6.

Interviewing
In this chapter we will discuss: • • • Planning the Interview Conducting the Interview The Ethics of Interviewing

An interview is a goal-oriented, interpersonal communication between an interviewer and a respondent. It is primarily undertaken to accomplish a specific purpose, perhaps to obtain or provide information, to solve a problem, or to persuade someone to undertake some action. The style and structure of an interview depend on its purpose and on the relationship between the two parties involved. Business interviews usually fall into one of the following categories. Employment Interviews These provide general information to potential applicants before a job actually exists, or take place when a specific job opening has occurred and applicants are to be screened for the position. Ultimately, the employment interview seeks to determine whether a particular applicant is suitable for the job. Performance Appraisal Interviews These provide job-related feedback to employees. A supervisor and an employee together assess how much progress the employee has made toward the achievement of certain predetermined goals. Areas where improvement is needed are identified and new goals are set. The employee’s long-term career plans may also be discussed. Counseling Interviews These provide guidance and assistance to employees. Such interviews sometimes involve very personal and emotional issues, such as family problems, drinking, or drugs, that affect the employee’s performance. Counseling can be effective only when the interviewer is willing to listen to the respondent’s problem and show a certain amount of tolerance. Disciplinary Interviews Disciplinary interviews become necessary when there are disruptive problems that must be curtailed. Some of the most common problems that warrant disciplinary action are nonperformance of duties, chronic absenteeism, disobedience or insubordination and the damaging of property. Figure 6.1: Choosing Questions with the Appropriate Degree of Openness

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Such questions are called close-ended questions. depending on the purpose you want to achieve. you can frame a question toward any one end of the spectrum. are generally associated with selling. In order to make the best case for your candidacy for a particular job. and the field. A respondent’s degree of preparation speaks volumes about his interest level and conscientiousness. is a clear purpose. When you want to not only obtain factual information but gauge the underlying feelings of the respondent or draw out his opinions on different issues. There are six strategies for planning an interview . Get Information about the Other Party Depending on the situation. However. plan the physical setting and anticipate problems. The interviewer must have a specific goal clearly in mind. so that the structure of the interview and the actual questions can all be tailored to suit that particular purpose. 2 . product or service. As an interviewer. as they seek to elicit precise information on a specific issue. as we’ve repeated ever so often in this book. you need to be prepared with information about yourself and about the job. as shown in figure 6. The interviewer too finds it easier to restrict himself to relevant questions if he is familiar with the details the applicant has provided in his application form or résumé.state the purpose. here too the first step in preparing for the interview is a clear formulation of the purpose – both for the interviewer as well as for the respondent. On the respondent’s part. State the Purpose The starting point of good communication. lack of a clear purpose can cause him to send out conflicting signals which often undermine his chances of achieving his goal. decide the structure.Persuasive Interviews These interviews. you need to gather relevant information about the interviewer or the respondent. Decide the Structure Interviews can be structured in different ways. The structure determines what kind of planning you ought to put in and what sort of results you can expect. consider possible questions. A directive approach is useful when you are looking for precise. The interviewer does a minimum of talking and encourages the respondent to fully express his feelings. a non directive approach works better. reliable information in a short time. In a directive interview the interviewer takes almost complete charge of the flow of conversation by asking specific questions designed to keep the respondent focused on the type of information required. In an actual interview. which primarily seek to induce somebody to adopt a new idea. PLANNING THE INTERVIEW Whatever the type of interview. a directive approach limits the respondent’s initiative and may prevent him from volunteering useful information. As an interview is a communication process. This approach. get information about the other party.1. To conduct a successful persuasive interview the interviewer has to use all his communication skills. the company. gives the respondent more control in determining the course of the interview. both to draw out the opinions of the respondent and to impart information. most questions fall along a continuum of openness. with its open-ended questions. a good deal of planning is necessary to make the interview a successful one.

