure 143 don’t know Figure 3. and includes only those responses which indicated use of behavioural interviewing systematically. The next section provides more detailed information on the use of structured interviewing. Alternatively interviewers may be combining the techniques during interviews. and a desire for a more comfortable approach.) . This is explored further in the discussion section. Systematic use of behavioural and situational interviewing that the two techniques may be used by different interviewers. On the other hand. at different times or for different categories of staff. This is likely to weaken the usefulness and might lead to false confidence on the part of selectors.
g. Of the organisations in the small category (with 0-100 employees). This seems to indicate that a larger proportion of small establishments than large or medium-sized establishments use behavioural interviewing systematically. Of organisations.000 over 5.000 1.1/2 144 Systematic use of structured interviewing Organisation size. Percentages of organisations using behavioural interviewing systematically in each size category of establishment Size of establishment 0-100 101-500 501-1. Table V shows the proportion of organisations using behavioural interviewing in each of the establishment size categories. When behavioural interviewing was introduced Many of the organisations using behavioural interviewing indicated that they have been doing so for more than two years (41 per cent). 65 per cent of these are consulting or training firms: these seem to be “practising what they preach”. Others use structure only at the second or subsequent stage. so the extent of systematic use is not restricted just to training and consulting professionals. Organisational size or structure may be a factor in determining the use of structured interviewing throughout the organisation. Table V. however. (77 per cent) involve both line managers and personnel specialists. 77 per cent of these too are using behavioural interviewing systematically. personnel specialists or both. especially in quasi-independent units.000 Percentage of respondents using behavioural interviewing systematically 78 55 63 60 65 . Who uses structured interviewing The survey asked who used structured interviewing: line managers.Personnel Review 28. and many for more than five years (a further 34 per cent). 17 per cent said personnel staff only were involved and 7 per cent said line managers only. In larger organisations there may be obstacles to human resources developing the use of techniques. however. which may restrict the application to central recruitment/promotion decisions (e. Of the remaining organisations in this category. this leaves a substantial 25 per cent which have only been using the technique in the previous two years. However. for graduates and managers). supporting the contention that structured interviewing is a technique which can be utilised by all managers.001-5. Most organisations. When structured interviewing is used The survey asked at what stage structured interviewing techniques were used. Some organisations use structured interviewing techniques only at the first stage of interview.
use the structured approach at all stages of the process (77 per cent for behavioural interviewing and 70 per cent for situational interviewing). again suggesting a consistent approach with all candidates. These jobs were also highlighted by respondents as the most difficult posts to fill. It is interesting to note that the use of behavioural interviewing is also fairly high for graduate positions. but particularly for management selection. as expected. Structured interviewing is used more for management. None used structured interviewing for internal candidates only. Job category for which behavioural interviewing used: percentage responses in rank order . across the board with all candidates. The vast majority. Are interviewers seeking evidence of behaviours relevant to a specific post or more general competencies? Link of structure to use of competencies Most organisations which use behavioural interviewing in a systematic way say that this use is linked to the wider use of competencies (76 per cent). One of the main benefits of structured interviewing is that it focuses the interviewer’s attention on specific job requirements. A few used the structured technique exclusively with external candidates. yet many graduate positions are not linked to specific jobs. and so it is not clear how appropriately behavioural interviewing is being used in the context of such positions. apply the technique. however. however.By far the majority of organisations. suggesting a consistency of approach throughout the selection process. whether behavioural or situational interviewing. Jobs for which structured interviewing is used Table VI shows jobs for which behavioural interviewing techniques are used systematically. Use of structured interviewing for internal/external candidates The survey asked for which candidates structured interviewing techniques were used. The link to competencies is substantially weaker where structured interviewing is A question of structure 145 Job Management Administrative Supervisory Technical Graduates Manual School-leavers Other Notes: N = 73 Percentage of responses 90 84 71 64 63 42 40 15 Table VI. administrative and supervisory posts.
