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08/06/2004: OLGA KRIKELI: …from an interviewer’s perspective…

Introduction

Recruitment and selection are two of the central aspects of Human Resource Management (referred to as HRM hereafter). As pointed out by Sisson (1989), “the management of people is a key if not the key element in the strategic planning of any business – and not just a series of implementation responses to strategic decisions dominated by financial and marketing considerations”. This explains the reason why selection decisions are of the most important in an organization. They can lead to new opportunities for corporate strategy and tactics, and to competitive advantage by injecting new human resources into the organization, or by giving existing personnel new opportunities to display their talents. A proper staffing procedure requires that the “right” persons are selected for each particular function in the “right” numbers. If this balance is not achieved, either employees who are placed will not be satisfied, or organizations will be staffed with employees who are unmotivated and do not perform up to the expectations of the organization. Either way, the subsequent personnel functions get affected; therefore, careful planning is required on the kind of people and the numbers needed in an organisation.

The most commonly used selection method and also the oldest is interviewing. (In some ways the interview process remains the way it has been since the start of the industrial revolution.) A very clear definition of the selection interview is that “ an interview is nothing else but a controlled conversation with a purpose”. Namely, the interview continues to be the primary way to consider people for jobs – regardless of profession. As always the best interviewees land the jobs – not necessarily the best candidates.

Criticism

Even though interviewing is such a common method of employee selection, it has been extensively criticized as being the least objective selection method. One very interesting metaphor is that by Tom Watson (1992) who argues that “employment interviewing is like sex and driving”, and he explains it by saying that “most people rate themselves highly, the consequences of mistakes can be serious, when something goes wrong there is a tendency to blame the other party, and nonetheless most of us continue to do it.” (Towers: 1992).

Another criticism comes from Morgan (1973) who strongly suggests that: “the bald conclusion from all the empirical evidence is that the interview as typically used is not much good as a selection device. Indeed, one might wonder, rationally, why the interview was not long ago ‘retired’ from selection procedures.” (Torrington & Hall: 1995). The reason for that criticism is due to the belief that the selection interview is unreliable, invalid and subjective. However, criticism will not bring a solution. A very correct statement, according to the author’s opinion, is the one made by Lopez (1975), who claims “all the complaints and denunciations boil down to the argument that it is the interviewer and not the interview that is the heart of the problem.” (Torrington & Hall: 1995)

On Interviewing

However, selection interviews are the only method with which the interviewer can have an immediate contact with the candidate and therefore have the chance to exchange information over a broad range of topics. As far as the disadvantages are concerned, employers are aware, that these can be diminished, if they base the interview on a thorough job analysis, they structure it carefully and is conducted by a panel of interviewers who have been trained to avoid common errors. Validity can be enhanced if interviewers act more as information gatherers than as decision makers. Therefore, we could say that interviewing is an art form. And as such, it requires a very disciplined approach.

Most people have had at least one experience of being interviewed for a position in a<