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Using Interviewing in Selection

Melinda Blackman


Numerous tools and processes are available to help organizations narrow the range of candidates for a job and hone in on those who are most qualified and well suited for a given job opening. These include a variety of formal assessments, which range from high- fidelity assessment centres that provide a work sample for various ability, skill, knowledge and personality measures. In spite of the abundance of rigorous assessment measures, the employment interview remains the most commonly used selection instrument, either alone or in combination with complementary selection measures. Since its conception in the early 1920s, the employment interview has evolved considerably and, if developed and implemented properly, can be a reliable and valid selection tool. Thomas Edison was one of the first credited with implementing a selection interview on a regular basis (Dennis, 1984). Finding himself with hundreds of college graduates who wanted to work in his laboratory, Edison developed 150 selection questions that tapped a variety of subjects (e.g., geography, mathematics, manufacturing, history and trivia). His goal was to narrow the applicant pool, based on applicants’ having comparable knowledge and intellect to his own, which would be a good match for the level of work that he was conducting.

Early uses of the selection interview took a similar approach, whereby specific questions were used, which interviewers thought would be relevant to their hiring decisions. Interviews were informal, with candidates being asked selected questions interspersed with small-talk and diversions. It is unlikely that any type of rating form or structured evaluation was used to assess candidates in relation to understood job requirements. Instead, like many continue to do today, interviewers relied primarily on their gut instinct to make selection decisions and then rationalized what went wrong if the chosen candidate failed to perform to par after being hired. Although the selection interview has evolved tremendously since its early days, many employers are still unaware of how to use it to their

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

maximum advantage and the ability of the interview, used effectively, to rival the predictive accuracy of formal assessments.

Traditionally, the selection interview focused on predicting a candidate’s technical skills relevant to the job in question (Campion, Palmer & Campion, 1997; Conway, Jako & Goodman, 1995; Cronshaw & Wiesner, 1989). However, by asking the right questions, it is possible to ascertain a wide variety of criteria during the interview. These include the applicant’s personality, interests, motivation, person-job fit, organizational citizenship behaviour and integrity, among others (Blackman, 2002a; Blackman & Funder, 2002; Ones, Viswesvaran & Schmidt, 1993; Organ, 1988; Podsakoff, Whiting, Podsakoff & Mishra, 2011). In addition to predicting multiple criteria, the interview can be administered in different formats for a variety of purposes, ranging from a two-person interaction with standard questions to a multifaceted, multi-person encounter. Moreover, depending on how the interview is administered, what the interview is looking to predict and other factors (e.g., the extent of interviewer training, use of standard evaluation criteria, etc.), its reliability and validity can rival or even surpass standardized assessment measures (Ham- dani, Valcea & Buckley, 2014; Huffcutt, Culbertson & Weyhrauch, 2013; Townsend, Bacigalupi & Blackman, 2007). This chapter will critically review research, theory and practice relevant to the employment interview and discuss how to use this selection measure to optimize hiring decisions.

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