Thus structured interviewing seems to be an accessible way for many organisations to improve their selection decisions for a variety of positions. with one quarter of organisations only introducing the use of structured techniques in the previous two years. Use of both structured techniques A surprising aspect of the survey findings was the number of organisations using both behavioural interviewing as well as situational interviewing systematically (more than one-third of all respondents). Discussion The evidence from this survey suggests that the use of structured techniques is rapidly increasing. whereas behavioural interviewing links directly to the underlying competencies (which may be applied across a variety of situations). and restricting candidates’ opportunities to sell themselves. Janz (1989) argues that the two techniques are conflicting on theoretical grounds. The organisations which are using the structured interviews are not confined to the very large ones. Situational interviewing can be linked readily to specific situations.1/2 146 not used systematically. suggesting an overall more methodical and comprehensive approach to selection. but are less likely to adopt it comprehensively. Behavioural interviewing is also used more systematically than situational interviewing. Many organisations in this sample seem to be focusing their efforts on improving interviews as well as introducing other selection methods such as psychometric testing and assessment centres. Situational interviewing. perhaps because of its restrictive aspects. on the other hand. He contends that opinions offer few clear practical data on which to base predictions of future performance because applicants are likely to give the opinions they think the interviewer wants to hear. The figures for situational interviewing show very similar relationships to competencies. has been likened to an oral administration of a test. these alternative methods can be problematic: many organisations may be finding that structured interviewing helps to balance these problems. falling to around 50 per cent. and offers greater scope for active line management involvement in both question formulation and evaluation of responses. Behavioural interviewing is the cheaper and more flexible of the two approaches. Type of structured interviewing Behavioural interviewing is the technique favoured more than situational interviewing (although the targeted nature of the survey may be an influencing factor here). 1992). reducing the interview to a “one-way information collection device” (Anderson. It seems that organisations may like the idea of situational interviewing type questions. He classifies hypothetical responses as similar to . As noted earlier. This is a little surprising: a stronger link between behavioural interviewing and competencies was expected than between situational interviewing and competencies.Personnel Review 28.
provided that these are clearly defined and understood. Townley (1991) suggests that organisations are increasingly likely to focus on more general attributes or values of candidates. is the use of competencies in selection interviewing the first step in an integrated approach to human resource management by these particular organisations? With regard to the nature of the competencies evaluated. Link with competency based HRM There is evidence of a link between the use of structured interviewing and the use of a competency approach to human resource management. and therefore opposes the situational interview as it consists of hypothetical questions. While this gives additional reasons as to why organisations prefer interviewing as a selection method. A debate has developed as to whether behaviour descriptions or intentions are the best predictors of future performance. however. attitude. it also suggests that there may be a certain resistance to structuring interviews too much if this restricts considerations to narrow. whether these are determined methodically and whether these are the same ones used for performance evaluation and reward management within the organisation. suggests that the two approaches can be combined to provide a more complete evaluation of candidates. while giving added legitimacy to the role of the personnel “expert” can lead to the virtual monopolising of selection by personnel professionals. In other words. task based criteria.opinions in this respect. clearer with behavioural interviewing than with situational interviewing. commitment and goal orientation more often than ability. Role of personnel and line managers Townley (1991) has suggested that the increasing “technology” of techniques in selection. attitudes often expressed as “loyalty”. “seriousness” and “commitment”: or “the good bloke syndrome”. Further research is needed to establish whether the techniques are used in separate interviews or if. flexibility. marginalising line managers. 1989). Goodale (1989). More information is required on how these competencies are linked. however. has shown that applicants’ plans. how many competencies are used in interviews. they are combined during interviews. and how. As organisations need more flexible workers who must exercise discretion in their work. It is not clear from this survey. goals and intentions can predict future job performance (Latham. Candidates’ demeanour. however. However. how the two structured interviewing techniques are being used together. rather than on more narrow. attitude and confidence during the interview were also considered important in determining whether candidates possessed the required attributes. 1994) supports this idea. Other research. The evidence from this survey is that there is A question of structure 147 . they need to select people who have the “right” attitudes and motivation. it is perfectly feasible to use structured questioning techniques which seek evidence of “general” competencies. task specific criteria. Personnel practitioners defined “fit” with the organisation in terms of personality. Other research (Kumra and Beech.
