Hiring employees is a crucial task for any company, since every employee has a significant role within the firm. It is for this reason that the recruiter(s) must make the right choice while selecting the candidates and make sure that the future employee fits the best the job offer. In order to achieve this essential task, most companies use the selection interview which is a method that allows the recruiter or manager and the candidate to meet each other in order for the recruiter to evaluate the different candidate’s aspects.
The selection interview method is the most frequently and extensively used approach for employment selection. However, despite its universality, it has raised numerous issues regarding its reliability especially the perceptual errors involved in the evaluation process.
Throughout this document, the general selection interview’s benefits and issues will be mentioned in order to justify its popularity in comparison to other selection methods and identify its main pitfalls. The next part will aim to underline the relation between the selection interview and the eventual perceptual errors engendered during the recruitment. Finally, the legal implication of the selection interview will be discussed with regard to government policy and legislation.
The selection interview
Torrington and Hall (1995) describes the selection interview as a controlled conversation between one or many interviewers (managers) and one or many candidates with a purpose of:
* Gathering information in order to predict how well the candidates would perform in the job offered, by measuring their abilities according to predetermined criteria established by the interviewers.
* Facilitating the candidates’ decision-making by providing them with full details of the job opportunity they have applied for and information about the organisation.
* Giving each candidate an equal opportunity or a fair hearing.
In an interview, both parts meet each other. This allows a certain assessment to be made that can not be established in any other way (Torrington and Hall, 1995) such as the compatibility of two parts and their ability to work together, or the aptitude of someone to perform efficiently within a team without altering the whole group performance.
Moreover the selection interview gives the candidates the ability to ask the interviewers any questions, such as information about the working hours, contract negotiation and so forth, in other words, it creates a public relation between both parts. In a second hand, it allows the recruiter to answer the candidates’ questions, and often to increase the perceived attractiveness of the job (Barclay, 1999) such as high salary etc… In addition, the selection interview costs much less than the other methods such as testing and consultants use.
Problems with using selection interview
The major issues concerning the selection interview are related to its unreliability, invalidity and subjectivity (Torrington and Hall, 1995), although Webster (1964) conducted research that allowed identifying the following problems:
* If the interviewers make their decision very early in the interview’s progress, they will deceive their final decision to the candidate.
* Interviewers tend to find out the evidence that the candidate is unfavourable rather than favourable which can be called as overweighting negative information.
* Most interviewers make their choice within the first three or four minutes of the interview, and then spent the rest of the time looking for evidence to confirm their first impression.
* Primacy and Recency which is the tendency to recall the first few candidates and the last few. Therefore those in the middle of the queue become forgotten by the interviewers.
* All the perceptual errors made in the interview selection, which include, stereotyping, Halo effect, discrimination and so forth. The next part will entirely be focused on those major issues with significant examples regarding the selection interview’s situation.
The perceptual errors in the selection interview
According to (Rollinson, 2002:110) who defines the perception as:
“A mental process involving the selection, organisation, structuring and interpretation of information in order to make inferences and give meaning to the information”
Perception plays a significant role in organisations, since it is used by individuals to make judgements, inferences and interpretations. Moreover it reflects how the people respond to what we do and what we say. However the differences in perception result for people seeing different things and inferring different meaning to same stimuli. The manner that people perceive things differs from one individual to another, therefore perception becomes a person’s reality and this can lead to misunderstandings (Mullins, 2001). The selection interview has raised several concerns regarding to its validity and reliability, those issues has been directly associated with the perceptual errors that may occur in a selection interview. The main areas where problems are encountered are:
* Stereotyping: This is where people are regrouped in a same category according to various criteria such as their age, gender and race (Racial stereotyping). Stereotyping is also attributing a person with qualities supposed to be general of members of a particular group (Rollinson, 2002). In our selection interview context, a female candidate who applies for a building site engineer job would not get the offer because the interviewer might thing that all females are weak and fragile, even thought the candidate has got better knowledge and education than any male candidate. Another example could be a small computing business ran by young managers supported by young computer engineers.
