Personnel selection interviews
selection interview has three purposes:
1. To get information from candidates about their
abilities and ambitions;
2. To assess the likelihood of the candidates fitting in
well with future colleagues;
3. To give information to the candidates to ensure that
they are sufficiently informed about the job to decide
whether they wish to carry on with their application.
All questions asked at interview must be relevant to the
post, and should not stray into areas that employment
law does not allow, such as those that might lead to
discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or
disability. If you draw up a job description of the
activities involved in doing the job, and a 'person
specification' that covers what experience, skills and
abilities, training, education and qualifications a
suitable candidate should have, you will be able to look
for matches in a fair and objective way. When
short-listing candidates for interview, you should do it
on the basis of this matching process. Candidates have
the right to ask why they were not short-listed or
offered a job and therefore you must keep proper records
of the questions asked and the selection criteria for
this purpose. These must be kept for 6 months by law.
Most interviews, including selection interviews, fall
into four phases of welcome, collecting information,
supplying information and parting. After this, you
decide who to appoint, take up references, and offer the
chosen candidate the job.
The interviewer, or a panel of interviewers, usually greets the candidate, chats informally and explains briefly the procedure of the interview. The aim is to make the candidate relax.
| Collecting information
This is where you collect information about how the candidate matches the person specification. All candidates should be asked more or less the same
questions, and these should cover:
1. Work history, duties, likes, dislikes, achievements, working conditions, level of earnings, reasons for changing job, type of job desired;
2. Education and training, best and poorest subjects, grades, extra-curricular activities, training beyond undergraduate level;
3. Personal factors such as interests, hobbies, family status and commitments, geographical mobility, flexibility.
| Supplying information
- You give information to the candidate. The candidate may have questions about the demands of the job, the work environment, etc. and should be given the opportunity to ask them.
- The candidate leaves, usually with
the promise of being informed of the results of the
interview as soon as possible. It is good practice to
offer expenses to candidates, especially those who are
on low incomes or who are just starting on their career.
1. The interview will typically last between 10 and 60
minutes; the more important the job, the longer the
interview. For some very senior posts, or for those with
very specialist requirements, the interview and
selection process can last several days.
2. The interview will consist mainly of the interviewer,
or the panel of interviewers, asking carefully selected
and relevant questions, and then listening to the
answers. Somebody should be responsible for recording
the candidate's answers.
3. The interview is usually a formal occasion in which
both parties are formally dressed, behave politely and
are not interrupted.
4. The interview can take place across a desk or table,
which makes note taking easy but can be intimidating,
especially if there is a panel of interviewers on one
side and the candidate on the other. It is more relaxing
to sit at right angles to a candidate, perhaps in easy
chairs or next to a low coffee table.
Interviewing in market, product or social research
Interviews may be used in market research, consumer-product evaluation, social research on attitudes, or before any change is made in equipment or in working methods. It is also possible to reveal design faults in a product by talking to the users.
| Methods of data
| The Personal Interview Method (Closed questions)
The personal interview is the most frequently used method. It is a direct form of investigation where trained interviewers get information from selected individuals (usually called respondents). A formal questionnaire is usually used for the interview. The place in which the interview is conducted depends on the subject and on the method of sampling.
It may take place in the street or it may be a 'Hall
Test', that takes place in a town hall or other public building. If you want to speak to elderly or disabled people, this is best done in their homes or some place that they visit such as a lunch
club. It should be by appointment only; never just knock on
a door and expect to be let in. Children should always
be accompanied if they are carrying out questionnaires
The Focused Interview Method (Open questions)
The focused interview differs from the personal interview in that respondents are encouraged to talk freely, while the interviewer reports what they say. They may even record it on a tape for later analysis
(with the respondent's permission). To keep the interview to the point, guiding questions are
sometimes put to the respondent. Often, more information can be obtained
this way, than when detailed, fixed questions are asked.
Disadvantages of personal and focused interviews:
1. There is great danger that the interviewer, when recording the answers, will interpret them in
their own way.