In such situations indirect questions. They also let you learn how a person would behave in certain situations. you may also decide to include hypothetical and leading questions. what changes would you make? Apart from these. you can start formulating specific questions. what would you say? If you were made the manager of this department. would you? Plan the Physical Setting The physical setting in which the interview takes place can have a great deal of influence on the results. whenever necessary. Look at these examples. Secondary questions are useful when a previous answer is incomplete. Anticipate Problems 3 . Frequent interruptions mar the flow of conservation and prevent both the interviewer and the respondent from being alert to each other’s verbal and nonverbal cues. vague or irrelevant. are more effective. Hypothetical questions are ‘what if’ questions: If I were to introduce flexible working hours. Leading questions force the respondent to answer in a particular way. Apart from deciding where your questions are going to fall on the openness continuum. primary and secondary questions and direct and indirect questions. When the two parties face each other with no barriers between them there is a greater degree of informality. by suggesting the answer the interviewer expects: You wouldn’t mind working extra hours. as the name suggests. Factual questions. you can choose between factual and opinion questions. sometimes they fail to elicit satisfactory answers.Figure 6. either because the respondent is unable to answer accurately or is unwilling to do so.2: Close-ended and Open-ended Question Consider Possible Questions Once you have decided on the format. Each question must be so structured as to elicit just the information you want. that draw out information without directly asking for it. do you think the morale of the staff would improve? These questions can indirectly get a respondent to describe his attitudes. Though direct questions are usually the best way to get information. seek to ascertain facts. Direct and indirect questions are two different ways of eliciting information. An interviewer who addresses the respondent from behind a desk assumes greater control. Direct question Do you understand? Are you satisfied with my leadership? Indirect question If you had to explain this policy to a newcomer. The seating arrangements also have an impact on the interview. Primary questions introduce new topics or new areas within a topic and secondary questions seek additional information on a topic that has already been introduced. while opinion questions ask for the respondent’s judgments. A setting with the minimum distractions is generally the best.

Body How the interviewer and the respondent handle their respective roles in this session. you must inform the respondent beforehand. Is the format you’ve selected really suitable for the achievement of your specific purpose? Perhaps you should include more questions that are open-ended. When a respondent is not totally responsive to a question. The interviewer also has to ensure that he allots enough time to each item on the agenda. the interviewer usually follows up the initial greeting with a brief informal conversation. what information will be needed. That’s an interesting scheme. looking for loopholes. The Opening The opening is usually used to put the respondent at ease and to establish the purpose of the interview. to get more details? What if the respondent is a poor communicator and is unable to handle too many open ended questions? What if the respondent uses open-ended questions to digress from the main point? As you plan an interview you may come up with many such questions. CONDUCTING THE INTERVIEW Interviews have three basic stages: an opening. At the same time he should be willing to explore relevant sub-topics that might provide valuable insights into the situation or about the respondent. if you intend to take notes. Taking notes is sometimes advisable. Once you’ve clarified your purpose. put together your questions and decided the setting. he may not have enough time to do justice to other areas that are equally important. However. helping the respondent to relax and building up a rapport with him.This is an important aspect of preparation. a body and a close. Be brief and unobtrusive while taking notes. but pick up nonverbal signals too. An alert interviewer must not only pay attention to the respondent’s verbal messages. He explains the purpose of the interview. Sometimes they are so caught up in framing their own questions and responses that they fail to hear what the respondent is actually saying. the interviewer gives him a brief overview of what is to follow. Let us examine each of these stages in detail. that may provide insights into the respondent’s behavior and attitudes. go over the entire plan once again. Sometimes you can effectively use silence to induce the respondent to volunteer more details or a more satisfactory explanation. This sets the stage for the actual questionanswer session that constitutes the body of the interview. Whatever the nature of the interview. Summarizing the main points from 4 . If he lingers too long on one topic. Interviewers must listen actively in order to pick up verbal and nonverbal cues. Can you give me more details? Skillful use of probing questions will improve your results. Once the respondent is made comfortable. the outcome is likely to be better when the interviewer and the respondent are comfortable with each other. The interviewer’s role It is the interviewer’s responsibility to control and focus the conversation so that the discussion doesn’t drift away from the agenda. If a response is inadequate. is one of the most important deciding factors in shaping the final outcome. an interviewer may have to use probing questions to elicit a satisfactory response. To put the respondent at ease. Answering these questions will help you to employ effective strategies to counter problems as and when they arise during the course of the interview. how it will be used and the general format of the interview. decided the format. you might say.