If an older candidate applies for an engineer job, the interviewers might discriminate he or she because of his or her age, in the fear that he/she would not fit into a young working team and that might affect the entire group’s overall effectiveness. A number of studies concluded that interviewers are more likely to give higher ratings on some traits to candidates who are more similar to themselves. For example a study demonstrated that females were generally given lower ratings than that of males by male interviewers
* The Halo Effect: This is the assumption that a person has a certain characteristic, therefore he or she will have other characteristics (Rollinson, 2002). If a candidate has good communication skills. This does not mean that he or she will perform effectively as a manger or a group leader. It can happen that the panel member is impressed by one candidate’s criterion, and then the interviewers will give him/her positive evaluation for all other criteria regardless the performance.
* Self-fulfilling prophecy: in our selection interview perspective, the Self-Fulfilling prophecy can be thought as the interviewer’s feelings regarding the interviewee. If this first person feels negatively about the candidate, he or she might ask more difficult questions in order to confirm his/her first assumptions. Therefore the candidate will feel uncomfortable when providing. This concern is also valid in the other sense which is the positive interviewer’s positive feeling and the straightforward questions to candidate in order to confirm it., The interviewers will basically tend to confirm their first impression whether it is positive or negative. This issue has a relevant impact on the validity and reliability of the selection interview in the sense that the interviewer’s first impression has a considerable effect on both candidates’ self-confidence and interviewers’ final result.
* Attribution Theory: The attribution can be internal or external to a person, i.e. people attribute causes to other people’s behaviour. The internal attribution can be the person’s abilities; intentions etc. whereas the external attribution is the environment, luck etc. To simplify this theory throughout an example, a candidate is sweating during a selection interview, the deduction the interviewer might have is: Does this person sweat because the room is hot (External attribution) or because the candidate is nervous and struggle to answer the question (Internal attribution)? In fact there is a significant difference between those two factors that affects the interviewer’s perception and therefore his/her decision making.
Government policy and legislation
While organisations are totally free about how they choose their employee, legislation has a significant role in the recruitment and selection methods, especially in attempts to prevent different discriminations such as ethnic origin, sex, age and disability and to guaranty equal opportunities in recruitment (Beardwell and Holden, 2001).
The first act was elaborated in 1974 and concerned the discrimination against people with criminal records (The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). This stipulates that after a certain time, the offender has the right to not reveal his or her sentence to any organisation, and should have the same recruitment chances that everybody else has. Followed by that, sex discrimination Act 1975 (including marital status) and race discrimination Act 1976 were introduced in the United Kingdom in order to protect people from direct and indirect discriminations.
Since those acts, women and people from different origins have taken important part within organisations; however the evolution has been done relatively slowly according to national statistics (EOC Annual Report, 1998 and IDS 1997) which indicate the distribution of employment on the grounds of gender and race has slightly changed since those acts; for instance, people from ethnic minority are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than white population. More recently, the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) was enforced in order to protect people with physical or mental impairment that affect them carrying out normal day-to-day activities and tasks. National statistics (Sly et al.; 1999) reveal that the unemployment rate for disabled people is almost twice that the non-disabled people for the working age.
We have seen that the reliability of the selection interview is affected by perceptual errors. However it this issue that can be overcome by using a structured interview, which makes the interviewer more involved in the job analysis. It is important to remember that the validity of the interview is improved by building a strong relationship between the content of the job and the structure of the selection method. The questions are relevant to the job requirements, and candidates are assessed according to a unique and specific scoring procedure in other words the same questions are asked to each candidate and rated according to pre-elaborated rating scales (Barclay, 1999).
Moreover, the interviewers should have special trainings and practices in order to let them know the various pitfalls met in selection interview and overcome their weaknesses regarding the different aspects of the interview. Despite the existence of other recruitment methods such as testing, group selection, assessment centres, and consultant agencies which reveal to be more expensive and less accurate; the selection interview approach remains the most popular and flexible method used by organisations.
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