2. The interpretation of the interviews by the researcher is also very difficult and gives an opportunity for personal bias to distort the findings.
3. Statistical analysis of the findings is either very difficult or impossible since the information may not be easy to quantify or code.
4. The interview takes a long time, which increases the cost per interview.
5. There is a high proportion of irrelevant information in the data.
| The Telephone Interview Method
This is similar to the personal interview but obviously takes place over the telephone. Again the respondents are asked a set list of questions relevant to the study. This method is becoming very common for market research, as well as being used by service companies, such as banks, who want to make contact with their customers, either to improve services or to sell additional ones.
1. It is a quick method for conducting a number of interviews within a short time.
2. The interviewers can be supervised easily.
3. The cost per interview is low.
4. The sampling can be spread over the country and travelling is eliminated.
5. People who might otherwise be inaccessible, can be interviewed, since the interview can be very brief and arranged for a time that is convenient to the respondent.
1. Telephone subscribers may not be representative of the general population,
Mobile phone numbers may be used which do not give
information about the location of the respondent.
2. Only a short questionnaire can be used.
3. Observation is not possible, so that the interviewers have to rely totally on what the respondent tells them.
4. The times during the day when respondents can be called are
limited, for example to office hours, or early evening, and it is difficult to predict such times. Calling during meals or when people are watching TV can lead to negative responses.
5. 'Call-backs' have to be made when the number is engaged.
| The Panel Method
The panel method is used to study changes over time. A
panel of the same respondents are used and they are questioned about the same sort of thing over a period of time. There are several types of panel including the consumer-purchasing panel, the consumer-product testing panel, or the television audience panel.
The panel is often recruited by means of personal interviews of a cross-section of the population. The respondents are given diaries in which they enter, for example, every time they buy one of the products being surveyed. They return the diaries at regular (usually weekly) intervals. Alternatively, the panel may be interviewed about the relevant facts periodically. This method has been successfully adopted for radio, television and opinion research.
1. The method is especially useful for research into trends, as
the same individuals are questioned over a period of time.
2. Data collected over a period of time can be accumulated and the factors underlying the change can be
3. The case histories of panel members can be established to give relevant background material to responses.
4. The panel can sometimes be used for enquiries on other subjects, provided that these are not likely to affect the reliability of the panel for its main purpose.
1. Individuals may leave the panel.
2. If people refuse to join the panel it may no longer
represent a target population.
3. Being a member of the panel over a long period of time may affect the opinions and behaviour of
panelists, so that their responses may no longer be representative of the population at large.
4. The original recruiting drive is usually expensive so investment takes a long time to yield returns.
5. Panel members are usually rewarded in some small way, which adds to the overall cost.
| The Group Interview Method
A small and carefully selected group of people is invited to a discussion on whatever topic is under review. A questionnaire may be provided, but more usually, the group is encouraged to discuss the matter freely, following a basic agenda. The discussion may be recorded on tape, if the respondents agree, or an observer may be present to take notes. The
interviewer's task is to remain in the background and to intervene only to bring the discussion back to the point.
1. Group interviews are appropriate in research concerned with motives and opinions where such factors as social status and acceptance are involved. Such factors are brought out through the dynamic group situation.
2. The group interview is relatively inexpensive as one interviewer can listen to up to ten people at a time.
3. The free discussion of the group on a topic can provide valuable information for pilot
studies (for example, to suggest questions to ask at an
4. The spontaneity of the discussion may produce information and attitudes that cannot be
obtained by other methods.