but must always focus on the positive aspects. When this happens.2 Checklist for Interviews on the Job A. 5. Inform the respondent of the nature of the interview and the agenda to be covered. and develop a plan for accomplishing the goal. so that the misunderstanding is cleared. Determine the information. Preparation 1. Remind the respondent of the purpose and format. 2. The answers should be honest. 2. Conduct 1. 4. The most important of these is to answer each question the interviewer asks as clearly and accurately as possible. Sometimes interviewers misinterpret facts. At the end of the interview. C. as wanting to evade the issue. Select a time and a site. Follow the stated agenda. goals. Provide the assistance that you agreed to during your meeting.time to time also helps to ensure that the interviewer and the respondent have the same understanding. Close the interview on an appreciative note. Decide the purpose and goals of the interview. 7. Write a thank-you memo or letter that provides the respondent with a record of the meeting. Formulate questions as clearly and concisely as possible. thanking the respondent for his time. 3. 7. needs of your respondent. 5. 6. Project the outcome of the interview. Set a structure and format based on your goals. Exhibit 6. but be willing to explore relevant sub-topics. Clear the taking of notes or the use of a tape recorder with the respondent. Use ears and eyes to pick up verbal and nonverbal cues. 3. He can do this by politely pointing out that he had said something else. interest. and gather background 4. it is up to the respondent to ensure that the record is set straight. Be on time for the interview. Follow-Up 1. or by unobtrusively repeating an earlier remark. review the action items. and cooperation. The respondent should also make sure that his answers are all tailored to achieving his purpose in attending the interview. 2. 6. and plot their order. and tasks that each of you has agreed to. 5 . A respondent who doesn’t give clear answers is either seen as having failed to understand the question or. The respondent’s role The respondent can do several things to ensure that he makes a favorable impression. B.

3. Exhibit 6. be frank and honest in your answers. make sure you have the means or the authority to fulfill the promise. This paves the way for better interactions in future. Likewise. Don’t reveal confidential information Any personal information that a respondent provides during an interview must be kept confidential. For instance. Whatever the nature of the interview. Don’t be controlling or overbearing Allow the respondents to feel comfortable enough to respond to your questions and ask their own. are best avoided. when you raise the hopes of a job applicant about getting an offer. This signals that you have finished and gives the respondent an opportunity to ask relevant questions. Commitments that sound good. the interviewer must also take care to see that he does not divulge confidential information about the organization to the respondent. Closing Once the last question has been asked and answered. It is advisable to do one’s homework thoroughly before the interview. 6 . The interviewer then gives the respondent some idea of what future action he can expect before concluding with pleasantries. but cannot be kept. so that you adhere to the subject while the interview is going on and have a clear sense of where the discussion is going. you must be in a position to honor this promise. Monitor progress by keeping in touch through discussions with your respondent. Don’t ask illegal questions Illegal questions or questions that are not directly related to the job should be avoided. the interview can be rounded off by a restatement of conclusions. Don’t waste the interviewer’s time Clarify your purpose before you appear for the interview.2 provides a checklist of all that goes into making an interview a success. Guidelines for the Respondent Don’t be dishonest Misrepresenting facts can land you in trouble. THE ETHICS OF INTERVIEWING The communication between the interviewer and the respondent should be guided by certain ethical guidelines. Don’t be overly friendly Interviewers should conduct themselves in a professional manner and avoid being overly friendly or familiar with the respondent. Guidelines for the Interviewer Don’t make unrealistic promises If you make some kind of a promise to a respondent.

People are not predictable. It is up to you to analyze a situation and to decide what strategy and technique are most appropriate. it is well to remind ourselves that an interview.THINK ABOUT IT Having discussed some of the salient features of interviews. 7 . cannot be reduced to a formula. like any other communication process.