Tensions and Burdens in Employment Interviewing Processes: Perspectives of Non-Dominant Group Applicants

By Buzzanell, Patrice M. | The Journal of Business Communication, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Tensions and Burdens in Employment Interviewing Processes: Perspectives of Non-Dominant Group Applicants


Buzzanell, Patrice M., The Journal of Business Communication


Materials available at campus recruitment centers, in employment interviewing books, and over the Internet recommend behaviors, including sample responses to questions and appropriate attire, that can help applicants create desirable images (e.g., Garber, 1997; Riley, 1997). Academic research has supplied profiles of applicants who are successful in screening and second interviews, meaning that they are offered second interviews or jobs (Miller & Buzzanell, 1996). In the United States workplace, the more closely applicants approach these ideal candidate profiles and enact recommended behaviors, the greater their chances of obtaining job offers (see Bate & Bowker, 1997; Heilman, 1983; Heilman, Martell, & Simon, 1988; Van Vianen & Willemsen, 1992).

What is not discussed in employment interviewing research is that these ideal profiles and routine practices rely on characteristics of "dominant" group members. Assumptions about proper interviewing behavior and outcomes exclude experiences of traditionally underrepresented groups and maintain managerial control. To understand why employment interviewing has not discussed issues salient for non-dominant members and what the implications of this neglect are, I first show communication processes aligned with non-dominant group membership. Then, I describe why ideal applicant profiles and standard practices are inappropriate for all applicants, but especially for non-dominant applicants. In both sections, I piece together a picture of what interviewing may be like for non-dominant applicants by reviewing literature on (primarily dominant) applicants' employment interviewing experiences. I argue that members of traditionally underrepresented groups may experience tensions as well as performance burdens when attempting to meet traditional expectations for employment interviews. In the conclusion, I offer recommendations for managerial practice, pedagogy, and research.

Greater awareness and understanding of employment interviewing from the standpoints of non-dominant applicants can affect the ways we work, teach, and investigate employment interviewing. Thus, this discussion fits within current communication emphases on social justice (see Wood, 1996). Social justice is the "engagement with and advocacy for those in our society who are economically, socially, politically, and/or culturally underresourced" (Frey, Pearce, Pollock, Artz, & Murphy, 1996, p. 110). Social justice research asks the following questions:

* Whose interests are served by communication research?

* What "dominant discourses, social structures, patterns of interactions, and the like produce and reproduce injustice?"

* How can researchers engage and transform social structures?

* What happens when researchers insist "that a community of integrity cannot exist if some are excluded?" (p. 111)

In short, my article attempts to listen to the voices of those who often are silenced (by exclusion of their concerns) in employment interviewing.

Communication Processes Aligned with Non-Dominant Group Membership

Communication between non-dominant and dominant group members has not been examined fully. Hecht, Collier, and Ribeau (1993) state that "there is little research about the diversity within and between ethnic cultures and what makes interethnic contact effective or ineffective. . . . Even less is known about how members of nonmainstream or disempowered ethnic groups perceive these interactions" (p. 2). Although this comment refers to interethnic exchanges, the same conclusion can be drawn about other types of co-cultural interactions, i.e., communication between nondominant and dominant group members. Incorporation of "others" standpoints calls into question the normal power imbalances in society and taken-for-granted assumptions about the ways things happen. In addition, analysis of communicative processes in co-cultural exchanges from the viewpoint of non-dominant members portrays interactions fraught with tensions, self-consciousness, and identity negotiations different from the impression management tactics and job-oriented outcomes detailed in interviewing research.

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