It is possible that some false confidence may have influenced respondents’ answers in this survey. • know how to use them. • base decisions on defined. more than might be required for a more “casual” interview. This can be attributed to three main reasons: (1) Social aspects of interviewing: it is flexible. All this requires time and effort. These issues of practice will form the basis of future research and some specific research questions are now considered. any devolution of responsibility to line managers is likely to result in some adaptation and variation in the way that the techniques are applied.Personnel Review 28. the potentially adverse effects on candidates. Further research questions Criteria for assessment To what extent are structured interviews based on specific task related criteria? Are competency frameworks used. Conclusions Structured interviewing is increasing in popularity. it involves line managers and allows some bargaining and influencing to take place. the monopoly of techniques by personnel specialists leading to marginalisation of line management. Even with good training provision. Structured interviewing therefore commends itself to personnel practitioners and line managers alike. it does require that interviewers: • understand the different types of structured questioning technique. it provides the opportunity to meet the “whole” person face to face. research suggests (Keenan. the “illusion of validity” referred to at the beginning of this paper. and • use a systematic approach to evaluation of responses. hence an increased likelihood of better selection decisions.1/2 148 extensive line management involvement in the structured interviewing process. However. Perhaps it is less “technological” than psychometric testing or assessment centres. (3) The benefits of structure in interviewing: more focus on relevant criteria and candidates’ competencies. perhaps producing a more “systematic” picture than may be justified. more consistency and fairness in treatment of candidates. Indeed. (2) Limitations of other methods: time and costs and specialist training required. relevant criteria. Devolution of HRM to line management also raises questions about standards and consistency. 1978) that training itself can lead to over-confidence in interviewers about their own assessment abilities. and if so to what extent are these expressed .
R. is the degree of structure limited by the fact that there is not a job to “anchor” the specific abilities required? Types of structured interviewing For those organisations which are using both behavioural interviewing and situational interviewing. how are these combined and reconciled ? Impact on candidates What are applicants’ responses to structured interviewing techniques? Are they given enough opportunity to sell themselves to the organisation? Do the techniques affect candidates’ perceptions of the organisation? Is the impact on candidates different for behavioural interviewing and situational interviewing? Impact on interviewers What do interviewers themselves think about the techniques? Do they help them to make selection decisions? Do they make interviewers feel as though they are merely using a script? How much involvement and flexibility do line managers have in conducting the interview? How much training do they receive? Evaluation and decision making How are responses evaluated? Are the evaluation processes “structured”. Blackwell. 1. (1993). Anderson. and to learn from mistakes that have been made. The next stage of research will involve a more detailed questionnaire and case studies of a range of organisations using structured interviewing. Successful Selection Interviewing. or do interviewers still rely on “gut feel” when reaching selection decisions? How are structured interviews linked and weighted to other sources of selection evidence such as tests and assessment centres? What are the benefits and problems of using structured interviewing in practice? What evaluation of interviewing and selection decisions is carried out? This survey has provided some of the initial answers to questions of structure in interviewing techniques. “Eight decades of employment interview research: a retrospective metareview and prospective commentary”. and Shackleton.in task related terms rather than the more generic attributes or organisational values such as Townley would suggest? Does this vary for job categories? If structured interviewing is used for trainee positions. (1992). N. Vol. European Work and Organisational Psychologist. to try to learn from organisations which are using structured interviewing successfully. References Anderson. What is apparent from this study is that many organisations are certainly asking some of the “right” questions. Oxford. N. 2 No. Questions are not the only issue – we need more answers. V. A question of structure 149 .
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