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The Selection Interview And It’s Aims

What are the objectives of the selection interview?

The objective of the selection interview is to predict the candidate’s probable behaviour in a particular job situation. The only way this can be done with any accuracy is by obtaining a sample of his behaviour sufficiently typical to act as a basis for forecasting what he/she will do in the future.

A major problem is that the behaviour we observe during the short period of the interview may be uncharacteristic. A rather ponderous individual, for instance, may well be able to give the impression of being quite dynamic if he/she has only to keep it up for half an hour. Thus it is necessary to supplement the behaviour which can be observed directly in face-to-face contact

By eliciting as much as possible of the candidates life history

The main aim of the selection interview should therefore be to look at say, twenty or thirty years behaviour, much of which is bound to be highly characteristic of the individual concerned.

It is important to remember, however, that there are two subsidiary objectives of the selection interview. Thus we may say that the aim of the interview is three fold:

o To assess the candidates suitability for the position

o To give information to the candidate

o To present the company in a good light to the applicant

The importance of selection interviewing

The interview is only one of a whole range of selection methods in existence.

For example, intelligence tasks exist which give information on the candidates mental agility and aptitude tests can tell us about special aptitudes for manual dexterity, ability to think spatially, creative ability, etc. .

These tasks can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of an individual; testing in group situation on the other hand, can provide indications of the ability of people to work together.

However, in spite of widespread and growing criticism of the personal interview as a selection procedure, it is still by far the most common method. It is flexible, relatively inexpensive and acceptable to the candidate and management. The selection interview has other advantages. It has been discovered that certain areas of information can be assessed more accurately by interview than by other methods i.e. the candidates interpersonal behaviour and the likelihood of them adjusting to the social aspects of the job situation and also the candidates motivation to work

The task:

The task is to choose a person who will be likely to succeed in a certain job or range of jobs: The task is not to choose a ‘good person’, however that is defined

The method

All methodologies involve forecasting the future, no method can therefore be infallible

– invariably selectors rely on intuition and that quite often proves to be successful but this method whilst not being foolproof will certainly ensure you make the right decisions more often

o Past behaviour

o Past experience

o Your intuition

o Scientific analysis

o References

o Take a second opinion

o Insist on a probation period

o Ramp up salary & incentives after the probation period

o Talk to people in the industry

o Consider a practical assessment

First considerations

Before you buy material of any kind you consider it’s purpose and the tolerance you will allow. Human resource is exceedingly expensive and it is therefore necessary to follow five strategic steps

o Consider the position

o Consider the experience & formal qualifications required

o Consider the personal qualities required to carry out the job

o Reduce the basic qualifications to allow perhaps no more than four or five

o Discussion with other selectors

Consider the position

o Set out a clear picture of the position

o Concentrate on the major responsibilities

o Are there any special facets which are unusual – e.g. health considerations

Consider the experience & formal qualifications required

o Is this a position which really requires experience in a similar field?

o Are academic qualifications relevant?

o What is the minimum standard?

Consider the personal qualities required

For example:

o Very high intelligence

o Ability to get on with everyone in any circumstance

Interestingly, less than 10% of the population posses the first and for some positions it is a distinct disadvantage; the second is not all that common and in any case the two qualities are often mutually exclusive.

Remember the long line of qualities which first springs to mind has two major disadvantages; few posses all, and if they did, they would probably not apply for your job. Secondly it is almost impossible for the interviewer to carry them all in his/her mind while he/she is interviewing and his/her search becomes too diffuse for full effectiveness

Reduce the basic qualifications required


You are going to look for the key qualities which are required in a high degree in the job for which you are selecting. In choosing the qualities it is wise to avoid those that are too all embracing and particularly those with a high emotional content. Thus ‘leadership’ might be replaced by ‘the power to persuade others’ or ‘intelligence’ by ‘the ability to understand something quickly’.

The importance of the choice of these descriptive words depends only on the clarity with which they are understood by the selector(s). In some ways it is better to choose your own words to describe the qualities you are after than to use those provided generally in the text books. Words with as much practical content as possible tend to be the most useful. To look for someone with ‘an enquiring mind’ may prove easier than to look for someone ‘good at research’.

Discussion with other selectors

Another person is almost certain to be concerned with the selection. Reach agreement with them about the four or five major qualities required and write them down on paper. Agreement in advance saves time because discussion about each candidate after interview can be more readily confined to what is relevant. Also, if the selectors know clearly what they are looking for, they are more likely to spot it when it is there and note its absence when it is not.

Copyright © 2006 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

Source by Jonathan Farrington