1. It is usually very doubtful whether such a group can be regarded as really representative of the population at large.
2. Statistical analysis of the material is usually difficult, if not impossible.
3. The influence of the more vocal group members on group opinion is hard to estimate.
4. In the group situation, people may assume roles and behaviour that are not characteristic of their usual
5. Some groups are difficult to assemble, for example,
| Self-administered and Group-administered questionnaires
The interviewer is often a person in authority such as a
teacher. They briefly explain the purpose and requirements of the survey to the respondent, or group of respondents, and then leaves them alone to complete the questions. The method usually gives a high response
rate and a minimum of interviewer bias. It has the benefit of a degree of interviewer assessment of the respondents, a better explanation to the respondents and
For groups of respondents assembled together, the interviewer distributes the questionnaire to the assembly or reads aloud each question for immediate completion. All respondents then answer each question in the same order. Groups of forty can be handled in this way, but they can affect answers by copying, talking and asking questions.
of the interview
The following stages usually occur:
1. Decide on the aims of the study and what you are trying to investigate
- usually called the 'hypothesis' or 'null hypothesis'.
For example, 'men are more interested in sport than women'.
2. Review the relevant literature and discuss with
other people. This includes deciding how the data will be analysed, and making sure that the
information is collected in a suitable format.
3. Design the study, making the hypothesis specific to the situation.
For example, 'men are more interested in playing golf than women'.
4. Compose the interview questions that will bring out
the information that you need for your study.
5. Carry out a small test (called a 'pilot study') to make sure
that you have phrased the questions adequately and modify
you need to.
6. Select a sample of subjects to be approached.
7. Collect your data (usually called doing the 'field
8. Sort out and process your data. This can include giving codes to the answers so that they can be put on a computer spreadsheet for analysis by
a statistical package.
9. Do the statistical analysis.
10. Put all of the results together and see what they are telling you. This is the part where the hypothesis is tested to see, for example, if men statistically do play more golf than women.
11. Write up the results, relating the findings to other research, drawing conclusions and interpretations.
Data obtained by means of questionnaires is confidential, in the sense that no responses or findings should ever be
published which could be traced back to particular individuals. This is a requirement of the
Data Protection Act.
In enlisting co-operation for any survey, respondents are usually given this assurance and a guarantee of anonymity. This is often crucial in obtaining frank and revealing responses. Where possible, therefore, you should not ask respondents to put
their names on, or to sign, their questionnaires. If you need to maintain a check on non-respondents, the questionnaires can be numbered and cross-referenced back to individuals.
Mail or Postal Survey Method
For the mail or postal
survey, the approach to respondents is made through the
postal service. Email is increasingly being used as a
way of contacting people, but the principles remain the
same. Letters are sent to a group of randomly selected
individuals, including a questionnaire to be completed
and returned. After a certain period of time has
elapsed, one or more follow-up letters may be sent,
including the same questionnaire, to those who have not
replied. Sometimes a small gift, often an inexpensive
pen, is enclosed as an incentive.
The questionnaire should be short, simple and easy to
follow. Questionnaires to be completed and returned by
mail may also be enclosed in a newspaper, or a
periodical or attached to a consumer product. For more
information, see the questionnaires
1. A widespread geographical sample may be reached
without increased costs, as postal rates generally do
not vary with distance within one country.
2. The mail survey may be much cheaper than the personal
interview survey, as field expenses are not incurred.
3. No interviewer training is involved.
4. Interviewer bias is avoided.
5. Certain groups that cannot be reached easily or
without undue expense by other methods can be reached by
6. The respondents can consider their answers at
1. The respondents are a self-selected group (they
decide whether or not they will take part) and so are
not fully representative of the population, although
personal interviews with non-respondents, when they can
be arranged, can give a basis for estimating the
2. The refusal rate is much higher than with any other
method. Returns may range from ten to fifty per cent,
although they may sometimes be higher than this.
Well-written letters and questionnaires that capture the
interest of respondents can improve the rates of return.
3. The respondent may misinterpret the questions and
give misleading answers when there is no interviewer
present to clarify the questions.
4. The amount of information is limited by the need to
make the questionnaire simple and short, and by the fact
that you can expect little writing from respondents.
5. The last returns tend to come in slowly so that you
must allow a substantial margin of time before you can
carry out the next step of the survey.
Tip: As personal
questions may put off the respondents, you should keep
them to a minimum or omit them altogether.